The Dawn’s Early Fight: Carnage USA Finale
Writer: Zeb Wells
Artist: Clayton Crain
Letters: Clayton Cowles
Editors: Tom Brennan and Stephen Wacker
Plot: Come sunrise, the town of Dovertown will be wiped off the map unless the Carnage symbiote is recaptured. To this effect, symbiotically enhanced special forces have been sent in with Scorn (Doctor Tanis Nieves), who with the aid of Spider-Man managed to separate Cletus Kassidy from the Carnage symbiote while fighting Agent Venom (Flash Thompson). In the fallout of this, the Carnage and Venom symbiotes took hold of animal hosts and began to fight one another. With the Avengers and Special Forces in tow, Spider-Man and Scorn attacked the symbiotic animals.
At the same time, Flash Thompson and Cletus Kassidy now symbiote-less and leg-less began to attack one another in a meat processing plant, with Flash impaling Cletus’s arm, and Cletus biting his neck, before using the hooks in the wall, used to support meat, to attack Flash from above and impaling him through the side with a hook and hoisting him in in the air painfully.
Back on the battlefield, dawn has arrived and the town is about to be nuked, when Captain America intervenes and buys them more time. The Venom Gorilla is attacked by a Carnage Lion on his way back to Flash and thanks to Spider-Man’s intervention manages to escape. Scorn manages to use the Sonic Disruptor Ben Grimm brought to isolate the Carnage symbiote and then Cap has them focus the impact blast on Carnage, defeating the symbiote but destroying the city in the process; Scorn recovers the Carnage symbiote, promising it much pain in the future.
Cletus is about to stab out Flash’s eyes when he is greeted by a plain Gorilla. When he turns back, Flash is once again Venom and kicks Cletus’ ass. Yet, he couldn’t kill Cletus because he didn’t want to let Spider-Man down. One of the villagers tries to kill Cletus, but Spider-Man stops him, telling him not to become a murderer and to look after his two children. The man breaks down in Spider-Man’s arms and says he had three children before Cletus came to town. Wolverine and Clint wonder if they did the right thing by stopping him from killing Cletus, while Cletus smiles to himself in a prison cell.
Thoughts: Damn, this thing got dark. While I never got the nameless soldier kills I had hoped for from this horror title, the revelations of what Cletus did to a little girl and how far he was going in his torture of Flash show that Wells didn’t hold back with Cletus. Wells makes sure to show us that Cletus is the horror behind Carnage, not the symbiote; in fact it’s implied the symbiote wants to be free of Cletus now. And on the flip side of the symbiotic coin, I think Venom is the hero of this story and damn he’s getting put through the ringer between this and Circle of Four. And yet it makes you admire the character more, because despite everything he goes through here and in his own book, Flash is still a strong soldier with a stout set of morals. And Wells and Crain nail it this issue with pacing and visuals, with the Flash vs. Cletus and Venom vs. Carnage battle inter-cutting perfectly and beautifully. And it might be because the Resident Evil 6 trailer came out yesterday and I’ve been obsessing on it, but I couldn’t help but compare the Cletus fight with the Resident Evil 4 fight with Bitores Mendez, where his body splits in half and he starts swinging around on hooks.
As for the others this issue, most got a great chance to shine. Captain America steps up to the plate and makes a dude cry this issue and it’s kind of awesome. Spider-Man gets to totally save Flash’s ass and while I think the scene would have more impact if Spider-Man knew Flash was under the Venom symbiote, it’s still a touching moment. As for our MVP this issue it’s pretty much a tie between Scorn and her solving the problem twice in two issues or the Venom Gorilla, who was just all kinds of awesome this issue and makes me want to see a Planet of the Apes book drawn by Clayton Crain.
My only real complaint is that Tom Brennan ruins something going on in Venom in the back pages, but he also makes up for it by making a Minimum Carnage joke too.
Verdict: Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain really kill it this issue and by the time you shut the book, you’ll left with a feeling that is convened perfectly in the final page of the book; the heroes lost just as much as they won and this is far from over. To avoid from rambling, I’m going to give this one another 5/5, this book made me feel uncomfortable at points and left me feeling down which doesn’t happen often and so long as Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain are playing with symbiotes I’ll be there for the ride.
Event Review: Last year, Scott Snyder/Jock/Francesco Francvilla took Detective Comics and made it very much a horror/crime noir book staring the Dick Grayson Batman and the Gordon family. They did truly creepy things with the Joker, the social elite, and when you get to the final story with the true villain of the run, it got dark. This year, Scott Snyder/Yannick Paquette and Jeff Lemire/Travis Foreman took Swamp Thing and Animal Man and united them in a cause against a force of death and decay, turning those superhero titles into a story where death and darkness lay around every corner. Over at Marvel, the only team who has done something like this is Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain. Rick Remender has dabbled at it, but he either gets too silly with it (Venom) or let’s the super heroics take over (Uncanny X-Force). Zeb Wells is able to largely ignore the heroics and knows how to interject humor into something without throwing off the dark pacing of the issue. And Clayton Crain is a perfect fit with his stylized art working well for symbiotes that can do things most can’t. This isn’t exactly an emotionally moving event or a truly revolutionary one either, it’s pretty much a horror story in the Marvel Universe and I feel like we don’t get enough of that. Wells definitely could of done more with this, gone darker, shown more and teased less, and raised the stakes more, but he’s getting better at writing this kind of stories if Carnage and Shed are any indication of where he started. He also needs to work on his character work, he deifintely placed story over character and while there were some great character moments, he had a lot of misfire with the town characters (especially Eric the Dad) and Scorn. Still, he delivers way more often than not and this event was a blast to read in it’s entirety.