Graphic Novel Review: Superior Carnage

10:33 25 February 2014

Superior Carnage

Superior Carnage

Archant

The psychotic symbiote receives an upgrade...

(Panini Books)

Carnage is back… The twisted offspring of alien symbiote Venom, bonded to serial killer Cletus Kasady, has been incarcerated since its host was lobotomised by the Scarlet Spider. But now the latest incarnation of the Frightful Four – the Wizard, Klaw and Dr Karl Malus – have freed this deadly fusion with the intent of taking control of Carnage as their own version of the Government-sanctioned Agent Venom.

Unable to dominate Kasady’s damaged brain using his mind-control devices, the Wizard transfers the symbiote into Malus, creating a “Superior Carnage” which combines state-of-the-art weaponry with the creature’s own deadly powers.

Dying from a brain tumour, the Wizard is desperate to see his son Bentley before he succumbs to his condition, and orchestrates the siege of New York City Hall and order the authorities to allow him access to his offspring. But they reckoned without the intervention of the Superior Spider-Man, who as regular readers will know is the body of Peter Parker inhabited by the consciousness of his old adversary Doctor Octopus (aka Otto Octavius).

With Carnage on a lethal rampage which swiftly wipes out Otto’s so-called “Spider-Minions”, and Klaw himself destroyed by the symbiote, Spider-Man realises he may have overestimated his chances of victory…

Previous Carnage mini-series have been a largely hit or miss affair depending on the reader’s affinity with the character, but this five-part storyline is consistently good throughout. With a largely one-dimensional protagonist like Carnage/Cletus, it’s always better to focus on the consequences of his foul deeds and his interaction with those around him, and that is exactly what writer Kevin Shinick has achieved.

In many ways this is a story about the Wizard and Octavius, two criminal geniuses whose lives have taken dramatically different paths in recent years, and Carnage is nothing more than the trigger for their latest meeting.

It fits more neatly as an instalment of the ongoing Superior Spider-Man saga than as the latest chapter in Carnage’s blood-soaked career, but that’s far from a criticism. Where the symbiote goes from here will determine whether there’s still potential for a character like Carnage, so rooted in the excesses of the 1990s comics industry, in today’s ruthless marketplace.

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