UPDATE: Everyone, I made some edits on this review. All of the points are still there, and the negative reaction is retained, but I took out some insulting lines that really were just unnecessarily mean-spirited. This is entirely a matter of my own conscience and it was not even suggested by anyone else on this site. I just don’t want to let something I’m not proud of continue to reflect upon me on a public internet site.
“Minimum Carnage Part 5: Family Bondage”
WRITER: Cullen Bunn
ART: Declan Shalvey
COLORS: Lee Loughridge
LETTERS: VC’s Joe Caramagna
COVER ART: Patch Zircher & Marte Gracia
Marquis Radu plans to destroy the Microverse’s “spiritual power” using a clone army of Venom–Carnage hybrids, creating a god-vacancy for Radu to fill. Carnage can control the clones telepathically, but “scientific tampering” and “humanity” have polluted Flash’s symbiote such that he cannot accomplish that feat. Scarlet Spider joins Flash to fight the clones. Eventually, Flash remembers enough of his emotional pain to . . . like . . . tap into his inner . . . Venom . . . or something, and that gives him the requisite psychic force to apparently disintegrate some of the clones. Then Carnage melts (the hell?). Then Carnage reappears in the real world, only he’s still tiny, and he has his clones with him.
As I stated in the comments section of Kevin’s Scarlet Spider #11 review, that issue rectified most of my standing complaints regarding Minimum Carnage. Marquis Radu had personality, the high stakes became clear, and Chris Yost wrote Carnage rather well. But along came Venom #27. Calling this the worst issue of Minimum Carnage is too mild. Instead, I’m asking myself how many years it has been since I’ve read a worse issue of any comic period.
Venom and Scarlet Spider battling Carnage and his clone army could have generated fun, mindless chaos . . . if I enjoyed the art more. Declan Shalvey uses a grainy, distorted style to begin with, but the whole melee sinks deeper into unattractiveness thanks to a monochromatic, brownish-red color-pallet. Enemy mobs blend together into a squiggly, indecipherable blob, and the oft-absent backgrounds make the battleground appear featureless.
I do not care for the aesthetic, but the storytelling pleased me even less. I was frequently confused by what I was looking at. For instance, there’s a scene where Venom, using his (new?) power to turn his hand into a sword, decapitates what looks like Carnage. Then suddenly a fully-capitated symbiote appears behind Venom, talking in Carnage’s trademarked red speech bubbles. Then the head on the floor regrows its body and starts talking as Carnage. Did Carnage split in two like a worm? Or was one of them supposed to be a symbiote clone whose voice Carnage controlled telepathically? Carnage never demonstrates that ability elsewhere in the story.
Second, this plot point appears inconsistent with prior instances within the Minimum Carnage story. Throughout Venom #27, Carnage taunts Venom with the idea that the symbiote is basically a corpse because of how severely the Avengers lobotomized it. Flash agrees on this point and cites it as the prime reason the symbiote clones won’t respond to his commands, and the reason he must summon his emo-ness to rev the symbiote up. Yet, didn’t we just have an issue in this same storyline where the Venom symbiote took control of Flash and forced him to attack Scarlet Spider? And didn’t the symbiote come alive again, later in this same story, to force Flash to attack the good tiny people? How is that “corpse-like”? What about that is consistent with the concept that the symbiote is basically sleeping and needs a dose of Flash’s self pity to awaken?
And third, this relates to my fundamental thematic qualm with Bunn’s Venom run. This is the second story arc in a row in which Flash has had to channel his negative emotions in order to win a fight. Bunn apparently sees Flash as deeply angry and bitter, and the best Flash can do is use those feelings to more viscously lash out at evildoers. I prefer to think that Flash is a more hopeful character then that, and that his finest moments are when he relies on strength and courage to overcome the tragedies that haunt him. All this business about Flash trying to make himself feel bad so that he can fight harder bothers me whenever it appears.
Folks, I can’t top what I’ve already written. The issue’s remainder deals with the Microverse characters running around with Katy Kiernan, and you already know how little I care about that stuff (psst: I care little). All I have left are questions. Why does Carnage melt through the floor? Why was Scarlet Spider’s mask so torn at the end of the last chapter that most of his face was exposed, but is now completely mended? Did he pull a spare mask out of his rectum? Why does Bunn’s word choice for Carnage’s dialogue emphasize words containing sexual connotations, like “incestuous” and “impotent”? Is Carnage a sex fiend in addition to being a serial killer? Even this issue’s title includes the word “bondage.”
I have the tiniest glimmer of hope for the next chapter because it looks like an army of tiny Carnages will terrorize the real world. That’s the type of fun idea that this story should have focused on from the beginning. I never want to see the Microverse again.
1 out of 5.
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