Review: Carnage U.S.A. #1, Midwest Mayhem!

Carnage U.S.A. #1
Writer: Zeb Wells
Art: Clayton Crain

Before last year’s Carnage mini-series (also by Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain), I pretty much cared very little for the character.  He was one of Spider-Man’s most one-dimensional villains:  A serial killer who ended up with a symbiote spawned by the Venom symbiote, which basically allowed him to kill on a more massive level.  It’s a pretty basic villain archetype, as he’s just a guy who likes to kill people.

Anyways, that series was essentially what the “Maximum Carnage” storyline of the ’90s could have been if it were done right.  As much as Wells is good at writing a light-hearted, fun Spidey book over on Avenging Spider-Man, the guy writes AMAZING dark Spidey stories.  For the best evidence, you need look no further than his “Shed” story arc from Amazing Spider-Man last year where Curt Connors ate his son Billy after transforming into the Lizard once again.

As we learned in Carnage, Cletus Kasady was alive and well, as was the Carnage symbiote.  Long thought dead after the Sentry had torn him in half in space during an Avengers storyline a few years ago, the symbiote had actually kept Kasady alive as they floated in Earth’s orbit.  Eventually, a weapons designer with little foresight and no integrity had the symbiote and Kasady retrieved from orbit, Kasady was held in a secret facility after being given a robotic lower half, and the symbiote was used for new technology…until it reunited with Kasady, allowing a typical Carnage killing spree.

The two escaped from Spider-Man and Iron Man at the end of that series, and in Carnage U.S.A., we find that Carnage has taken his latest murderous rampage to the Midwest and claimed the entire town of Doverton, Colorado as hostages.

Of course, Spider-Man and several Avengers — namely Captain America, Wolverine, Hawkeye and the Thing — show up, but that might not be enough to deal with a serial killer who’s using a baby as a shield and has symbiotic tendrils around the throats of an entire small town.

After having not cared about Carnage or the majority of the symbiotic characters since I was about 9 or 10, it’s been nice seeing Wells breathe new life into the character and make him interesting again instead of just a symbiotic Joker knock-off.  That, combined with Remender’s revamp of Venom, has made the last year somewhat interesting.  Of course, Clayton Crain’s painted (PAINTED!) artwork makes the story that much better, given his ability to bring out a gritty realism in his work.  These panels are absolutely beautiful.

If this series turns out anything like that last one, it’s only going to get crazier and darker from here.  Here’s hoping the detail of the artwork doesn’t hold up the schedule like on the last book.

Story: 9/10
Art: 9.5/10 

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Roger Riddell
Roger Riddell
Essentially Peter Parker with all the charm of Wolverine, he's a DC-based B2B journalist who occasionally writes about music and pop culture in his free time. His love for comics, metal, and videogames has also landed him gigs writing for the A.V. Club, Comic Book Resources, and Louisville Magazine. Keep him away from the whiskey, and don't ask him how much he hates the Spider-Man movies unless you're ready to hear about his overarching plot for a six-film series that would put the Dark Knight trilogy to shame.