Carnage has never been very good at persuading people. All the character’s early appearances had him constantly spouting his lawless philosophy with phrases like “LAWS ARE AN ILLUSION!” or “I AM ULTIMATE FREEDOM!” Often with the unspoken assumption that he’d convince… well, at least someone. Instead, people mostly just greeted him with terror and scorn. But that was Cletus, and this is Carnage. The new Carnage. The symbiote on its own. And in Carnage #2, out today from Marvel Comics, the team of writer Ram V, artist Francesco Manna, colorist Diijo Lima, and letterer VC’s Joe Sabino present a symbiote who’s a bit more well-spoken. With a captive audience, to boot. Let’s hope they don’t listen too closely to what Carnage has to say.
Ram V ended Carnage‘s first issue with the question of the titular character’s new motives. This installment opens with Carnage opining to a prolific serial killer “The Artist” on the relationship between a killer and their victim, on a desire to transform and be transformed in turn. All while they stand amid a reality-warping reaction Carnage created by mixing himself with Hydro-man. But Detective Jonathan Shayde has followed the killers and jumps into the reaction to follow them. Unfortunately, his body is immediately torn apart. Fascinated by the detective’s near-suicidal drive for justice, Carnage elects to put him back together. However, the process has a few side effects in store for the poor detective. In the aftermath, Carnage hopes to push his serial-killer companion into becoming someone worthy of the detective’s obsession.
After the first issue of the series, I’d assumed that Kenneth “The Artist” Neely wouldn’t stick around for long. His initial appearance felt more like a statement of intent, moving away from the classic serial killer archetype the old Carnage was associated with. But it looks like the guy is stuck as Carnage’s travel buddy. The dynamic that’s being set up is one where Carnage pushes both detective and killer to further extremes in their hunt for one another. One of the most famous Carnage comics had Cletus literally force his thoughts into someone else’s mind, so it makes sense to position the Carnage symbiote as a gleeful enabler. A character who hopes to inspire as much violence as he inflicts.
Francesco Manna maintains the vibe of a crime serial by drawing the characters in many dingy, depressing environments. We’re talking drywall ceiling tiles and flowery, blood-stained wallpaper, rundown motels, and industrial buildings. His figures are grounded and weighty (damn, can the guy draw hands), and his paneling is often slow and deliberate. But the way he draws Carnage is around as cartoony as the character’s even been. Carnage is still a guy who skitters around on his long, spindly fingers and sports a glowing void for a mouth. It works exceptionally well for a symbiote who doesn’t have to worry about being wrapped around a human anymore. He’s a bizarre little chaos monster, walking about in the world of men.
Diijo Lima’s coloring relies on a lot of lurid reds and blues to reflect the characters’ emotions. The dingy industrial buildings are rendered in deep purple-grey, with an almost neon-blue night sky, and Detective Shayde’s breakdown is given a really neat off-register effect that nearly makes the art tremble. The combination with Manna’s gritty environments gives the comic an off-kilter, slightly sick vibe.
VC’s Joe Sabino breaks out some fun, shaky lettering when it comes to Shayde’s pained screams or the sound of Carnage removing Hydro-man’s core. They’re drawn in bright bubble letters with shaky, raw outlines. Carnage is the kind of comic with a lot of yelling throughout its run. So Sabino might as well have fun with it.
Carnage isn’t a series anyone will come out of looking like a good person. Not the killer, not the detective, and definitely not the blood monster. A monster who has more or less promised that everyone involved in this story will be transformed. Chances are, by the end, they’ll be looking a whole lot like him. So in short, the series continues to be a darkly compelling ride. Definitely pick up this issue if you have the chance. It’s out today at a comic retailer near you.