Web of Venom: Cult of Carnage Review

Writer: Frank Tieri
Pencils: Daniel S. Beyruth
Colors: Andres Mossa
Cover: Joshua Cassara & Rain Beredo
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release Date: April 10 2019
Review by WolfCypher

Agent Misty Knight arrives to the destroyed city of Doverton, CO in search of agent John Jameson. She finds John, cowering under rubble nude, whispering “God is Coming”. She snaps John out of his shocked state only to find he doesn’t remember who either of them are, or who they work for. She and John investigate the ruined city together as John’s memories slowly start to come back.

A few days prior, John arrives to Doverton and meets with the town’s (ex-)sheriff Eric Morrell. Eric sheds light to John about the strange events that have been happening recently in the town, including the graveyard being dug up, the zoo animals being killed, and both the human and animal corpses missing their spines. Strangely, a new church has recently popped up, with almost every Doverton citizen joining at the same time. John meets with the church spokesperson, Miss Deel, who tells John that the church is for their god, Knull, and God is coming.

That night, John searches for Eric, only to find him captured at the church, where every member of the town await in robes. Miss Deel reveals herself to be Shriek, and Carnage, leading the church (or cult) transforms Eric into a symbiote host/slave. John transforms into his Man-Wolf form*, but Carnage bonds him to his symbiote mass and overtakes him.

In the present, Misty and John arrive at the church. All the cult members are dead, symbioteless, and missing their spines, including Eric. Misty & John leave Doverton, with John still (secretly) under the effects of Carnage. Carnage narrates that “God is already here”.

*John Jameson, the son of J. Jonah Jameson, was affected by a Moonstone years ago and can transform into the Man-Wolf.

Review

This is the fourth installment of the Web of Venom one-shots, and its another necessary read for anyone keeping up with Donny Cates’ Venom book and/or looking forward to the Absolute Carnage event coming in August. While not written by Cates, this installment is directly involved with Cates’ current and upcoming Venom arcs. This issue also has very strong ties to the Carnage, USA limited series from late 2011/early 2012.

The events from USA are both recapped in the credits page and mentioned in context of the issue, but I strongly recommend reading it for yourself (if you haven’t) as it gives you a better scope and scale of the events that turned Doverton inside-out, and I personally recommend it as one of Carnage’s best stories around.

This issue addresses that the city of Doverton was destroyed (the first time) during the Carnage, USA incident a couple of months ago. That’s a huge stretch to believe that Carnage, USA only happened that recently. I understand that “comic book” time will never translate smoothly into actual time, but two months seems really hard to swallow when considering right after Carnage, USA, “Minimum Carnage”, “Superior Carnage”, the events of AXIS, Gerry Conway’s Carnage series, and Venomized all took place. Carnage destroys Doverton, travels to the microverse, gets lobotomized, fights Deadpool, becomes “inverted” and acts as a hero for a few weeks, goes back to being a killer, and travels the world for months in Conway’s run with a taskforce (including Eddie Brock and John Jameson himself among the ranks) pursuing him, gets possessed by a Poison in Venomized, dies, and then gets resurrected…The amount of time passed since may seem arbitrary, but if it was needed to be stated at all, it would have worked better if the timeline was several months instead of just the two. Carnage has done waaaaaay too much it seems in just two months (I want to stress, that includes also going all over the world for months).

The story gives us a better look at exactly what Carnage has been up to since the last time we’ve seen him. He has a borderline Messiah Complex, and has amassed a large following. He’s already recruited his “lover” and frequent partner-in-crime Shriek and their old “pet”, Doppleganger, and can easily dispose of any army of followers and servants he accumulates, knowing with little effort he can amass another army. By the end of this story, you have the sense that Carnage is going to bring about an Avengers-level threat that no one will be prepared for. What I really appreciate is Cates/Tieri bringing this all back to Doverton and Carnage, USA. The events of USA have been one of the Carnage’s worst atrocities yet, and even with a brand new motivation and M.O., he finds a way to bring ruin to this town, again. Its tragic to remember what he’s done to these people already, and to come back and find an all-new, all-different way to bring ruination into these citizens lives again is the kind of Carnage writing I like to read. I really like how this is as much a sequel to Carnage, USA as it is a prequel to Absolute Carnage.

Now, I feel like the art was mishandled with this issue. Like prior Cates Venom arcs and previous Web of Venoms that went for an eerie, horror-esque vibe, Cult of Carnage reads more like a suspenseful, moody thriller. But while these previous attempts at suspense and horror in these Venom arcs have paired well with the art duties of Cassara and Kyle Hotz, Daniel Beyruth’s style just doesn’t deliver that tone here. Additionally, I’m not a fan of how he draws Carnage; where he gives Carnage a “Venom” tongue, and makes the traditionally lean-figured Carnage look almost like a bodybuilder. Carnage should never look “swole”. Personal preferences aside, I also found instances in the book where the art looked rough, and half-way through, John and Eric started to look interchangeable to me. Beyruth isn’t new to having art duties for a Web of Venom issue (he did the 2nd installment, Carnage Born), where I found his art there to be comparatively better, plus Carnage Born didn’t read along the lines of suspense-thriller/horror, where this issue had that tone, and the art couldn’t mirror it well enough. I did like the art enough, I just don’t think it served the mood of the book.

Final Thoughts

I walked away from this issue in an polarized way. On the one hand, it is a continuation of the seeds that have been planted, and are sprouting into the inevitable “Absolute Carnage” event that’s going to spiral into the life of Venom in an expected big way. This feels like a necessary read if you’ve been following Venom and Web of Venom so far. On the other hand, at the same time it also left me feeling like I just read a filler issue; even with the “big bads” showing their faces and showing us just how grim things are about to get, it didn’t get me any more fired up for the event. Its an all right issue and does its job of moving the plot along, but it just failed to create the sensation of hype I thought I’d get looking forward to the event its moving towards.

6/10

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