Review: Carnage U.S.A. #2, I’m Slowly Forgetting That ‘Maximum Carnage’ Ever Happened…

Carnage U.S.A. #2
Writer: Zeb Wells
Art: Clayton Crain

The Carnage symbiote, after devouring all of the cattle in the Midwest town of Doverton’s meat packing plant to increase its mass, has taken a small town hostage via its water supply for its host — the psychotic mass murderer Cletus Kasady.  A team of Avengers including Captain America, Wolverine, Hawkeye and the Thing, in an attempt to put an end to the terror, were compromised and placed under the symbiote’s influence with the exception of Spider-Man, who has found refuge among a group of the town’s survivors.

What’s the government to do, aside from, you know, napalming the town and everyone in it to contain the disaster?

They put together a task force of their own symbiotes, of course.  Unfortunately for Uncle Sam, however, heavy hitters like Venom (AWOL — See current issues of Venom), Anti-Venom (Inactive — See recent “Spider-Island” event story in Amazing Spider-Man) and Toxin (Missing — You’re on your own here, kids) are unavailable.

That’s not to say there are no options whatsoever.  After all, a new symbiote (Scorn, aka Dr. Tanis Nieves) was “born” in Zeb Wells’ first Carnage mini-series last year.  And it turns out that symbiote is a hybrid of symbiote and machine, allowing Nieves to “form sympathetic bonds with technology.”  (Yeah, I had a hard time suspending disbelief for the whole ‘hyrbid of organic creature and machine’ bit, too, but this is a comic book, so deal with it.)

Don’t think Scorn is going to the dance alone, though.  Back in the swingin’ symbiote heyday that was the 1990s and early 2000s, there was another symbiote called Hybrid (though I can’t recall at the moment which symbiote it was an offspring of…Who do I look like, the Maury of comicdom?).  It was an amalgam of 4 different symbiotes, though it was — as conveniently explained in four pages of this issue — “de-amalgamated” to be put to use by a four-member special forces group, a by-product of the success (or lack thereof) of “Project Venom.”

Each member of this special forces group trained its symbiote, rendered catatonic by the aforementioned “de-amalgamation” — to serve a specific purpose in the battlefield.  The coolest of the bunch?  A symbiote bonded to a military dog called Lasher.

Anyways, that’s enough synopsis babble.  You want the details and whether or not this is worth your hard-earned $3.99 (or less, if your local comic shop offers discounts to regulars like mine does).

If you love Carnage, darker Spider-Man stories, Zeb Wells’ writing, Clayton Crain’s art or all of the above, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

Wells, who I praised briefly in my review of this week’s Amazing Spider-Man #677, really gets how to handle a dark Spider-Man story and manages to make Carnage a deeper, somewhat-more-interesting character while he’s at it.  (The guy is creepily longing for a family!  It’s…mildly disturbing and minutely sympathy-inducing…)  I know I give Wells a ton of praise on his regular Avenging Spider-Man series for being a fun, light-hearted Spidey team-up book, but these dark stories are where he really hits the ball out of the park.  Again, I hope Dan Slott stays on the flagship Amazing Spider-Man for as long as possible, but if he ever leaves, I want to see Wells get the job.

Once again, Clayton Crain’s individually painted panels really fit the tone of the story.  I know people who complain that he doesn’t have much detail in his backgrounds, and maybe that’s part of why this story was set in a tiny Midwest town, but it’s the characters that really make the story.  The facial expressions on the townspeople alone really drive home the despair of the situation.

Two issues into this five-part mini-series and, unlike the majority of Carnage stories from the ’90s, I’m not hoping it ends yet — especially now that a private zoo stocked with lions, gorillas and other wildlife was briefly mentioned this issue.  Like that’s totally not going to come into play later on…

Story:  9/10
Art:  9/10

[amazon_link id=”B006UTQTHS” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]BUY Carnage U.S.A. #2 on Amazon[/amazon_link] 

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.