Warning: SPOILERS for Absolute Carnage #1
Every fan of Spider-Man and Venom knows the maniac called Carnage, but Marvel's newest event aims to redefine the villain as a singular symbiote super predator. If Cletus Kasady was a monster, then Absolute Carnage is making him into a living nightmare.
Fans have had months to prepare for the event, but now that the first issue of Absolute Carnage has released it's clear no amount of lead-in could soften the sheer force of Carnage's arrival. For once Cletus Kasady has a mission he's sticking to, and has been biding his time silently picking off former symbiote hosts. Now, Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote are the only ones standing on the front line to meet him. And if fans were hoping Carnage would prove himself as the greatest of Venom's villains... that time has come. SPOILERS ahead.
The Return of Carnage Began With Cletus Kasady's Death
As with any major comic event, there are sure to be plenty of readers who are eager to jump in, but haven't been following the weeks, months, or in this case years of set-up. While the first issue of Absolute Carnage does spend a few pages summarizing the story so far, there's no way to convey just how much of a horrific origin this incarnation of Carnage endured to come back to life. Which, in itself, may be a surprise to some fans: that's right, Cletus Kasady died in a prior Marvel Comics event. Fans might accept that the Devil himself spat Cletus back out into the world, fearing what he might do in Hell. But in reality, the resurrection of Carnage is much, much cooler.
Every comic event is described as 'years in the making,' but the Absolute Carnage event actually is firmly planted in the new Venom mythology Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman have been building since taking over the series. Long story short: Eddie Brock faced a symbiote dragon that revealed the origin of the symbiotes, the 'children' of the ancient being known as Knull, God of Symbiotes. Venom defeated said symbiote, but when a cult saw their chance to commune with a God--even a symbiote one--they harvested a scrap of the dragon... and combined it with the corpse of Cletus Kasady. Needless to say, they paid dearly for that gamble.
Carnage Strikes at Venom, Stronger Than Ever
It was the cultists' intention to give Knull a new host body, but anyone who knows the mind and crazed spirit of Cletus can see why the plan went awry. Instead, it was Cletus who took control from Knull, shaping the symbiote into a new, stronger, godlike form of Carnage. With so little of his actual body remaining, that version of Carnage is able to take the infinitely more unsettling form readers can see above. But more importantly, his communion with Knull showed Carnage that each symbiote, and each host with which it ever bonded, contains a scrap of Knull's essence. That was all Cletus needed to know to set Absolute Carnage into motion... hunting down and eating every Marvel character who ever bonded with a symbiote. That's the plan, anyway.
If it's frightening to think of Carnage given the powers of a symbiote deity, then it should be downright terrifying to see Venom realize they are not strong enough to face him, let alone defeat him. So as satisfying as it may be to see Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote reunite after their recent break-up, the happiness is short-lived. It's the most panicked that the symbiote has ever seemed, and almost immediately, readers of Absolute Carnage #1 learn why. Carnage is here, and he wants Eddie first.
Carnage is Spreading His Symbiote... Manually
To truly double down on the absolute horror and grotesque nature of 'Cletus Kasady, but a nightmare god,' Cates and Stegman indulge in what can only be described as Freddy Krueger levels of stomach-turning body horror. A prelude one-shot showed a glimpse of Carnage's 'infection' strategy--and it's not for the squeamish. Plucking off a worm-like piece of his own symbiote and driving it into a subject's brain, these Carnage-ized husks went off in search of former hosts (scouts, more or less). Or in the case of the horde of rats he infected, sent them to eat Captain Marvel's beloved cat. We told you he was more monstrous than ever.
Credit to the storytellers though, as Absolute Carnage #1 sees Cletus pursue Venom into the infamous Ravencroft Institute for the Criminally Insane, and take the chance to recruit an army in even more horrifying fashion. With the symbiote restoring Cletus to his human form, the serial killer struts down the halls of Ravencroft, singing a tune and tearing a hole into his own chest cavity--to the mad cheers and delight of the inmates watching. Until he comes out with handfuls of said symbiote worms, and begins flicking them into each cell as he passes. Even before the screams erupt, and the doors blow off their hinges, the reader knows what's coming... even if Venom can't possibly predict it.
Who Can Stop The Carnage Horde?
The wave of Carnage-ized criminals that come storming into the book's final pages demonstrate the true power and scale of Carnage's new abilities. In fact, with just a single form of Carnage too much for Venom or any other superhero to likely tackle, the ability to puppeteer countless symbiote soldiers makes his victory seem inevitable. Of course, it wouldn't be an event without an unexpected twist... so maybe there's still hope after all? Fans who need to get an immediate fix of symbiote psychopathy can read our preview of Absolute Carnage now, before picking up a copy of their own. Read on below for the full solicitation details and plot synopsis for the event's first issue:
ABSOLUTE CARNAGE #1
Written by: Donny Cates
Art by: Ryan Stegman
Inks by: JP Mayer
Colors by: Frank Martin
Letters by: VC's Clayton Cowles
Featuring action-packed extras including a Cover Gallery, Script, Inked And Color Pages and more! After turning Venom's world upside down a year ago, DONNY CATES and RYAN STEGMAN are about to put the Sinister Symbiote through hell again, only this time CARNAGE has come calling, and everyone who's ever worn a symbiote is dead in his sights! He's skirted the periphery of the Marvel Universe for months, but Cletus Kasady at last stands poised to make his grand return to New York in a blistering triple-sized story...and he wants to paint the town red!
Absolute Carnage #1 is available now at your local comic book shop, or direct from Marvel Comics. The story continues in Absolute Carnage #2 alongside Venom #17 on August 28th, 2019.