Writer: Donny Cates
Artists: Ryan Stegman (penciller), JP Mayer (inker)
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artists: Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, Frank Martin
Editor: Devin Lewis
Publisher: Marvel Entertainment
Fresh off the news that Venom 2 has a director in Andy Serkis, this week is significant to fans of Eddie Brock for another reason: the new Venom-centric crossover event Absolute Carnage has begun, and it’s bad news for the Marvel Universe.
Because I haven’t been reading Donny Cates’ Venom run, I’m approaching this issue as someone who only has a cursory knowledge of symbiote lore and a vague sense of his current status quo (e.g. the revelation of Eddie’s long-lost son was news to me). But since this is the launch of Marvel’s first big event crossover since War of the Realms ended a few weeks ago, you can tell they’re looking to make it accessible for people who may be curious to jump on with issue #1, and I think it mostly succeeds in that regard.
The concept of Absolute Carnage, truthfully, isn’t that hard to grasp. The long-gone creator of the symbiotes, Knull, has returned to wreak havoc on Earth, and he’s using the titular red terror as his heaviest hitter. This couldn’t be happening at a worse time for Eddie, as recent events in his life have led him to splitting up with Venom — this obviously doesn’t last very long. There’s also the fact that symbiotes leave a mark (or a “codex,” as it’s called) on all of their hosts, meaning it’s super easy for them to be tracked down. It’s all kind of an escalated successor to the original “Maximum Carnage” storyline from the 90s, so your mileage may vary based on how you feel about Carnage stories. I’ve never really been much of a Venom person myself, much less his rogues gallery, but I realize I’m in the minority there.
At the very least, I can say that Absolute Carnage very much reads like it was created by people who have a deep love and understanding of Venom. (Cates is a very big fan of the character, and has stated that writing Venom was a lifetime career goal of his.) Penciller Ryan Stegman is a great fit for this kind of material, since his art has always had a frenetic, spindly quality to it that really suits the visual representation of symbiotes. I’ll have to admit I’m never been crazy about colorist Frank Martin’s work in general, which always looks sickly to me, but considering the assignment it does the job here fine.