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): Welcome to the concluding chapter of Tomb of Carnage! It’s the end of the world as the Anti-Carnage Task Force knows it, and Carnage feels fine! (Sorry: low-hanging fruit) Cletus Kasady is positively mirthful as Chthon unleashes his brand of hell on the world around him.
The Task Force meanwhile is scrambling to compose themselves in order to deal with Chthon’s wrath (Montesi blames Brock, because he and Kasady “once shared a cell,” an artificial and frankly unnecessary attempt to ratchet up the tension. The penal system randomly assigned them as cellmates. It’s not Brock’s fault). But Jubulile, having absorbed the Toxin symbiote last issue, has mutated into a mauve symbiote (no name…Hybrid II, maybe? Cuz’ its made of Toxin and Raze?) and says she needs more power to combat Chthon, so she absorbs the Raze (Brock mistakenly calls it “Toxin”) symbiote from Claire Dixon, and tells Montesi that only “her prayers” can save them (Nice nod to Montesi being a “Child of the Darkhold.” Total B.S. though. “If Satan’s kingdom is divided against itself…” and all that).
As Chthon consumes his Broodlings to gain power, and tries to raise others of his ilk from the depths, Carnage approaches him to ask for his reward, and is unsurprisingly swatted aside by the elder god. Montesi meanwhile, with an assist from Manny who gives her a page she ripped from the Darkhold back in the first arc (and awkwardly taking the time to flirt with each other even though the world’s crumbling around them), starts reading an incantation from the Book of Sins that sucks the Darkhold power out of the Carnage symbiote. The spells also allow Jubulile to absorb the “psychic energy” from the area around her, Mega-Digivolving her into Angewomon, which allows her to obliterate Chthon (such a stupid resolution: why would the Darkhold have the power to do that when its sole purpose is to bring back Chthon?).
As the dust settles, the Toxin/Raze hybrid fades away from Jubulile, and she falls unconscious to the ground. Carnage, however, is pissed (I was waiting for him to morph into Dark-Bilbo when he said that the Darkhold “was mine! It came to me!”). Man-Wolf holds him off (would’ve been nice to see more of that fight), but not for long. But just as Carnage is about to murder the Task Force, Claire Dixon jumps in the way, sacrificing herself, and gives Montesi time to utter an incantation that imprisons Cletus using his own symbiote. Dixon, at peace with all she did as Raze, tells Brock one more time to “shut up” and dies in his arms (sorry, but “Yay! Another unnecessary symbiote character eliminated!”).
Later, the survivors gather at Cape Town to say their goodbyes. Jubulile goes home with her mom after a fond farewell to Brock (What happened with the hybrid symbiote? Is it gone? Does Jubulile have it? Is Brock still Toxin? Please let Raze die with this title). Manny shares one more moment with Montesi, who is going her own way to deliver the Darkhold to the Children of the Midnight Sun, and flies back to the states (presumably, we don’t actually know, with Jameson and Kasady in tow).
ANALYSIS: Well, thus concludes, as Conway himself puts it in his coda, what happens when you get “Tomb of Dracula with Carnage as Dracula.” An interesting concept? Totally. Was it well-executed? Meh. Did they stick the landing? Eh, kinda.
The concluding issue is very much like the rest of the book. It is filled with decent character work, high stakes, flimsy momentum, great action, chilling art, and semi-satisfying but not exactly cathartic plot-resolution. It barely succeeds where it should, wrapping up all of its plot points, albeit not in the tightest manner. Luckily, thanks to the wonderful world of solicits and CBR interviews, we know that Kasady (and Brock) are set to show up in Costa and Sandoval’s Venom, but we don’t really see what happens to him after he’s locked in his symbiote-cage here, in the concluding issue of his own book. Presumably he’s on that Air Force cargo plane on his way back to the US, but we never really see him board it or hear what is going to happen to him. And therein lies the problem with this issue, and the overarching problem with the title: its pacing. Conway and Perkins had so much to finish up in this issue, having spun their wheels way too much for the previous ten, that most of the plot threads are very loosely, hastily, and somewhat clumsily tied up. It’s not enough to make the issue fail outright, but enough to rob the reader of some emotional resolution and release he/she is owed after having spent 16 issues (and $63.84 plus tax) with this story.
The fight with Chthon was satisfying enough. At least we actually get to see his return and it wasn’t anti-climactically cut short at the last minute. In this vein, Conway and Perkins did very well. The elder god was clearly a force to be reckoned with. But, on the same token, that is precisely what made his defeat all the more ham-fisted. Jubulile/Hybrid/Angel-whatever’s defeat of Chthon by amassing “psychic energy” reeked way too much of “Maximum Carnage’s” conclusion, where the Carnage Family was beat by the “Power of Love.” Now, I understand the temptation to construct a Carnage-story in which the depth of his madness and evil is only met by incorruptible Goodness. This is why I want Carnage back in ASM, in conflict with Peter Parker’s core decency. But there has to be a better way to tell that story than by having another ecstatic-symbiote-hippie blast the bad guy with a Niceness-Ray.
In the end though, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the book. Carnage was as crazy and sadistic as ever. His Che-K’n Kau look is gone. No characters were ruined. And the people who shouldn’t be a part of the Marvel Universe outside of this story died with it. And, again, Mike Perkins’ art was great as ever. Barring his Carnage-redesign, his art has grown on me the more I read this title. Not a bad way to wrap things up.
CONWAY’S OCCULT CORNER: Conway and Perkins go out with a bang in their portrayal of the real world occult in this last issue.
First off, we see on display what exorcists and members of that ministry describe as “perfect possession.” This occurs when someone is fully aware and OK with being demonically possessed. Right as the issue opens, when Carnage is narrating about how is fully aware of his evil and the enjoyment he gets from it, he allegorizes such a state. He knows what he’s doing. He’s fully aware of how retched it is. And he’s good with it.
Fittingly, we also see on display the tragic (and pathetic) results of those who throw in with the demonic, thinking that they will be rewarded. Look at Carnage’s exchange with Montesi:
Carnage: “Chthon owed me! He’d’ve given me everything!”
Montesi: “You are deluded Mr. Kasady. Once you woke him, Chthon had no more use for you.”
Such is the sad end-result for members of the occult. They’re suckered in by the promise of some wealth, power, pleasure, or honor. Then, as soon as they’ve outlasted their usefulness, they’re betrayed and tortured sadistically by those whom they thought their benefactors.
With so many honest portrayals of these matters throughout this run, I wonder if someone behind the scenes was dabbling a bit in this occult business. I honestly doubt that it was Conway or Perkins, or, frankly, many modern pop writers who pen such stories. But, I would not be at all surprised if it were to come out that H.P. Lovecraft messed around with this stuff back in his day…
Well folks, one last, big “Thank You!” to Gerry Conway, Mike Perkins, and the rest of the creative team for putting this book on the shelves for me and my fellow Carnage-fans! See you all later, around Venom’s corner of the Spider-Man Crawlspace!!
Average (a lackluster, barely satisfying finale to Gerry Conway and Mike Perkins’ Carnage)