By Donny Cates, Danilo S. Beyruth and Cris Peter
The second tie-in one-shot to Donny Cates’ current wild run on Venom focuses on one of the biggest villains in the Marvel Universe and, obviously, Eddie Brock’s: Carnage. Yes, Cletus Kasady has, once again, miraculously escaped death (a theme explored in this very issue) because it’s comics. Look, this reviewer isn’t complaining, the character is one of his favorites and it’s an absolute joy to see the spotlight on the crimson killer. A cult that follows the dark god Knull, has acquired Kasady’s mangled body and wishes to resurrect him or, more specifically, the Carnage symbiote…
The issue begins with a bit of a history lesson on the character, which is a smart move, narratively speaking, because Cletus has a long history in Marvel and newcomers to Venom may not have been keeping up with his timeline. What’s interesting is how Cates adds, reinterprets and quite possibly retcons parts of Kasady’s past and character, so that it will tie-in more with the stories he’s telling in Venom and the new character Knull. He incorporates a new moment at his birth that doesn’t quite make sense, but is executed powerfully by the art team. It’s a stunning way to open a comic. This is one of several examples throughout the issue where Donny Cates forces elements to fit his vision at the expense of the character. It feels myopic and incongruent, so much so, that when the cliffhanger arrives, it feels totally out of character for Carnage, but it’s where the story needs to go for the overall plot to progress. Cates, to his credit, has done really well with finding inventive ways to connect certain dots in the Marvel Universe, explain traits and events with characters in it, but this just didn’t work well.
Now, there is some poetic writing at play when it comes to the plot of the issue. The leader of this cult is someone to pay attention to and is an important part of the Carnage mythology and him going forward. There is the theme and tone of darkness, which consistent with Cates’ work so far in Venom, but it also works well for Carnage’s reintroduction. By his very nature, he’s a very dark and vicious character, pushing even Marvel’s boundaries for a villain. This book comes close to really capturing that in the artwork, but it never quite pushed it to the limit that could really make the comic stand out. Cletus is a psychopath and the work should be a reflection of that. There were several opportunities to express that in the story told in the issue and unfortunately they weren’t capitalized on.
Danilo S. Beyruth and Cris Peter have nuanced and stylistic artwork in Carnage Born. The warm color palette used compliments the titular character well. Red and black are motifs consistent throughout that suit the material. Peter’s work gives Beyruth panels an otherworldly vibe that jives so well with the story being told. Danilo Beyruth showed an adaptive style to the work. There was a clean, smooth execution in a several scenes, but in flashblacks there was a rigid, sharp – an edge – to his line work and inks. It’s an interesting dichotomy worth noting and shows his flexibility in the medium. Despite the great option to be a little more explicit in the more extreme or violent panels, Danilo Beyruth toed the line carefully and tried to be inventive in his depictions, but they didn’t have the impact readers will be hoping for.
Look, despite the criticisms expressed in this review, this book will sell very well. This run on Venom is one of Marvel’s current cash cows. It’s wonderful that Venom is getting so much attention and there is a clear, deep appreciation and love for the character coming from the creators involved in the book, but this tie-in, just as Ve’nam, wasn’t up to par with other issues. For those reading the current storyline, this is an essential issue, but Carnage fans should be prepared for some odd changes to the character and a bit of a new direction for him…hopefully for the better!