The five issue flashback that is “Sea Devil” comes to a pretty exciting, if slightly repetitive, conclusion as Agent Toxin, Man-Wolf, & the Children of the Midnight Sun battle Darkhold Carnage on the high seas, featuring the debut of a new symbiote-powered character! (“Because you demanded it!” said No One)
WRITER: Gerry Conway
ARTIST: Mike Perkins
COLOR ARTIST: Andy Troy
LETTERER: VC’s Joe Sabino
COVER by Mike Del Mundo
EDITOR: Darren Shan
EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY (with commentary): Still aboard the ship from issue #6, the supporting cast is still checking in on Jubulile, whose most recent crisis involved spazing out after meeting Agent Dixon last issue, who, according to the rest of the cast, is supposed to be dead.
(For the forth issue in a row) we then flashback four days to the cast’s hunt for Carnage aboard the Caspian Sea freighter. Having been split up last issue by Carnage’s Darholded-meat puppets, the cast reconnoiters in the ship’s galley, where Montesi tasks them to split into two teams, one to place explosive charges around the ship, and another to find the Darkhold and Agent Dixon, who was captured by Carnage at the end of last issue. While Montesi’s manservant places some charges, Jameson Wolfs-out (he calls the Moonstone, the “Star Stone” though: oops) to deal with Carnage’s puppets. When Singh is finished, he sets the timer and tells Man-Wolf that “the sun is getting real low,” gently caressing the lycan’s forearms, which causes him to revert back to Jameson thus starting an unexpected love affair that has no precedent and nobody asked for. . .
No I’m kidding: Singh just talks him down.
Meanwhile, Montesi reveals to Brock that she has a plotdeviceImeansymbiote-suppressor (convenient) in her possession, which she plans to use as a nuclear option should the klyntar hit the fan. Which it totally does: the team promptly stumbles into the cargo hold, where Carnage is torturing Brother Gregori (from the Chthonic Brotherhood in #8) for information about the Darkhold. When Montesi releases the Toxin symbiote, Carnage summons Claire Dixon from the shadows, thus introducing his newest recruit and adding a new symbiote to the ranks: Raze. As Raze and Agent Toxin duke it out (being, presumably, on an equal power level, both being Carnage’s offspring, with a possible advantage going to Raze since her symbiote was spawned post-Darkhold upgrade), Montesi tries to give Carnage some ballistic therapy with her rune-bullets, which are about as effective as the late Ashley Kafka’s (*sniff*) attempts to rehabilitate this guy. So, Montesi decides to cut their losses and blow the ship, with the supporting cast narrowly escaping while Carnage and Raze are caught in the blast; the same blast that Jubulile went to investigate four issues ago.
This (finally) catches us up to the present, as Jubulile tells the cast that Carnage is still alive and heading toward this island with another Chthonic altar on it. Montesi tells her to lead the way. Meanwhile, Dixon/Raze secretly stows away outside on the ship’s portside anchor. . . Thus endeth (I think?) “Sea Devil.”
ANALYSIS: So, first off, the elephant in the room: Raze? Do we really need a new symbiote?
For my money: in the abstract, no, but in the concrete, sure.
Considering just the story at hand, it is admittedly a nice turn for Dixon’s character, and does give her more of a purpose in this book than she had previously. All the other characters have a hook: Brock is Toxin and has history with Carnage; Jameson is Man-Wolf, and ditto on the history thing; Montesi’s from the Darkhold Redeemers; even Manny is the lone survivor of Cletus’ first massacre. Thus far, Dixon has been just a disgruntled FBI agent who kept Brock on a leash, so this gives her some more weight in the story. And it is an interesting, kind of “Red Hulk-ish,” turn for her to be joined with a symbiote, having worked in prior issues to suppress one and annihilate another. It also effectively creates another foil for Carnage, sort of in between Brock’s embracing and Jameson’s revulsion of their inner monsters. Dixon justifies her merger with the alien by saying that the symbiote “reveals who you truly are,” and that she’s not a lunatic, like Brock or Kasady, but a weapon.
All this being said, the ranks of symbiote characters in the MU is getting way too crowded. Let us count the ways:
Cha-Bookie! Cha-cha-chabookie! Role Call! (sorry)
1) Flash is running around with the Guardians as Venom, Agent of the Cosmos.
2) We have our boy Cletus Kasady, the Spectacular Che-K’n Carnage.
3) Donna Diego was shanked by Eddie Brock back in Remender’s Venom run, but, seeing that Scott Washington was too and his four symbiotes survived (and were de-amalgamated in Carnage USA), presumably the Scream symbiote is still out there.
4-7) Speaking of the other four Life Foundation symbiotes (forcibly spawned from Venom in his first 90’s limited series), they’re wandering around the Mid-West on a German Shepherd, after temporarily joining with Deadpool in Deadpool vs Carnage.
8) We of course have not-Pat-Mulligan running around this book as Agent Toxin.
9) Venom’s clone from Way’s Malibu Venom run, now called “Mania,” is currently joined with Andrea Benton in Philadelphia (who’s also, coincidentally, dealing with some occultish problems).
10) We haven’t seen Scorn since Carnage USA, but Dr. Tanis Nieves and her symbiote are still out there too.
11) And now we have Raze.
That’s 11 symbiotes currently active in the MU! (and that’s not counting the symbiotes from Web Warriors, or Venom 2099, or any other alternate versions) Even for this symbiote-fan, this is way too excessive. (at least Anti-Venom’s been off the board since “Spider-Island”) What ever happened to this “spawning” that Remender and Zeb Wells were seeding in their books? As much as I loved these characters, it was nice to have the prospect of thinning those ranks for the sake of giving back Venom and Carnage some of their original uniqueness and clout. But, alas, like so many symbiote-plot threads, this too was left unresolved. It’s like Venom and the symbiote characters have become a sort of meta-commentary for the state of Spider-Man right now: way too many spin-off characters diluting the brand. (Oddly appropriate, given that Venom sort of represents Spider-Man’s dark side) Hopefully Conway or Robbie Thompson or Mike Costa or (please not) Bendis (sorry, but I don’t trust the latter’s handling of symbiote-continuity) has a plan to address this and the other plot threads in one of their symbiote books.
Overall though, this was another pretty fun, if repetitive issue. It’s a little too close to the ending of the first arc (The supporting cast finds Carnage and the Darkhold in a deep, dark place. Toxin is brought out as a last resort. Carnage escapes with help from another symbiote powered character(s). The woman in charge decides to blow up said dark location, leaving Carnage for dead. Carnage survives. To be continued) Toxin especially did seem a bit wasted at this point and really only served as a justification for the Raze fight. However, Man-Wolf’s curious ability to control his transformations more than he could previously is interesting. Hopefully Conway has something for us there in a future issue. And, all things considered, while I do think that this arc spun its wheels way longer than it should have (thus omitting my commendation of the previous arc that it at least wasn’t decompressed), “Sea Devil” didn’t slow my interest in this series to a halt. I am glad to see that this book will continue through the annual Marvel reboot this Fall with “What Dwells Beneath.”
CONWAY’S OCCULT CORNER: “You are Colonel John Jameson of the American Air Force. A man of discipline and honor. The beast does not own you. You own the beast.”
I’ll see your Conway and raise you a Cap’n Jack Sparrow: “Slander and calumny!” (cuz’ this issue’s story takes place on a boat?! right?! . . . is this thing on?)
This reminds me of Eddie Brock’s claim in the first arc: “I ride Toxin. Toxin doesn’t ride me.” Brock’s language is indicative of some voodoo practitioners, who ritualistically dance until they are “ridden by the Loa,” their snake-god. But I digress. . .
First off, regarding the “rules” of the MU, as evidenced by the Hulk time and time again, no matter how much positive thinking you put into it, there is no ‘owning the beast.’ Even less so when you look at this as an analogy for spiritual affairs. It’s part of the allure of the occult to some that through magic or discipline or whatever one can master the source of whatever benefit you’ve received through some occult practice. This always comes back to bite these people though as such things cannot be mastered by sheer force of will. The goal should be to free one’s self from spiritual oppression, not to make a deal with the source of it. (Admittedly I recognize that this is where the analogy breaks down as the Hulk and Man-Wolf are not inherently evil, and thus it may actually be possible for Jameson to direct Man-Wolf towards the Good, as Bruce Banner *sniff* has before)
Plus, it is an annoying and over-played story move in this medium to have greater evil overcome by lesser evil. That’s part of what I love(d) about Peter Parker: he overcomes evil with virtue, by believing in the inherent goodness of even the worst people in his life. I understand that compromise is a part of life, and that Marvel endeavors to be “the world outside your window,” but fantasy is still escapism. And if you inject too much of the complications of the world into fantasy, it ceases to be such.
“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!” – J.R.R. Tolkien
A big thank you to Gerry Conway, Mike Perkins, and crew for putting this book on the stands for me and my fellow symbi-bros! Looking forward to seeing you all back here at the Crawlspace for the first part of “What Dwells Beneath!”
Average (an enjoyable, if repetitive, conclusion to this book’s sophomore arc with some great action and art that slightly exhausts itself by being the fourth flashback issue in a row and adding yet another symbiote character to an already bloated corner of Spidey rogues)