In Marvel Comics’ Absolute Carnage #3 (on sale September 18), writer Donny Cates continues to play with the expansive sandbox in his hands. The series continues to stun the reader with increasingly wild expansions of the Venom mythos. Plus, Cates broadens the scope of an event that’s already remarkably far-reaching by bringing in the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Writer: Donny Cates
Penciler: Ryan Stegman
Inker: JP Mayer
Color artist: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
The first few pages of each issue have been some of Cates’ best work and the third installment continues that trend. Here, we pick up where we left off in Absolute Carnage #2, where Carnage infected Miles Morales. Through Eddie Brock’s narration, we learn what the protagonist is feeling at his lowest moment. “I lost the kid,” he states in a moment that calls back to Tony Stark mourning the loss of Spider-Man in Avengers: Endgame. Eddie has lost all hope and he doesn’t know how to swing the odds in his favor. Once again, the work of penciler Ryan Stegman, inker JP Mayer and color artist Frank Martin makes the moment even more impactful. Stegman shows Miles drowning in a black and red ocean before the monstrous arm of Carnage drags him deeper into the depths. Paired with Brock’s narration, the imagery of Miles unsuccessfully fighting for his life against Carnage adds even more narrative weight to the sequence. The powerful collaboration between Cates and the art team is unrivaled in contemporary comic books.
Absolute Carnage was never going to be a story confined to Venom’s world, which makes the arrival of the Avengers one of the most optimistic moments in the series. Venom and Spider-Man have been extremely outmanned and Eddie has consistently doubted their ability to win this war. But the sight of Captain America, Wolverine, the Thing and Bruce Banner is a shot in the arm for both Eddie and the reader. Adding the Avengers to the mix doesn’t automatically guarantee the heroes’ victory but, as Captain America tells Eddie, “The cavalry is here.” But the moment is bittersweet because Carnage and his goons crash the party.
In every issue, Cates and the art team have depicted Carnage an utterly terrifying villain. In one of the first pages of this installment, Carnage effortlessly lifts a car over his head and prepares to destroy Venom with it. In a guttural voice conveyed by letterer VC’s Clayton Cowles, the vile villain asks Venom, “Awww, is Daddy scared?” The art team makes Carnage’s head look like a spooky jack-o’-lantern; though he’s partially covered in shadow, the image of his jagged eyes and mouth that glow red in the dark is nightmare fuel. Cates also gives Carnage some of the best villainous lines in recent memory; “I am the guns and the knives and the wickedness of this whole sick [expletive] world,” Carnage says. “You know my name.” Thanks to Cates and the art team, we certainly do now.
Absolute Carnage #3 continues the series’ exceptional start and the whole team continues to impress. Carnage has been built up as an unstoppable monster but the cliffhanger at the end leaves some seeds of hope that the heroes will triumph.
What’d you think of Absolute Carnage #3? Where do you hope to see the series go from here?