Review: Carnage U.S.A. #3 – Symbiote dogs and moral dilemmas

Carnage U.S.A. #3 of 5
Writer: Zeb Wells
Art: Clayton Crain

When Cletus Kasady, aka the symbiote-enhanced mass murderer Carnage, takes over a small Colorado town and compromises an Avengers task force, there’s only one thing the government can do–and it doesn’t involve napalm.

They assemble a top secret, symbiote-enhanced task force of their own.

Last issue, we were introduced to said task force, powered by the four de-amalgamated symbiotes that once comprised Hybrid.  The coolest among these is the symbiote-enhanced military dog Lasher, who has a confrontation with Carnage’s pet, the Doppelganger (remember him?), at the beginning of the issue.

Zeb Wells keeps the dark tone in place throughout, with Kasady–dressed as a priest–holding much of the town’s population in a church and demanding they each remove their teeth with pliers as a sacrifice to him.  Meanwhile, he’s demanded that the wife of the town’s sheriff, leader of a small camp of survivors where Spider-Man has found refuge, kill her husband lest he should kill their children.

Of course, he’s also using them as puppets via the Carnage symbiote, and Spider-Man intervenes as soon as things take a turn for the ugly.  This creates a moral dilemma, though, as Spider-Man finds himself having to fight off two Carnage-possessed children.  To Spider-Man’s relief, Kasady becomes angered that Sheriff Morell’s wife still won’t kill him and calls the sheriff’s family back to the church.

If writers had created these types of deranged moral dilemmas back in the ’90s when Carnage was first created, perhaps he wouldn’t have been so one-dimensional.

On that note, Carnage isn’t going to kill the sheriff’s kids himself if he can scar someone else’s psyche in the process.  Attempting to get the symbiote-possessed Captain America to do the dirty work backfires, though, as Cap fights back and is able to free himself from Carnage’s control long enough to radio for help from “Code Name 4563.”

Given recent developments in Secret Avengers (Carnage U.S.A. takes place after the events of Secret Avengers #23), fans probably already know who Cap was calling in…

Overall, this series is still moving along at a great pace with enough nods to (and improvements upon) the past to keep longtime readers engaged while not alienating anyone new to the characters.  Crain’s artwork still fits the story’s dark tone, although a lot of his backgrounds are very plain, if there’s anything in them at all.  Of course, this story is set in the Midwest, where there really isn’t much to see to begin with, and Crain paints everything, making extremely detailed backgrounds in every panel something that would be quite a bit more time-consuming.

This is still required reading for any 90s kids who like to go on and on about how awesome Carnage is, or anyone who hated symbiotes after Marvel stuffed them down everyone’s throats during that same time period.

STORY: 9/10
ART: 9/10

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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.