Absolute Carnage #1 // Review
First of all, nobody draws a symbiote better than Ryan Stegman. This is the first major takeaway from Absolute Carnage #1, the launch issue of Marvel’s latest crossover (with which it shares a name). The second is this: crossovers are a messy business. To have any idea what’s going on, the reader should be familiar with Donny Cates and Stegman’s current run on Venom, and the final arc of Dan Slott’s run on The Amazing Spider-Man. Having read Marvel’s Free Comic Book Day 2019 Spider-Man comic might help too. Oh, and also Silver Surfer: Black, by Cates and Tradd Moore.
The book begins with exposition as narration as Eddie Brock brings his son, Dylan (and the reader) up to speed with recent events. Specifically the origins of Knull, the god of the symbiotes. And the things Eddie and The Maker (the evil version of Reed Richards from the Ultimate Universe) have learned about the way symbiotes interact with their hosts. Eddie and his Other become reunited just as Eddie learns he’s been framed for the murder of Lee Price, another of Venom’s previous hosts. Just in time for Eddie and Dylan to be attacked by Carnage, who is trying to find and kill everyone who has ever hosted a symbiote. Eddie enters into an alliance with his frenemy, the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. At first to protect Dylan and then to try to protect both Norman Osborn and his son, Normie (both former hosts of the Carnage symbiote) from Carnage. Chaos, inevitably, ensues.
Writer Donny Cates keeps all of these plates spinning with seeming ease, which is in itself a remarkable feat. The story is a lot of fun, moving at a breakneck pace. Each reveal and shift tops the last, and it never gets boring.
The art is the real star of the book, however. Stegman, with inks by JP Meyer, draws Venom and Carnage and all the other symbiotes with oozing tentacles and flashing teeth. Every action scene--and there are many--is kinetic and thrilling, and the page layouts keep the energy consistent throughout the book. Frank Martin’s colors add to the mayhem, balancing the blacks and reds one would expect from the subject matter with the pale greens of the Ravenscroft Institute or the searing blue of the Maker’s visor. VC’s Clayton Cowles has many opportunities to shine, with the different symbiotes having varying speech bubbles and fonts.
Absolute Carnage #1 is a rip-roaring adventure, a lot of fun to read. It might have been better served as an issue of Cates and Stegman’s Venom. Particularly if that title hadn’t been interrupted for the just-ended War of the Realms crossover. It will be interesting to see if the crossover can maintain its focus and momentum with its countless spinoffs and tie-ins over the next few months.