Carnage: It's a Wonderful Life

Background

Cletus Kasady was cell mate to Eddie Brock until the day the symbiote returned for Brock. Venom made his (or should that be 'Their'?) escape, leaving behind the symbiotes' spawn which promptly bound to Kasady. Thus Carnage was born, and after several years of rampaging, he is now confined to Ravencroft Asylum under the supervision of Dr. Ashley Kafka and John Jameson.

Story Details

From within the overhead pipes Carnage is heckling Dr. Kafka (who is overseeing the transfer of Black Hole) about the imminent closure of Ravencroft due to poor cost-effectiveness. After Carnages' previous break- outs, Jamerson has installed shields within all the plumping systems and electrics - even downgrading all computers to stand-alone should he try to escape over the Ethernet again.

Carnage's taunts finally get to Kafka, who claims the chaos he thrives on is merely a cover for his terror of loosing control. Carnage rebuffs, calling her a hypocrite - not willing to dirty her hands by killing fellow inmates Razorwire and Wolverina, whilst withholding information that lead to their deaths (along with the transfer team). For this reason he derives that all people long to be like him, even if they refuse to admit it.

Knowing Kasady will easily escape once back in The Vault, Kafka and Jamerson conclude the only way to stop the bloodbath is to drug him - forcing the symbiote to shut down, trapping Kasadys' mind. They storm the holding cell and manage to inject the drug, but with the security down, Carnage inserts micro filaments of himself into their brains just before the paralysis kicks in.

Awaking inside Kasady's mind, they see piles of maimed Spider-man corpses. Kafka warns that anything they touch may have an adverse affect on their bodies. Another Spidey leaps to their rescue but is instantly beheaded by Carnage. This enrages Jamerson further and he attempts to goad Carnage into a fight. Uninterested, Carnage claims the only fight he wants to see is the internal conflict they will soon experience.

Slipping through his imagination, the pair witness a great battle between people of different civilisations whilst Carnage gives an overview that civilization isn't about the quest for human advancement - but instead the body count, with history being made by those who kill their way to the top. Jamerson begins to transform into Man-Wolf, and Kafka into a giant cockroach. She deduces that this is what Carnage wants; consumed by rage, Jamerson will become a slave to his primal blood thirst, and the more thought Kafka expends on finding a solution, the faster she'll change into a mindless beast.

Jamerson is riled into pure bloodlust and starts attacking drones with encouragement from Carnage. Meanwhile, Kafka discovers a young boy in a secluded wood in the corner of Kasadys' mind. Fearing she's close to the truth, Carnage draws the pair into a mock TV show with himself as host and an audience of popular television characters. He starts raving on how the media is the real evil and that TV helps spread the carnage & chaos. Kafka begins piecing things together, again claiming that all this is cover for his insecurities and fear of not being in control. This causes Jamerson to turn fully into Man-Wolf, who attacks the crowd. However, Kafka has sussed the way to beat Carnage at his own game and calms Man-Wolf with her thoughts. Carnage is momentarily stunned, allowing them to make their escape. Enraged, he calls after them that its too late - if they escape now their minds will remain in their current states, before turning on the audience and crushing them with a hammer.

Man-Wolf carries "Roachley" into the woods where they come upon a teenage Kasady being dumped by a woman who claims since he dropped out of school he's changed. As she walks away, he screams its everybody else who changes on him. The humanity of all this shows Kasadys weakness - a sentiment he must always carry, if never shown. Travelling further into the woods they see a young Cletus electrocuting a shameful father. Deeper, and they see the death of his mother at the hands of her husband (but tricked into it by Cletus). Young Cletus cries all he wants is to make them proud of him, and as the hammer smashes into her head again she says they are proud.

The little boy from earlier comes running up to them, asking if they saw his friend "Clete". Kafka call Kasady a fraud, drawing him out. She states that he's no different than anybody else - that all he wants is acceptance and a kind word from a friend. Desperate to prove her wrong, Carnage threatens to kill Billy (the child) as he is nothing more than a memory now. Calling his bluff, Kafka states that its his mind, and if he thinks its real then it is real. His fear of seeking human interaction, and removal of their free will whilst trapped in his mind means there is always control, never chaos. Determined to prove them wrong, Kasady removes the symbiote filaments from their brains.

The Pair awake in the Med-unit, fearing that if they are free then the same must be true for Carnage. Bursting outside they see the transit team leading Kasady away on a stretcher. While Jamerson muses over the closure of Ravenscroft just as soon as he had completed it, Dr. Kafka scans Kasady's eyes for any sign of the symbiote. Finding nothing, she still senses its presence and believes it left a mark on her that will never wash away.

General Comments

Carnage remains as two-dimensional as ever, but this story does help to flesh his character out further than in past attempts. the artwork is superb and beautifully detailed, especially on the first page; a full page shot of Kasadys' head half covered with the symbiote. Kyle Hotz uses an original concept to show how the symbiote stalks the cast around Ravencroft by sketching tendrils weaving around the panel boarders.

This is rated for mature readers and with good reason; the amount of gore on display is a real leap form the usual expected from Marvel. We have Carnage swimming in a swimming pool of blood, Crushing a whole studio audience with a hammer (not seen), Dr. Kafka's' face ripping apart as the cockroach head grows through, among numerous others. The highlight of this issue is the "1000 Ways to kill a Spider" part, in which we see how much hatred Carnage has towards the wall-Crawler - going so far as to creating a paddock in which he stacks up the bodies of his slain foe. Its portrayed in a comical fashion though, with the Spider-Man he beheads even saying "ouch" as his head hits the floor.

The design of Carnage himself is especially well rendered, with a serpentine quality that gives an added creepiness to the character. He is completely red throughout, as opposed to his mainstream red/black look and his teeth are now more Venom-like. As the story takes place in his mind this time (rather than him talking about himself like in "Carnage: Mind Bomb"), he is able to morph into a bizarre necropolis, instantly change into suits and create surroundings which help progress the story, and ultimately give us a glimpse of the way his mind works.

David Quinn does an effective job of showing how vulnerable Kasady is by drawing in elements from previous Carnage stories and comes to a suitable conclusion that his fear derives from not being in control of events when he was younger. This makes his character more rounded, which has always been a bug-bear with me. Before, the manipulation of his father into killing his mother made it appear that Cletus was born evil - which is hard to believe (even in the Marvel universe). Now we see it was just a way for him to prove to himself he had control.

My one complaint is that all Carnages' dialogue is the same stuff we've read hundreds of times previously. "Living is chaos, so Carnage is God", and so on... Its up to the other characters to prove he's not a one-track record. But don't let that deter you from buying a copy.

Overall Rating

A solid, spectacularly drawn issue which takes the best parts of all the Carnage story-lines, and effectively weaves them into a new one which aids in making the villain much more well-rounded. If only Carnage had more original dialog. 4.5 webs

Footnote

The continuity of this issue follows just several months after the events in Carnage: Mind Bomb, in which Dr. Kurtz attempt to rehabilitate Kasady, and instead is driven insane.

Billy appears in Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) Annual #28, in which Carnage attempts to prove how random his brand of slaughter is by killing his only childhood friend.

John Jamerson's hatred of Carnage stems from Amazing Spider-man #410 (2 months after Mind Bomb) during which the symbiote uses him to break out of Ravencroft and find a more powerful host, i.e. Spider-Man