Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Carnage (2010)–What you should know (and think) about it.

That’s right.  Carnage came back from being all space-dead, and a lot of hotness resulted.

I assume you’re here because you know what’s good for you.  I’m here to put an end to any uncertainties you may have had regarding the 5-issue Carnage series that launched all the way back in O-ten.  First off…if you get nothing else from these reviews – or if you decide to stop reading right after this sentence – make sure you find a way to include all 5 of these books in your life.  Pronto.

Here’s the business: all 5 reviews are on this page.  Anchors, for whatever reason, don't work - scrolling is your friend!  If you’re still lost, under the number will be each cover for that particular issue…also, you get checked – as you may have a debilitating case of the stupid.

Ok, everyone set?  No one need to use the potty before we start?


cover1a cover1b cover1c cover1d cover1e cover1f cover1g
Ok, welcome to the review of the 1st issue.  I’d like to start off by drawing your attention to the 7 different covers (7!) above.  Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain brought him back, and to show you just how back they brought him, they gave you 7 different covers!  Fuckin…yeah…

Characters (Order of Appearance): 
Michael Hall
Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron-Man
Dr. Tanis Nieves
Royal Blue  |  Firebrick
Frances Barrison a.k.a. Shriek

Setting the Scene *SPOILERS*: While at a medical supply expo in NYC, where Michael Hall debuts his new chip for prosthetics (with “carbon-based” circuitry that “reads thoughts), Tony Stark stumbles upon a peculiar car-chase: sedan chasing an armored truck and Doppelganger chasing both.  Unaware of such a creature, he calls in the local spider-clone expert – with a degree in being the original Spider-Man – and gives chase.  He catches up in time to see Doppelganger beating on the truck (which we later learn was transporting Shriek) after causing an accident between it and the other car (which we discover was a concerned Dr. Tanis).  Spidey gets there in time to explain to Iron Man a little bit about Doppelganger, Shriek, and Carnage (you know…the coolest shit to ever hit comic-shelves, video game shelves, and my eyelids…ever?).  As he gets to Shriek’s unique “gift",” however, he’s interrupted by…well, her.  Using it.  So, she starts a riot.  Now shit gets real.  Our heroes attempt to calm the mob, Doppelganger keeps trying to break out his “Mother”, two high-tech security guards in charge of ensuring safe transport of Shriek named Royal Blue and Firebrick initiate their own brand of “crowd-control,” and Dr. Tanis finds herself too close to Doppelganger when Royal Blue’s sci-fi blaster goes off – relieving her of her right arm, and Doppelganger of a connection between torso and legs.

Popping Off with that Good Shit:  Ok, listen up: if you’re unfamiliar with the artistic stylings of Clayton Crain, you’re in for a treat.  It’s like sex, but for your eye-balls.  He gives an entire new dimension to comic books.  Like a sex-dimension.  For your eye-balls.  This particular issue is choice for the uninitiated; the first few panels are giving comic-book fiends what they’re used to – broad day-light.  The book’s LAST few panels?  A smidgeon of artificial light.  Mr. Crain has the ability to work wonders with his dark imagery, and this series centers around a Psychopath bonded to a Murderous alien symbiote who’s only joy in life is mass-murder on the grandest of scales.  I think I just came a little.  And so did you.  Don’t worry about it.  There’s a scene towards the end that shows Doppelganger halved in a pool of his own blood on the pavement…stammering, reaching out for the truck that’s taking his “mother” away.

Zeb Wells is writing like a boss, too.  He’s effectively mixed humor, suspense, emotion, and a whole lot of “oh you like that?  yeah…you like that, baby?” while Crain’s pictures are eye-fucking you.  Eventually you just find yourself thinking “Yeah I do!” between panels until, before you know it…you’re smoking a cigarette, sinking back in the chair, gently petting the comic book laying in your lap.  He mastered the flow from cheery and light-hearted fun – with Spider-Man attempting to web-swing whilst eating Froot Loots – to devastating, confusing, and sad – a mob of people unsure of why they were so willing to kill to get into the truck, surrounding the disemboweled body of a 6-armed spider-freak – like it was nothing.

As this was issue 1, the audience is still unsure how the resurrecting of Cletus Kasady will be orchestrated by Wells and Crain.  It’s uncertain how much justice will be done to the character.  But, in just 1 issue, they’ve made a pretty firm statement: “We’re not afraid to turn some shit upside-down, in the name of Carnage.”  The imagery of Doppelganger wasn’t just to show you that they’ll draw some gory stuff, it was to also remind you that this is a whole new take on Mr. Carnage – his dog just got shot!  (Some people think it was just done as a way to instigate Shriek, progressing the plot-line and such.  Anyone and everyone knows Shriek’s a woman.  And her power is screaming.  It was just a matter of time before she went off.)

Rating (not impervious to insane amount of bias): 
Should Everyone Read This: 5
Carnage-ness: 3
# of Variant Covers: 5

a b c
Characters (Order of Appearance):
Michael Hall
Setting the Scene:  Issue 2 opens up “Eight Months Earlier” to some dude in a control center explaining an imminent danger in a satellite’s course.  Come to find out, his boss is Michael Hall – and he’d prefer not to alter course.  The next page shows said Satellite knocking something else out of orbit, and plunging toward earth.  That something is approximately 1/2 a Carnage.  [by-the-by: Cletus Kasady’s last run as Carnage ended by Sentry ripping him in half and throwing him into lower-orbit]  Also, while this is going on – Shriek is going bat-shit nuts yelling “He’s coming back!” over and over while Dr. Nieves tries to calm her.  Present day:  Hall industries felt bad about Tanis losing her arm, so they gave her a prosthetic pro bono.  We also learn she’s in a “federally binding contract” where she’ll lose contact with, and presumably the ability to help, Shriek.  Meanwhile, Tony Stark is testing the organic netting material Royal Blue used in their last encounter and he discovers something: it bears a striking resemblance to the Carnage symbiote.  Remembering the medical supply expo, the two set off to see what Michael Hall’s up to – and the audience gets a good initial glimpse into the grandeur of Mr. Hall’s operation.  This is of course all while Dr. Tanis Nieves battles her new arm; both mentally – as the symbiote cells controlling it attempt to manipulate her mind – and physically – as the symbiote-controlled prosthetic winds up killing a co-worker.  Shit gets real when 5 high-tech robo-guards head off to thwart Iron Man and Spidey’s detective efforts, leaving Dr. Tanis’ arm free to take action as we see it smash through the glass container that was housing (and probably farming) the Carnage symbiote.  Scorn is born.

Popping Off with that Good Shit:  HOLY CRAPMYPANTS, BATMAN!  Where to begin?  Ok, ok…the artwork.  SOOO many hot scenes in this one.  We’ll start with the second page (since I don’t have to tell you how sick that cover is), where it shows us the Carnage symbiote knocked out of lower-orbit, heading towards Earth.  I remember getting chills when I first read through this issue.  The insane art continues – doing a phenomenal job of putting you in Tanis’ shoes while she’s struggling with the mental attacks the symbiote’s waging, to really drive the point home about just how insanely horrific the monster we’ll be dealing with is (almost like in ‘Mindbomb,’ and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’).  When she’s in the car, on her way back from the hospital, we’re shown a normal conversation between her and her attorney and then BAM! Whatthefuckizat!  Both the attorney and the representative for Mr. Hall are missing faces, the world turned into an ominous red-hued place with barbed-wire everywhere!  I can’t do it justice.  I wish I could – but I’m not capable of it. Like the first issue, this one ends in a very graphic manor – only instead of relying on just the goriness of someone being disemboweled to bring it home – this time Crain plays off everything anyone ever understood about Carnage leading up to a final panel where Scorn is introduced for the first time, mid-massacre: impaling, thrashing, screeching, awesome-ing.  I mean…I don’t even…

Much like Crain has continued coming off the pencils with better and better art, Wells has managed to hold the plot-flow with the steadiness of a surgeon and the kicking your teeth in of a dynamite-laced boot on Jean-Claude Van-Damme’s foot.  How he goes back and forth between different personalities, distinguishing them, rounding them out – and making subtle jokes in the midst of gruesome or horrifying context – astounds me.  He and Crain have a perfect blend, that’s fresh and unique while still not distancing the reader too far from familiarity.  When Tony discovers that the organic material fueling the tech might be fragments of the Carnage symbiote, he and Spider-Man have a humorous phone-chat that also serves to develop the plot and help illustrate the potential dangers for the reader:
Tony: …I was able to centrifuge and propagate a small mass of living cells.  Any guess what it reminds me of?
Oh, don’t…Please don’t say it.  Shriek was being transported in the armored vehicle, which already brought Doppelganger out of the woodwork.  If you even suggest we’re dealing with an imbiote-say, I’m spinning myself a web-noose.

  Wha - - ?
[symbiote cells respond to Peter Parker’s voice] Tony:  That’s funny…
I’m serious.  It’ll dissolve in an hour so no one has to know I took the easy way out.  I’m counting on you to keep my
Tony: Quiet for a second.  *puts on goggles*  Okay, say something.
It’s doing something weird…
[symbiote cells go batshit]
…isn’t it?
Tony: Well, I hate to break it to you, but this stuff REALLY hates the sound of your voice.
That entire exchange was unnecessary, but it did so many wonderful things – joked about suicide (tops!), made for an easy compiling of facts so as to not insult the reader, showed how deep-seeded Carnage’s hatred for Spider-Man is, and subtly brought Spider-Man and Iron Man into a “moment,” almost as if the Civil War never happened!   Brilliant.

Rating (not impervious to insane amount of bias): 
Should Everyone Read This: 5
Carnage-Ness: 4
Teeth-Kicking Amount: JCVD

cover3a cover3b
a b
Characters (Order of Appearance):
Dr. Tanis Nieves a.k.a. Scorn
Carnage (Cletus Kasady’s conscious)
Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron-Man
Michael Hall
Cletus Kasady
Setting the Scene:  Wells and Crain bring us back through Dr. Nieves’ inner-struggle with the Carnage symbiote (apparently using Cletus Kasady’s conscious).  This back-and-forth almost serves as a frame-work for the issue…establishing an importance on how manipulative and sinister the enemy we’re dealing with is.  It first breaks from the inner-dialogue when Dr. Tanis realizes that while she’s fighting desperately to maintain control of her mind, the suit has taken over her body and run amok, slaughtering security guards and putting Hall’s special security (Royal Blue and his squad) to shame.  At about the time Scorn makes her exit, Iron Man and Spider-Man have gotten to the scene…only to catch a glimpse, confuse Scorn for Carnage, and realize they’re not done giving chase just yet – as Scorn races off.  After talking with Royal Blue, Iron Man and Spider-Man determine that they should get to Michael Hall before Scorn does.  In true super-hero fashion – they were successful.  Iron Man secures Michael Hall and informs him that his life is in danger – but unfortunately…there was another secret that Hall was keeping: the symbiote probably was rushing home to see the very much alive Kasady! This brings us to the end, where the symbiote (after constant attempts at bonding with Dr. Tanis) tosses the doctor off to the side and reunites with Cletus Kasady – who’s seen sporting brand new prosthetic legs.

Popping Off with that Good Shit:  I can’t stress it enough, people – this shit is nuts.  We’ve reached the 3rd issue in a 5-parter…and Wells has done a great job of keeping a steady intensity brewing in the reader.   As I’ve already said…his mastery of blending suspense, morbid imagery, and humor is so absolutely fantastic.  When dealing with a character like Carnage, it’s important to remember – he’s not the Joker, he’s not Venom, he’s not like any other super-villain.  He’s the bond between a serial-killing psychopath and a blood-thirsty, rage-driven symbiote with absolutely O motive, other than to kill as often as humanly/alienly possible.  THAT’S IT!  The way they give the Carnage symbiote Cletus’ awareness, cognizance, memories, etc. to really establish an understanding of how close their bond was and to really sell the metaphor is brilliant.  Here’s some examples of what you’d be missing if you haven’t read it:
First 2 Panels
Dr. Nieves:  My name is Tanis.  I am six years old and I find a dog with three legs and one eye.  My parents take him to the pound.  They let me come.  A gray-haired man says he’s going to make the dog sleep forever.  I cry, and I scream, and when I bite the man’s hand, they let me take the dog home.  He needs me.  I love him.

More than me.  Mommy loves it more than me.  It’s tongue tickles my arm as I cut its throat.  That’s not why I’m laughing.  My name is Cle -

Dr. Nieves:
N-No…I am Doctor Tanis Nieves.
Scorn’s Exit
Wait, Tony.  I know this thing.  I’ll go first.
Royal Blue: Wow.  Badass…
Spider-Man:  On the other hand…I’m basically in my underwear and you’re wearing a tank…
Iron Man:  Say no more.
  AVENGERS (wearing armor) ASSEMBLE!
And as far as Clayton Crain’s work  goes…I’m not kidding when I say I’d literally frame 85% of the panels in this issue.  He’s just too good for words.  You’re gonna have to go out and buy these/this/any.  Like…right now.  If the final scene – where the symbiote has cast Dr. Tanis aside and is re-bonding with Cletus – doesn’t give you chills, you’re not human.

Rating (not impervious to insane amount of bias): 
Should Everyone Read This: 5
Carnage-Ness: 3
# of times Hawkeye Appears: 0

Characters (In Order of Appearance):
Setting the Scene:  Issue #4 begins with an introductory flash-back from Cletus Kasady’s perpective: getting launched into lower-orbit, losing his legs, being coaxed to sleep by the symbiote, and then waking up in Hall’s labs.  There, he hears the end of a conversation explaining his survival; the symbiote filled his lung with air-sacs that could convert carbon dioxide into oxygen.  Fast Forward to present, Hall and his high-tech security guards are explaining to Iron Man and Spider-Man their revival of Cletus Kasady, or “John Doe,” from inside his safe-room when Royal Blue gets a distress signal from the front desk.  The guards rush off to answer the call while Iron Man and Spider-Man are held up by Hall, claiming to have everything under control since he’s equipped his guards with titanium augmented symbiotic alloy (ruh-roh!).  They rush off to save the poor Rent-A-Cops, but Carnage has already sensed their weakness and has taken them over, one by one.  Literally.  He controlled their armor, bringing them kicking and screaming into his collective bio-mass, crushing the people inside.  Iron Man and Spidey trade blows and quips with the psychopath, seemingly to no avail.  *MEANWHILE* Dr. Nieves wakes up to Francis in her Shriek get-up and half of a Doppelganger looking for Cletus.  Shriek accuses Tanis of attempting to steal her boyfriend from her, and discovers that Tanis’ arm (the prosthetic) is Carnage’s offspring.  Whoops.  Tanis cuts her own arm off, and the issue leaves off with Carnage being rescued by Shriek with a third, more symbiotic, arm and that same half of a Doppelganger.  Shit got real.
Popping Off with that Good Shit:   Let me break this down for you:  Carnage is wearing dead-people as clothes.  AS CLOTHES!  That quote at the top of this review?  It’s from Carnage when he’s put on the dead-people clothes.  Crain’s work is sensationally epic in this issue.  Words can’t do it justice.  And Wells, his writing is and plot-development is second-none at this point.  He’s expertly woven in the explanation for Kasady’s survival, kept the dialogue between characters informative-yet-candid, and has managed to add another dimension to the chaos in revealing that Tanis’ prosthetic was actually an entirely new symbiote!  The dialogue between Tanis and Francis does a great job comparing therapy to the symbiote (and, more importantly, the metaphor we know the symbiote represents):
Tanis: F-Frances.  Please…help me!  It’s asking…it wants to take my mind!
Shriek: It doesn’t feel good, does it?!  Someone getting into your head?  Trying to change what you are?
Shriek: But that’s what you tried to do with me, isn’t it?

Shriek: Weren’t you always asking me to indulge my nurturing side…the side I hate?  Now you’ll indulge the darkness inside you.  Now you’ll see why I shriek.
And the Carnage/Spidey dynamic is choice!  They show just how insane Cletus is, and how – even though we may be chuckling whilst we read along – pissed off his shit makes Spider-Man.  So pissed.   It’s truly a work of art.  Now, stop reading my words and START READING THEIRS!
Rating (not impervious to insane amount of bias): 
Should Everyone Read This: 5
Carnage-ness: 5
People Worn as Clothes: 4


----WORK IN PROGRESS 12/13/2011….Will either publish WITH or AFTER Carnage USA #1 Review ; launch is 12/14/2011----

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