Absolute Carnage by Donny Cates & Ryan Stegman review

Having worked their magic on Venom and turned his series into one of the most popular comics on the market, Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman turn their attention to his psychotic offspring in Absolute Carnage. Carnage has everyone who’s ever worn a symbiote is dead in his sights! He’s skirted the periphery of the Marvel Universe for months, but Cletus Kasady at last stands poised to make his grand return to New York in a blistering, action-packed story… and he wants to paint the town red! And there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it!

Like Venom, Carnage has had a rather inconsistent history when it comes to comics. But much like with Eddie Brock in his recent revival, Kasady has been brought up to a dangerous new level. As a direct tie-in to their current Venom series, Cates and Stegman carry over the horror approach to this title and give Carnage a far more disturbing edge rather than the criminally insane caricature the character has often been depicted as. This is a Carnage who has a plan which has huge consequences for the Marvel Universe at large which gives this event the greater scope it deserves. Cates needs to get special credit for his deep knowledge of symbiote lore, especially his idea of the symbiote codex (which effects anyone who has ever been bonded to a symbiote).

Beyond the amazing action that occurs, one of the main highlights in the story is Eddie Brock’s continued development, especially regarding his relationship with his son and Spider-Man. Cates has been doing a tremendous job in making Eddie a more rounded character in the main Venom title and we see more of this in this series. Eddie is still getting used to the idea that he has a son and his inexperience is evident in the opening of the story. But as the story progresses, we see the depth of Eddie’s growth as he is willing to go head-to-head with Carnage for unselfish reasons. In addition, his chequered history with Spider-Man takes a new direction as the two seem far more in-sync than they have ever been in other forced team-ups. Peter isn’t fully trusting of Brock (and he probably never will), but these are two characters who have tangled together for years (for better or worse) and there is a stronger understanding between the two than previous encounters. Not that Venom gets all the moments to shine, as Spider-Man has one of the standout moments of the arc when he protects Dylan and Normie Osborn from a symbitote-possessed Norman Osborn in a grisly action sequence that displays Spidey’s resourcefulness and guts.

Stegman continues to be one of the top artists working in comics today with some of his best art to date on display. No one draws symbiotes better than him and his Spider-Man is very hard to top. If he was restraining himself in anyway in Venom, he really cuts loose here – with a truly terrifying new design for Carnage, some incredible action sequences and the continued development of Eddie Brock (of which he is just as vital towards as Cates).

This is one of the strongest event comics in recent memory and one of the best chapters in Cates and Stegman’s Venom revitalisation. Spider-Man and Venom fans are not going to want to skip this one.

Absolute Carnage by Donny Cates & Ryan Stegman is out 21 January from Marvel
(9781302919085, p/b, £24.99)

Or from your local bookstore.

For more great graphic novels, be sure check out our 2020 Staff Picks.

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