A city lost to a murderous sociopath with symbiotic control of it’s inhabitants? What’s the game plan for this scenario?
BOMB THE HELL OUT OF THAT TOWN
Fine, Plan B… Send in the Specialists.
Team Leader: Zeb Wells
MVP: Clayton Crain
Tech Support: Clayton Cowles
HQ: Tom Brennan
Man in Charge: Stephen Wacker
Tip of the Hat: Just like to give a shout out to the previous reviewer of this title, Nathaniel Collins, who helped sway the boss to letting me ‘steal’ this job from him. He was reviewing for the site for around a year and in that time, he broke the milestone 25 comments and my hats off to the man for the great stuff he brought to the site and here’s a glass raised to his endeavors elsewhere. The man’s got a voice for podcasting and he’s working with Brian Bradley over on the Mixed Marvel Arts Podcast and mixing it up with some Canuck loving chumps over at the Wolverine Berserker Podcast.
Review: My love for genre lies in the category of horror, either a good horror film that uses suspense and tension to scare you or a silly B-movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I love the tropes, the silliness of B-Movie horror flicks, and the iconic horror villains. Comics are a medium than can work well for horror villains, mixing the best of modern and classic horror. Comics can deliver visual scenes that most movies can’t match and they allow you a better insight into the minds of the villains and the protagonists. Hell, even the right choice of letters for a villain’s speech bubbles can add a chilling effect to the comic.
Zeb Wells is a writer I admire, because he always seems to be trying to do new things with comic book villains. While his Amazing Spider-Man arc SHED featuring the Lizard was a prime example of how this could go wrong, Wells has hit solid gold with Carnage USA. In the Carnage USA mini, Cletus Kassidy, the man in possession of the symbiote Carnage, has used his symbiotic powers to take control of a small American town, turning it’s inhabitants into symbiotic, mindless slaves. Sent in to stop him is an Avengers team consisting of The Thing, Wolverine, Captain America, Hawkeye, and Spider-Man. By the end of the first issue, all but Spider-Man have been turned into Carnage’s symbiotic slaves and Spider-Man is left to fight on his own.
Now before we get into this, I want to give my rating: 10/10, a perfect comic. Before you go “Oh my god, no way a Carnage Mini is getting a 10/10”, let me try and explain why.
Issue two switches up the almost singular viewpoint of the last issue, allowing us to be introduced to several new players on the board, almost all of which end up portraying some classic horror trope at one point or another. Rather than look at them as the rather shallow characters they are come off as in this issue, I will look at them as the horror tropes they represent, which I hope was Zeb Well’s intention.
Our Hero and his Group: Spider-Man is still very much the hero of this story, but it’s the rag-tag group of normal survivors who kick ass here, saving Spider-Man as the symbiotic Avengers nearly kill him. These survivors take Spider-Man in, believing him to be the first of the support that will come to save them. Spider-Man is not his usual quippy self this issue, most of his jokes coming off as forced, because of the fact he has to deal with the fact he’s been dealt the “Comes Great Responsibility” card and the fact these people look up to him and he knows he can’t rescue them.
As for the rag-tag survivors, most of them are sideline characters with only a few lines, but their isolated hideout does set up some very interesting places to take this stories, like the fact their is animals running around (yeah, I bet that’s going nowhere… I mean really, who’d want to see symbiotic lions, giraffes, and howler monkeys?)
A barrier separating the humans from the others is a classic horror trope, right down to the dwindling supplies and power source and I’m anxious to see things go topsy-turvey when that barrier falls.
The Survivor: Scorn. The one who survived the first incident, the survivor is often considered the hero or the specialist in these types of stories, but Scorn seems to be neither, playing a surprisingly small role so far. Dr. Tanis Nieves was a psychologist assigned to Shriek, who lost her arm and played a part in freeing Carnage from his containment and in the process, began to bond to him. This resulted in her getting her own symbiote and she helped Spider-Man and Iron man stop Carnage at one point. However, her symbiote is special, as it was bonded to her by a biological metallic alloy and thus has the ability to bond with all forms of technology. In this series, she’s portrayed as the strong silent anti-heroine, who watches and reacts with a bitter desire; to kill Cletus Kassidy.
The Specialists: Of course, every horrific situation that usually gets out of hand does what many consider to be the sequel plan: Send in the specialists. A group of highly trained, eerily similar personality wise fighters. Seeing as how this is part two of Well’s Carnage story, it makes sense to take this route. This issue we are introduced to a group of four Special Ops soldiers, each gifted with a symbiotic power. One is given control of a symbiotic animal named Lasher, one a symbiotic head to produce precision aiming from over a mile and half away, one a symbiotic arm that can absorb the weight of a rail gun and a massive amount of ammunition to no effect on the wearing, and the last a chameleon like symbiotic skin to make him turn invisible. Their near identical personalities and cheesy one liners make them typical horror soldiers, sent as the support for Scorn.
An interesting tidbit is they were commissioned after Venom went AWOL in his solo title, made from the remains of Hybrid and placed in the hands of those more loyal than average soldiers like Flash Thompson.
The Family: A classic horror trope, the villains believes himself to bring unity to those around him, taking on a father like role amongst those he has corrupted. For this story, Cletus Kassidy decides to leave the family members of one of the survivors human, until they ask him for symbiotic accession. Of course, that’s not a happy story in the symbiotic town, for Cletus has split the family of three apart. He takes it upon himself to look after the baby, and he has Doppleganger follow a seven year old kid Cole around, until their mother breaks down and asks for Cletus Kassidy to make them part of the symbiotic ‘family’. Of course, Cletus has a price for this; the three family members have to hunt down their father and kill him, so they can prove their loyalty to the family.
The Fighter: At the conclusion of the fight between the symbiotic Avengers and Spider-Man, a massive explosion frees Ben Grimm from Carnage’s conclusion, to throw in a witty line and then try to fight the symbiote off as it retakes him. There are several examples of characters fighting to overcome an infection in horror and while most fail, there are the ones who succeed. I feel like this is a set-up for later on, when someone does break free of the symbiotic control; I’m betting Spider-Man, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Scorn or Cole, just because Spider-Man has done this before.
This issue is fantastic, thanks to horror film vibes bouncing off the pages due to Clayton Crain’s fantastic and disturbing imagery and Zeb Well’s B-movie script. Very few comics make me love the medium quite as much as this one did and I can’t recommend this mini enough to people, whether you’re looking for a good Spider-Man story or a great horror tale.