Welcome to Carnage #11, “What Dwells Beneath: Part 1,” by Robert Louis StevensonImeanGerry Conway! Search for booty with Cap’n Che-K’n Carnage & his scurvy crew of costars as they explore Treasure Island for a satanic altar that promises to bring about the resurrection of an ancient demon deity who will herald an endless night that will end the world as we know it. And have a nice day J Oh! And Fred Hembeck totally gets ritualistically murdered in this issue, so, yaknow, if you’re still sore from Assistant Editor’s month after 30 years, here’s your closure: Click away!
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
READER DISCRETION ADVISED: this issue suggests some pretty dark and adult stuff. . .
STORY (with commentary): Carnage arrives on an unknown island in the Timor Sea and is hastily brought down by his greatest nemesis: a Net! (nnnnnerd rage! I thought we were past this! That stupid net better have those nonsensical runes on them or I quit!)
Days later, the supporting cast is investigating a trawler that Carnage commandeered for anything that will help them deal with him. Singh and Jubulile have a nice “Lion King” moment together, with the manservant telling her that her late father’s strength still lives in her and will help her deal with this weird connection she has to Kasady. It’s nice to see the former kind of developing into father figure for her. (Singh calls her “javaan mahila” – Indian for “young lady” – so, you know, he’s not making it out of this title alive because we can’t have strong father figures in this friggin’ medium [stupid ASMvol.3#8 *sniffle*] “Thanks, Disney”)
Anyway, the cast goes ashore to investigate, stalked in secret by Claire Dixon, the Unnecessary Raze. Montesi talks (and flirts?) with Manny, goading her into asking how it is Montesi could have saved Singh as a child when he’s so much older than she. Before Manny (and the reader) gets an answer to how Singh became the Chewbacca to Montesi’s Han Solo (stupid Force Awakens *sniffle* “Thanks, Disney”), the cast stumbles onto an ancient graveyard, complete with a Journal cataloguing an unfortunate whaling crew’s accidental exploits on the island. Singh and the Journal together play the part of exposition-tool, telling us that the island’s altar is guarded by monstrous aboriginal lizard-people called the “Broodlings of Chthon.” And, sure enough, before they can read much further, the Broodlings attack. Brock & Jameson Toxin/Wolf-out to deal with the aggressors, and Jubulile demonstrates some Carnage-like reflexes and brutality when one of them attacks her, causing the others to doubt her integrity. After the Broodlings are repelled, the team reconnoiters (Singh talks Jameson down again), and continues to follow Jubulile, the human Carnage Tracer, to their next destination.
Raze catches up to the graveyard and picks up the Journal, continuing the narrative where the others left off. As Dixon reads, and her symbiote fends off the remaining Broodlings, she learns that the inhabitants of the island are all female, and propagate by seizing wayward travelers on the island (demon lizard Gerudos!), before ritualistically sacrificing them. (Among the names of the dead in the Journal is a ‘Hembeck’! Ha! I wonder if this is a fraternal jab at Fred Hembeck on Conway’s part? Did you guys recognize any of the other names? They were ‘Martinson, Ramirez, Samuels, Olafson, and Briggs’)
Meanwhile, Jubulile starts to buckle over in agony, saying that Carnage is suffering incredibly. The group turns a corner, and see that the Broodlings have Kasady on a spit over a raging fire, presumably about to sacrifice him. To be continued. . .
ANALYSIS: Um. . .so, awkward question here, but I have to ask: was there a between-the-panels lizard orgy in this issue? I mean, and Conway-forgive-me if I’m reading too far between the lines here, but with all that talk about the Broodlings being female, and “propagating” with their victims before sacrificing them, considering that we see this book’s titular character at the beginning, when he’s captured, then not again until the end of the book, when he’s already being sacrificed. . .see what I’m getting at here? *yyyick. . . Carnage is definitely one of the least sympathetic characters I’ve ever read, but being gang-raped by a lizard cult isn’t something I’d wish on anyone.
And the idea that more occultists are trying to sacrifice Carnage or otherwise use him for their own purposes is getting a bit repetitive: first it was the mine’s cult, then Brother Gregori, now the Broodlings. That being said though, while this will assuredly backfire on his captors, Carnage’s plight at the end of the issue does seem pretty dire, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how he’s getting out of this one. Will the cast save him to save Jubulile? Is their connection strong enough to kill her if Cletus dies? I, for one, am titillated. And it’s nice that the creative team is acknowledging that Carnage is still weak to something other than magic, i.e. fire. (Although, again, this has/should have been his only weakness since “Maximum Carnage”)
It is nice however to see some of the other characters’ relationships develop in a much healthier direction. Both Singh and Brock, for instance, show a kind of paternal affection for Jubulile. Singh’s I’ve already mentioned above, and Brock Toxin’s-down from the Broodling fight as soon as he sees Jubulile have her freak-out so he can go comfort her. I felt like this was a nice acknowledgement of Brock’s affection for those he sees as “innocent.” (Have I mentioned how much I miss having him as Venom?) And speaking of relationships, Perkins’ rendering of the conversation between Manny and Montesi may suggest something developing there too. Victoria Montesi is confirmed as a gay character, but Manny’s orientation is still up in the air. We’ll just have to wait and see I guess.
And yet, I’m still waiting for Raze’s existence to be justified, not so much in this book, but in the greater Marvel Universe. Though her dogging of the supporting cast does create additional peril for their situation, a ‘danger in front and behind’ sorta’ thing, and her questionable allegiance and agenda makes her kind of a wild card in the story at hand, I’m still not sold that Raze is an altogether beneficial addition to the greater narrative of this fictional universe. As I said last review, there’re just way too many symbiotes (and Spider-characters) running around the MU these days.
And although we do get our monthly dose of symbiote-action (Oh dude, no pun intended, I swear!) in this issue, Carnage’s absence from the main narrative is starting to be a bit too much of a pattern for my taste. The last three or so issues have been mostly about the team’s pursuit of him, rather than about his machinations and goals, which appear dismissively and forgettably simple, albeit grave. Granted, that may be to this comic’s advantage, as framing a narrative entirely around an unsympathetic sociopathic serial killer would wear the reader out PDQ, but the balance between Carnage’s exploits and what’s supposed to be his supporting cast is getting out of whack to the point that this book is starting to feel more like Toxin & the Children of the Midnight Sun than Carnage. But this is, I think, really a matter of preference and, all things considered, doesn’t really detract from the book’s overall entertainment value.
All in all, this was a pretty fun issue, filled with interesting developments in the characters’ relationships, some cool fight sequences, and a pretty good, if repetitive, cliff-hanger. What more do you want, really, from a book called “Carnage”?
CONWAY’S OCCULT CORNER: “Before being sacrificed in a torturous blood rite to a pagan god – our friends are forced by the females into unspeakable acts of vile propagation. Under such circumstances Christian burial seems wholly inappropriate. Their souls are damned, and so, I fear. . .are ours.”
A haunting representation of one of the many sinister sides of witchcraft, while at the same time an utter failure to accurately present the Christian view of suffering and salvation. . .
Among other things, Satanism and witchcraft are historically sexist. Despite, in the end, serving the same (broken) master, the former tends to be more masculine and the latter more feminine, and each views members of the opposite gender (though not exclusively) as potential slaves to be dominated and subjugated, almost always through violent sexual humiliation. So Conway’s representation of these lizard-witches is pretty on-the-nose here. (Again: *yyyick. . .)
However, regarding Conway’s representation of the 19th Century Christian (I’m assuming based on their language and the fact that Christianity has been in Indonesia since disciples of the Apostle St. Thomas brought it to the archipelago) Journal writers’ view towards the effects of suffering on the human soul and how said suffering affects one’s salvation, he (as is the tendency in pop culture) misrepresents that demographic’s views on these matters. The Schoolmen of the Middle Ages, among Christianity’s greatest thinkers, look to the Greek philosophers, as a complement to divine revelation, for additional perspective on how they view suffering and evil as these things affect the human soul: as Socrates put it, “It is better to suffer evil than to inflict it.” In other words, (most, though, to be fair, not all) Christians do not think that suffering evil damns one’s soul; otherwise Christ would be the ‘most-damned’ of all, having taking on all the evil and suffering of humanity in order to ransom its salvation. Suffering is almost guaranteed as a necessary part of humanity’s salvation in the Gospels. However, if the Journal is implying that these whalers willingly participated in the natives’ mating ritual, that’s another story. . . (and, once more, I say: *yyyick. . .)
As always, my gratitude on behalf of symbiote fans across the globe goes out to Gerry Conway, Mike Perkins, and the rest of the creative team for putting this book on the stands for us! See you all at the end of September for the next part of “What Dwells Beneath.”
Above average (an entertaining comic filled with interesting character developments that’s unfortunately haunted by overly formulaic storytelling)