[WARNING: Contains SPOILERS for Carnage #14.]
In the comic book world filled with twisted, symbolically-bonded super suits, it doesn't get much nastier than Carnage. Over the years, Cletus Kasady’s merger with the scion of Venom hasn’t exactly been kind to the world – with the exception of his ‘heroic’ turn in the AXIS story arc. Let’s face it, a serial killer bonded genetically to a shapeshifting Klyntar super being never spells good things for anyone, certainly not the Marvel Universe.
In the past, the conjoined killer has done his best to massacre, murder, and plot against humanity at every turn, slaughtering in the name of chaos and pushing superheroes to the boundaries of their moralities in order to halt the symbiotic menace. Over the years, Kasady’s alter-ego lost some of his sonic vulnerability but also died (almost) on at least half a dozen occasions. But the psychotic symbiote keeps coming back for more mayhem. In Carnage #14, though, Kasady and his unwilling charge Raze could be on the verge of besting all of his other plots and ushering in a new age of darkness for humanity.
From Hero Back to Less Than Zero
After Doctor Doom and Scarlet Witch's spell in AXIS – which swapped the morality of many superheros and super villains – was reversed, Carnage lost his short-lived selflessness. Since that point, Kasady spent his few recent appearances making up for lost evil-doing time. A recent stint in the last ongoing Nova series, he attacked Sam Alexander (whom he’d befriended while a do-gooder), trying to wipe all record of his positive actions. Apparently, though, treating your former friends to kidnapping and attempted murder simply didn’t satisfy his bloodlust.
The latest solo run, written by Gerry Conway (Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows) brings a new type of terror element into the fold. Not merely content with the human horrors of Kasady’s mind unleashed through a powerful alien symbiote, he brings in a classic pulp horror element into the series (shades of '70s Marvel horror work, some of which Conway scripted). With the aid of Mike Perkins’ shadowy pencils, the story evolves in a genuinely Doctor Strange-esque manner, as Carnage discovers a prophecy in the Darkhold which could have major ramifications for the entirety of the Marvel Universe.
Carnage Takes The Darkhold to Heart
Even fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe less-familiar with its comic book origins may recognize The Darkhold. The book of sins plays a role on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. season 4 (although, irritatingly enough, a disconnected one from the rest of the MCU, it would seem).
Apparently, Carnage can translate the book – or, more so, is allowed to read it thanks to the book’s scribe, the Elder God Chthon (who's now being imagined as a Cthulhu-like being). Kasady begins to understand his importance in the ritual to release the trapped deity and bring untold mayhem into the MU. At the same time, his unwilling partner, Raze/former FBI Agent Claire Dixon, feels like they’re literally being led to the slaughter. Carnage, though, seems more than willing to undergo the ceremony or at least subvert it. Fortunately, there are a few folks trying to prevent Chthon’s tentacles from getting all up in this plane’s business.
The Anti-Carnage Task Force, though, are hot on the co-dependent duo's tail thanks to a psychic link between Kasady and Jubulile van Scotter – whom he infected her with his symbiotic essence, much the same way he turned Dixon into Raze. The trackers also count among their numbers a few old favorites, including Eddie Brock (now wearing Carnage's offspring, Toxin) and news magnate J. Jonah's son John Jameson (Man-Wolf). Rounding off the team are Victoria Montesi (whose family once guarded The Darkhold), her ally Yuvraj Singh, and Army vet Manuela Calderon, the sole survivor of Cletus Kasady’s first massacre.
Unfortunately, Cletus has a solid head start, making it a serious challenge to catch him before his diabolical plan unfolds.
Will Carnage Unleash the Monsters?
Tracking Carnage and Raze to Chthonic Island, the team fends off the humanoid-frog Broodlings as they make their way to the Temple of Chthon. Sadly, they're too late. The ritual is already underway, and Carnage #15 threatens to flip our realm on its head. As alarming as Chthon’s arrival in the first place, could it be just the beginning of a surge in big beasties?
Demons and monsters have been cropping up throughout the pages of Marvel recently. The Goblin Queen trashed Miami in the All-New X-Men, while Iron Man stand-in Riri Williams faced Animax and her creepy critters in Wyoming. Totally Awesome Hulk Amadeus Cho grappled with an emo-creature in Austin, Texas, as the Extraordinary X-Men faced down a “world devourer” in Limbo. None of these colossal spectacles necessarily tie into the Monsters Unleashed! event in January, but they’re certainly a good warm-up for Marvel’s heroes as a the massive menaces assault the Marvel Universe en masse.
Gerry Conway's work on the symbiotic saga has been enjoyable so far, posing some interesting questions about the aspects of symbiotic relationships, as well as human nature in general, while constructing an engaging storyline and interesting characters. Mike Perkins' art is well-matched by Andy Troy's cool palette, echoing the Hammer horror ambiance of the book. Connected or not, the latest Carnage series is certainly setting the mood, if not the stage, for next year's terror-themed event. We’ll keep you posted as monstrous forces invade the MU.
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Carnage #14 is currently available in print and online. Carnage #15 hits stores on December 21.