WRITER: Gerry Conway
ARTIST: Mike Perkins
COLOR ARTIST: Andy Troy
LETTERER: VC’s Joe Sabino
COVER ARTIST: Michael Walsh
EDITOR: Darren Shan
EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Nick Lowe
STORY (with commentary): The issue is narrated by Eddie Brock, who is having a crisis of faith while the world falls apart around him. Overhearing Brock’s religious musings, Singh and Manny have a discussion about “faith vs. religion” (with Singh advocating the former, all the while, having told Jameson that he is a Sikh, basing his assertions on the precepts…of his…religion…wait a minute!). Anyways, the Children of the Midnight Sun, having entered the Chthonic temple last issue, are dumbfounded upon facing the twisted reality of Chthon’s dimension, which is bleeding out from the temple, distorting the laws of physics within it (so pretty much the conclusion to Dr. Strange). Jubulile, their lead to Carnage’s location, is losing her mind and just parroting Carnage’s dark prayers the closer she gets to him.
Carnage meanwhile is reveling in the chaos he’s unleashing from the altar in the temple’s heart. He torments the Broodlings of Chthon and Raze, all the while forcing them to do his bidding. Sensing Jubulile through their connection, he takes notice of Brock and the others, and sends Raze, who is losing her identity to Carnage, to intercept them.
Recognizing the danger in her connection with Kasady, Montesi suggests that Jubulile merge with the Toxin symbiote to cancel it out. The group begins to debate the rationality of this decision, but is cut short when Raze shows up and “Mufasa’s” Singh, tendril-shanking him through the back (called it: No positive father-figures allowed. Disney, bro). While the rest of the group engages their former ally, Brock protests giving the symbiote to Jubulile, fearing what it might do to her, but finally acquiesces at her insistence. It may be too late for this to do any good however as the issue ends with the arrival of Chthon.
To be concluded…
ANALYSIS: The gamble that kind of paid off last issue fails to do so here. Despite being another sort-of-character-focused issue, which is usually a good thing, this comic still feels strangely like filler at some moments, and like it’s rushing towards its conclusion at others. The end result makes it seem as though the creative team only ever had one idea for this book, “Carnage brings back Chthon,” and got the go-ahead to make what in hindsight should have been a much more succinctly told mini-series of story into an overly stretched, 16-issue ongoing. And while despite the fact that things do happen in this issue, it feels as though it’s too little, too late. This book has been spinning its wheels for too long now, and it’s practically run out of gas.
The book is not without its virtues however. When asked to draw a world where the laws of physics don’t apply, Mike Perkins totally gets his Ditko on. Those pages are particularly surreal and attention grabbing. And while I am about 10 issues past being over Che-K’n Carnage’s look, his character work for the rest of the cast is expressive and varied.
Conway also shows that he has a decent grasp on Brock’s character here. Eddie’s perverse moral compass is based on the twisted understanding he has of his Catholic faith. And, while Eddie has dealt with the occult before (the “Spirits of Venom” crossover in WEB#’s95-96), he’s never faced its power on such a magnitude. In this vein, Eddie’s characterization is right on point as the sheer madness of Chthon’s world makes him question his faith, which, for better or worse, is at the core of his identity. Combined with Jubulile reprimanding him for tormenting Kasady in prison, and Eddie is a complete wreck. It was however gratifying, in his interaction with Jubulile, to see Eddie own up to all the things he did as Venom (put a pin in that– I want to come back to it in a bit). It’s nice to see a flicker of redemption in a story filled with so much darkness, especially for a particularly tortured soul like Brock. The issue succeeded in bringing Brock through an arc in a single issue, which was nice.
That being said, those portions of the story that focused on the Children of the Midnight Sun did feel overall like filler. Carnage arrived at this temple like 3 issues ago, and it feels like they have been pursuing him for longer than it took Cletus to get there. Again, I appreciate taking some time to focus on character, but this was one of those rare instances where it felt like the story did so at the expense of plot progression. How Conway and Perkins are going to execute the finale of their run without making it feel rushed as a result is anyone’s guess. Conway is still a master of his craft though, so we’ll see.
But, after all’s said and done, recent news has me very interested in what’s going to happen to Eddie Brock moving forward: the cover for April’s Venom #6 portrays Eddie and the symbiote reunited as the one, true Venom! I am hoping, somewhat in vain I suspect, that this bodes well for those of us who want Brock together with the symbiote to be the status quo moving forward. Anyways, enough nerding out. I hope that Costa’s handling of Brock in his Venom book will reflect the character growth we’ve seen here. I mean, he’s not exactly a hero, but he’s come a long way in being able to own up to all the evil he committed back in the day. Combine it with the character growth that the Klyntar (I feel dirty using that word) underwent with Flash, and we may see a very fresh take on that classic pairing. I, for one, am just giddy thinking about it.
CONWAY’S OCCULT CORNER: Some occult practitioners claim to have the ability to “astral project,” i.e. to project their consciousness into another place, or even into another person (Yeah. Like Dr. Strange) But, as all satanic activity is a corruption of something sacred, such activity, if it’s not merely hallucinatory, is an illusory mockery of bilocation, or, even more simply, of prayer.
Our souls cannot leave and reenter our bodies at a whim. The soul’s departure from the body is death. However, our consciousness leaves our bodies all the time. It happens, to a varying degree one could say, whenever we’re in one place, but our attention is elsewhere, like with a loved one in a hospital bed, a friend taking a test, or with God in prayer. “Astral projection” is a mockery of this simple, beautiful, and very human thing.
Anyways, religious demonology suggests that the apparent ability of some occultists to force their consciousness into another person is actually due to a mutual possessor (a demon) between the two people. And that’s what we see in this book with Cletus, Jubulile, and Raze. Hence, Jubulile and Cletus’ ability to sense what the other senses, say what the other says, and even to dig into each other’s memories.
Granted (interpreting to the very loose “rules” of a comic book story), this connection is likely more natural than preternatural (in the sense that it is biological and not spiritual), since the common “possessor” is the Carnage symbiote. However, as Cletus is demonstrably “in relationship” with a demon in this story, there’s likely a mingled satanic element to the connection as well. Anecdotally, this unnatural mingling of the occult and the scientific is something dating back to the emergence of the Nazis, which is interesting, if coincidental, as that is roughly the same era in which Lovecraft wrote his early Cthulhu stories, upon which Marvel’s “elder gods” pantheon, amidst which we find our boy Chthon, is based.
All things considered, my gratitude on behalf of all us symbiote fans here at the Crawlspace and throughout the world goes out to Gerry Conway, Mike Perkins, and co. for putting this book on the stands for us to read and discuss. See you all tomorrow for their final issue of Carnage!
Below average (a stumbling attempt of a penultimate issue that fosters great character growth for a fan-favorite at the expense of the momentum of the overarching narrative)