Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Joshua Cassara, Alberto Alburquerque
Colors: Jay David Ramos
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover: Declan Shalvey
Release Date July 24 2019
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)
Andi Benton was once the host of the Venom symbiote clone, and she went by the alias Mania. A lot has happened in Andi’s life, from being the protégé of Agent Venom, to being the recipient of a demonic hellmark, and to then having her symbiote stolen from her.
We find that Andi has returned to some semblance of normality in Philadelphia with her Aunt Sarah. This issue does a good job making sure you’re aware of that, showing her normal routine of greeting her aunt, getting “breakfast”, seeing her friends before work, etc. Just her daily minutiae. Except she’s been having terrifying nightmares of her symbiote attacking and stalking her, and killing those around her. And her daily routine of normality gets thrown out the window with Carnage comes for her.
This isn’t the same Andi who relished at having her own symbiote, and was depressed at having it stolen from her. I can believe that her feelings about being bonded to an alien lifeform may have changed during her time without it, maybe she’s had some clarity in the time she’s been living her normal life and looks back at being Mania differently, but I wish that was made clear, or at least hinted at. I was just surprised, given her character in previous stories, to see her having horrific visions of being hounded and threaten by something she used to revel in glee having be a part of her. That’s a big change in her character, but I guess being plagued by nightmares of your former symbiote trying to kill you constantly may make anyone reconsider wanting to go down the whole Venom/Mania route again.
I’m not usually a fan of one comic having to share multiple artists, but I liked the art of both Cassara and Alburquerque (the latter handling the bulk of this comic). Honestly, either artists would have done fine doing the entire issue. When you have Carnage as the looming threat in any story, I expect to see violence. Pretty much, people have to die. I was impressed that this issue gave us some bloody and gory scenes. There’s a full-page where Carnage unexpected shows up for the first time in the book that was easily my favorite moment in this whole comic.
Cullen Bunn ties a lot of his former (Agent) Venom angles into this one. Bunn handled the Venom arc where Andi had the hellmark transferred to her and we get to see Andi’s demonic powers on full display, to an extent we’d hadn’t until now. I simply figured her demonic powers began and ended with brandishing hellfire, but here we see she’s able to transform into a Satanic hoofed form and summon Monsters of Evil (a nice touch and reference to the name of Bunn’s first ever Agent Venom arc after taking it over from Remender).
Bunn also gives us an example of just how dangerous this new Carnage, or Dark Carnage, is, as Andi throws all of her power at Carnage, and he simply toys with her. Nothing has any real affect on him. This is one of the last stories putting the pieces in play for the “Absolute Carnage” event to begin, we finally get to see Carnage get his hands dirty proper (well, outside of the 2019 Venom/Spider-Man FCBD issue), and watching Carnage make easy work of the torrent of summoned hell beasts thrown at him, resist the hellfire blasted at him, and come close to killing Andi with glee, we finally FINALLY get a proper scale of just how menacing this new upgraded Carnage is. It wasn’t that long ago Bunn contributed to the Donny Cates Venom run, but its this one issue that feels like a proper prelude to the slaughter to come.
The doomsday clock ticks a little closer to the coming Carnage, and worse, there’s little time left as it is. One of many former symbiote hosts, Andi Benton fights a one-sided battle against a lunatic grasping at Godhood in one of the final preludes to “Absolute Carnage”. The full extent of Andi’s hell powers doesn’t come even close to a sampling of Carnage’s new enhancements. If everything here is just a warm-up act for the full Carnage story, I’m ready for the show to begin.