Comics : Venom: Carnage Unleashed #1

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Worst of the Worst

This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

Having saved Eddie Brock's ex-wife (Amazing Spider-man 375), Venom sees that Spidey isn't the monster he thought he was. Agreeing to leave the wall-crawlers life for good, Venom skips town and travels to Chicago to begin his new life as the city's protector of the innocent.

In Detail...

Venom: Carnage Unleashed #1
Apr 1995 : SM Spin-Off
Summary: Carnage breaks out of Ravencroft
Editor:  Eric Fein
Writer:  Larry Hama
Pencils:  Andrew Wildman, Art Nichols
Inker:  Josef Rubinstein
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Articles: Venom

Eddie stands screaming in rage at a poster of the forthcoming 'Carnage Unleashed' video game – the symbiote engulfing him as he vows to rip out the psycho's heart before he lets him cash in on the infamy of his New York rampage (see Maximum Carnage for the details). As Venom, he rounds on the two thugs attempting to mug him at gun point. The pair seem unphased by his transformation, demanding to get paid – one eggs the other into opening fire and Venom leaps into action, lecturing them that they cant blame comics, games and T.V for their twisted minds because he did all the same stuff and turned out fine. The symbiote morphs into a leather jacket as Brock walks away from the mutilated corpses (pondering on how many innocents he saved from those predators), and heads for the bus station - promising to go give Kasady a visit.

At Ravencroft, Cletus is playing a prototype of the Carnage Unleashed game. His psychiatrist Dr Pazzo threatens to take away this privilege if he continues to avoid answering her questions, to which he takes umbrage – snarling that its his game, that its all about what he did so she has no right. Pazzo agrees this is true, and that that's the reason he's locked away in the facility. This seems to break down he allows her to start the questioning. She asks him why he dug up his parents bodies (Spider-Man Unlimited #2 [Story 1]), but instead Kasady stats talking about how his mother lied to his dad. Cletus claims she hated him and so stirred up trouble to destroy his relationship with his dad – she loved her dog more than her own son. When asked why he'd never mentioned this dog before, he replies that it died – having done something nasty in the basement. The panel cuts to an image of a young Kasady holding a bloodied power drill. Though caught in the act Cletus maintains that it was the dog that was responsible for the "mess", yet he still got the blame.

Meanwhile Brock is bound for New York, lamenting on his poor choice of seat mate; a green-haired punk singing loudly while playing her guitar. He finally snaps when she attempts to rhyme to completely different sounding words, but is shouted down by her stubborn view that he music doesn't contrive to follow social conventions. Brock makes a snipe that the lyrics are too self defeatist, but she (Now introduced as Kirstin) responds that the next verse focuses on how to pick yourself up from the depths of despair – Brock asks her how anyone can manage that.

At the corporation developing the latest Carnage Unleashed game, the developer is pitching the predicted sales figures for the new interactive version. His sponsors (Mr Fordo) tells the developer to get the software ready for an online release at midnight. The scheme is to get players hooked for free, then charge them for all the modifications needed to reach the higher levels of play. At Ravencroft, Dr Pazzo is complimenting on Dr Kafka's bargaining skills. She managed to convince Kasady to sign away his rights to the games profits, and with the funds she will sent up a trust fund to collect reparations for the victims of Carnage. Pazzo is disapproving of Kasady having access to the internet – but Kafka assures her that he can only link to a heavily shielded computer at the computer company, plus it was his only demand in exchange for signing away his rights. Despite this reasoning, Pazzo is certain they are underestimating Carnage's abilities, but agrees that the presence of the computer is good for breaking down his defensive barriers during his sessions - she's beginning to understand what makes his tick, but Kafka warns that isn't necessarily a good thing.

Its dawn and Eddie is groggily informing Kirstin that it too early to be singing so cheerfully. She replies that life's too short to spend any of it feeling sad or being angry, a lesson she learnt after she discovered poetry and a man named Clive (she produces a picture on him) – she met him through a poetry journal and is on he way to meet him for the first time, believing them to be soul mates. Brock studies the picture and wonders how to tell her that Clive (judging by the scars on his arms) is a heroine addict.

Dr Pazzo continues from her last session by asking how Cletus' mother reacted to the death of her dog. Lost in his game, Kasady despondently tells her that she went ballistic – that she was obviously mentally unstable. Cut to a flash back: Mrs Kasady comes to confront her son, but he is waiting for her. He trips her over with a wire and leaps at her with the power drill; however she is able to knock the tool away and grabs a knife. Pinning him to the floor she goes for a killing strike but is seen by her husband, who kills her with a hammer to save his son. Back in the present Kasady narrates that she was always trying to attach the blame for her mistakes on somebody else - too many devils in the brain which had to be "let out". He thinks the reason for her attempt on his life was because she was still mad about the time he pushed the television in the tub when she was having a bath (conveniently she pulled the plug out in time). Luckily his dad showed up in time – the look on his face was priceless when Cletus told the police that he'd killed her for no reason. Dr Pazzo asks him how this makes him feel and to demonstrate how pumped he feels, the symbiote engulfs him and he stabs Pazzo through the chest. Carnage is hit with a supersonic wave while the holographic projector is turned off. From the projection room, Pazzo comments how disturbing the ordeal was. Kafka admits to having second thoughts to this whole arrangement and considers removing the computer, but Pazzo remains adamant that the game allows Kasady to "act out" and so she maybe on the verge of a break through. As Kafka escorts Pazzo to her office, the monitor shows Cletus is being challenged by an online player (the game designer Sherman). Kasady logs in, using the connection to send in micro-filament sized particles of the symbiote through the computer to attack Sherman. Carnage threatens him to hack into the Ravencroft mainframe and disable the security measures of his cell.

Having arrived at New York, Brock sees Kirstin off with a warning not to let anyone talk her into anything she doesn't want to. She spies Clive and runs over to him – he's already scolding her for making him keep somebody else waiting. Eddie dwells on how a sweet kid like her doesn't need this type of trouble and is about to help her when somebody falls out of a top floor window and lands fatally on the roof of the cab next to Brock. Brock looks up in time to see familiar tendrils withdraw into the building, but is torn on what to do first as Clive is taking a taxi with Kirstin to a not-to-subtle location to meet a client. Back in the prison, the guards are arming and running Carnage's containment cell – Drs Pazzo and Kafka in tow. Jameson informs them that the back-up generators have been sabotaged and several special cells may be unlocked. As they enter the maximum security ward carnage is waiting for them.

In General...

Well here's something new, my first negative review of something symbiote related. This is one of the first of many dire spin-offs for Venom, and it sets the tone for all those to follow. First off, Eddie is now portrayed as a more caring character able to rationalise - not necessarily a bad thing, but they way he is written is strained and at odds with his previous appearances. Take for example the scene on the bus; old Brock wouldn't have put up with a mouthy punk all the way from Chicago to New York – he'd have found some way to justify his actions after having killed her. Its all part of the 'Lethal Protector' image the Marvel marketing department wanted to create to help sell one of their biggest cash cows of late. By making Eddie nicer whilst simultaneously making Venom more vicious, they can pander to people who really just want a more graphically violent spider-man.

The characterisation is just part of the reason behind the failing. The main problem is the pure stupidity of the entire thing; Carnage able to send micro- filaments of the symbiote down internet cables, to a location whole blocks away? The muggers who weren't surprised or scared by a man turning into an alien monster thing? A holographic projector able to send an image so realistic that we believe it to be the real person until the twist is revealed? These aren't just fun little tweaks as you'd happily accept in say the Fantastic Four – they are huge leaps in common sense and reality (I know the irony of this, seeing as this is a universe where time travel and aliens are ever present, and cities are patrolled by man and women in spandex).

Carnage wore his welcome thin relatively quickly – what with maximum carnage taking forever to end after only two years or so into the villain's introduction. It's too soon to have yet another arch concerning the guy, even if the previous appearance in a Spider-Man annual actually did him some justice. I did enjoy the flash back scenes though, in which we seem the demise of Mother Kasady and the arrest of his father – it really gave some intriguing insight into the workings of Cletus' irrational mind (his view that his mum was out to get him was a masterful way of bringing the character some understanding, even if he is completely deranged).

The whole thing feels horribly dated as well. With lime-haired punks, and blocky computers aplenty, this is one of the few comics which show its age – even more so than those written in the 60's.

The artwork is okay, but lacking in any real spectacle - aside form the opening and closing shots, and is just too cartoony to match the more adult tone of the comic. The cover is good though.

Overall Rating...

A clunky, forced and poorly animated affair, which unfortunately has three more issues left.

Footnote...

The titles of each part are the opening lyrics of "All Along the Watchtower," written and performed by Bob Dylan and mostly associated with Jimi Hendrix.