Carnage Part One
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Clayton Crain
Cover Artist: Clayton Crain
Variant Cover Artists: Clayton Crain, Patrick Zircher, Arthur Adams
Spymbiotic SPOILERS might try to bond with you in this review. Be warned…
Before I start in, some apologies and thanks are in order. First, apologies to Brad and all of you for not being more timely in my reviews. If I said school was kicking my ass, I’d be Understatement Captain of the Year. I did not foresee this when I requested this review position. Second, my thanks go to Brad for allowing me to keep this position on the website thus far and in return, I will renew my efforts to get these things done more quickly.
So. That out of the way. Let’s talk about Carnage.
WHAT HAPPENED: The Doppelganger is back (of 1990s fame for those just joining us, created during the Infinity War but used several times after that, and thought to be killed at the end of Maximum Carnage). He’s terrorizing the city while Tony Stark is at a medical supply expo (cuz those are always fun), watching a talk on the next generation in limb prostheses, given by Michael Hall. Hall demonstrates a new chip that will help prostheses respond to thought, rather than operating on traditional binary electronics. Some jokes are had at Tony’s expense, which peeves him, and as he leaves, he sees the Doppelganger. He armors up and calls Peter, who’s enjoying a bowl of Froot Loot at home. Peter dons the webs and tries to swing off with Froot Loot in hand. Meanwhile, Doppelganger lands on an armored truck, causing it to crash. (Note: This is not a random truck.) Iron Man arrives, but Doppy shoots him with webs before Iron Man can get off a shot. These are evidently razor sharp webs, so Iron Man is halted for a moment while Doppelganger gets away. Spider-Man arrives (with spilled Froot Loot on his costume), but before they can go after the Doppelganger, an the crowds of New York become an enraged mob, attacking the heroes and trying to get to the armored truck we saw earlier. From here, it gets a little confusing. Two new costumed character show up, Royal Blue and Firebrick. They use some sort of webbing tech to bind up several of the rioters. Royal Blue slashes up some people and shoots more red web stuffs all over another crowd that includes Spider-Man and Iron Man. Meanwhile, Doppelganger is trying to get the armored truck, crying Mothtar! the whole time, and some random woman nearby seems to know what’s going on. Royal Blue shoots a hole through the Doppelganger, also hitting the woman in the process. The armored truck continues on its way while Iron Man calls for medical attention for the woman, Royal Blue is all “Did I do thaaaat?”, and the Doppelganger finally succeeds in saying “Mother”. We follow the truck to its destination, where it offloads Shriek (also of 1990s fame, pretty much not seen since the Clone Saga), bound to a table. She is then carried over to a large globe full of liquid and a red shapeless creature, whom I presume to be Carnage.
Ok. That was a detailed synopsis, but I had to write it cuz to be honest, the first readthrough of this book left me a bit confused. And since that was my first response, let’s talk about negatives first.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: The muddiness of the artwork. I happen to be a fan of Clayton Crain, and when I saw he was doing this series, I was kinda excited, looking forward to some gory violence, which is just what I think a modern Carnage story would need, in order to be taken seriously. The problem is, there are so many panels where I just can’t tell what’s going on. Sometimes careful examination helps, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s been said at least eighty thousand times before, but I’ll say it again here. Comics are a visual medium. Your artwork needs to tell a story clearly. If the reader is having to strain just to find out what is happening in a panel, you’re doing it wrong.
Royal Blue and Firebrick. Talk about inauspicious first appearances. These guys were a nightmare. For whom are they working? Why were they let out of the house with such an utter disregard for human life that even when they accidentally SHOOT A WOMAN’S ARM OFF (at least, I THINK that’s what happened, Clayton Crain), they still think they were in the right? I think the only part of them I don’t dislike is that the costume design is a little cool, simple and flashy at the same time.
Razor webs. I realize this has always been part of Doppy’s powerset. But one problem I have is that, IF we’re going with razor webs, the art doesn’t really support the story — no visual indication that the armor is suffering any damage, no cutting into metal or any of that. Also, how can something cut like a razor and be sticky or suitable for swinging at the same time? Again, I know the character’s always been this way, but it bothers me.
Random woman whom Royal Blue shot. This seems to me like the sort of plot point that’s going to get some exposition in future issues, but right now, I’m trying to figure out who is this woman, where did she come from, and why do I care? She seems to know something or be significant in some manner. In her first panel, the Doppelganger is screaming “MARVAR!”, which looked a little like “MARYAR!”, and since the woman looks red-headed, I thought it might be a Mary Jane reference. That actually intrigued me more than the ultimate revelation that he was trying to say “mother”.
The cause behind the crowds going mad. The connection between Doppelganger and Shriek. Just not as clearly told as I would have liked. The first was explained but it was a throwaway line of dialogue, and the second I still don’t understand. Maybe it’ll be explained later, too…
WHAT I’M NOT SURE ABOUT: The revival of all these 90s characters. So far, it seems to be handled okay. It feels like the book is taking these characters seriously, but I’m hesitant. With Doppelganger, Shriek, and Carnage, it feels like I’m in high school again with all these people I thought would be cool but weren’t, but I’m hoping with all my hope that those jerks and dweebs have grown up a bit and figured out how to act like normal people. (And that they not give me atomic wedgies…)
WHAT I LIKED: The covers. The two by Crain were excellent, though I prefer the Carnage fetal variant over the Spider-Man and Iron Man “main” cover. Crain does something with Spider-Man’s eyepieces, making them stand out from the fabric, that I don’t like. The Iron Man portion of that image rocks the house, though. The Patrick Zircher gets a close third place, though I wish the white of the eyes were a little less bright. And while I like Arthur Adams, his Iron Man image just doesn’t fit the mood of this book at all, so he takes last.
Along with the covers, I do like that Crain has the interior arts on this book. The Crain artwork promises you right off that the cartoon killer of 1993 is not going to be the topic of this story. We’re telling Carnage like he should be told, is what I hear them saying. And since we haven’t actually seen Carnage yet, all I can do is continue to hope they’re right. He just needs to make sure his designs are always readable.
I have no idea if the Michael Hall character and his new prosthesis tech are going to come into play later, but I really liked his talk, on both an entertaining and a technological level. It seems like a seed that could be brought up later, or it could totally be a throwaway scene.
The camaraderie between Iron Man and Spider-Man. I missed everything with them working together before Civil War. I came back to comics after Brand New Day had already started, and I only went back as far as Civil War to catch myself up on Spider-Man. So, to me, the most memorable interchanges between Iron Man and Spider-Man so far have been in Invincible Iron Man 7 and in One More Day, and those were definitely tense, to say the least. To see Tony calling Peter into action both as a fellow Avenger and as a fellow superhero upon whose turf he’s definitely about to be treading was very cool.
Froot Loot was funny. (It would have been funnier if I hadn’t had to look at the panel three times when Tony asks about the stain on his suit, just to figure out what he was talking about.)
Double page exposition spread. Good art. Quick recap.
CONCLUSION: Before I sum up, I should probably say for any who don’t know that I missed a lot of the 90s. I bailed on Spider-Man around the start of Maximum Carnage, and though I’ve learned a lot about the era since, I still have a lot of gaps to fill, so I invite you the reader to kindly educate me if I say something or judge something out of ignorance of past stories. I have wikipedia with me and the rest of the Spidertubes, but that doesn’t mean I’ll look in the right place when I’m trying to find info.
So. This issue was the definition of set-up. It put players on the table, they moved around, but we got absolutely nothing about Carnage. Everything so far has been peripheral to the title character. I would have liked a little more of Carnage in Carnage #1. And although I realize they might have been presenting unexplained plot concepts to intrigue the reader, I came away from a lot of it with varying levels of confusion and frustration, mostly from the second half of the book. At the same time, I think there are the beginnings of a good story, and I’m a big fan of the art style, if not of every individual panel.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 miniwebs, with hopes for more.