Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Gerardo Sandoval
Colors: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit
Release date October 16, 2019
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)
One of the first of the Absolute Carnage tie-ins reaches its conclusion, and this installment proves to be the better of its chapters and helps argue that Scream may have been one of the better of the tie-ins.
Carnage sends Scream, who is now again under his control, to finish off Andi Benton. Patricia manages to fight through this control, and ultimately its Carnage himself who catches up with Andi and tries to kill her. I honestly couldn’t tell if this story’s Carnage was meant to be Cletus Kasady himself getting his hands dirty, or his favorite mind-fried lapdog Norman Osborn in a Carnage symbiote. If you’ve been reading any of the other Absolute Carnage tie-ins, almost all of them eventually show a Carnage getting involved in the thick of things, and so far it’s been the Norman Osborn/Carnage. I was reading this issue’s Carnage as if it was the de facto real Cletus version at first, but judging by his appearance I cannot help but think its meant to be the Norman Osborn version, as the Cletus version of Carnage is very gaunt and skeletal, and this Carnage is anything but. Still, we get our Scream vs. Carnage confrontation when Patricia breaks free, again, from her slave-mind state and gives her all in protecting Andi from Carnage, but is ultimately maimed and murdered. Patricia is dead, but the Scream symbiote survives and bonds with Andi. As Scream, Andi ultimate gives up on beating Carnage, instead choosing to trap him temporarily, and it’s long enough for her to escape.
Firstly, the art is the most immediate asset to consider. Fans of Gerardo Sandoval will not be disappointed in the visuals. Gerardo has a style I’ve described before as a Westernized faux-Anime approach to superhero dynamics. His is an art that is in-line with your fellow comic art talents like Joe Mad and Humberto Ramos. I was at times reminded of the art from the comic Battle Chasers when I was looking at his panels. His art’s hit or miss with me in general, as is the case with the two aforementioned artists, so it’s not something I can consistently get into, but it was working for me in this issue. I can most definitely get behind his Scream, with some of my favorite instances being her movements while pursuing Andi. There’s a page of her chasing after Andi while crawling along the wall. Another instance where I really enjoyed the art comes in her slow, agonizing death at the feet of Carnage (I warned you of spoilers). The entirety of the fight between Scream and Carnage (specifically the 1st Scream vs. Carnage throwdown) is some of my favorite panel by panel progression in all three issues of this run, and Sandoval shows Carnage doing some cool tricks with his symbiote weaponry and tendrils.
Cullen Bunn uses the Absolute Carnage event to once again alter the status quo of his own character Andi, who has, in just a few recent years, gone from the Mania (symbiote clone-protege of Flash Thompson’s Agent Venom) to the hell-powered, symbioteless carrier of a demon mark, to now the current host of the Scream symbiote. Not that I was championing the return of Patricia Robertson, who only proved to be the makeshift host and heroine of this Scream story, but I don’t know if I liked Bunn bringing back this 16-year old, 16-year forgotten protagonist just to use her as a platform and stepping stone to ultimately glorify his own Andi. I guess I was more interested in what ways this obscure character in which Bunn managed to salvage from obscurity, this Patricia, we could have seen her being taken. I mean, if the endgame was always to get Scream back into current Marvel books but on the more relevant body of Andi Benton, I guess Patricia was always meant to just be the sacrificial lamb. Not that I’ll lose too much sleep over her loss…we never really got anything substantial in the way of Patricia’s life after her 2003-2004 absence. Since part one of this three-parter, she just showed up with little fanfare and minimal backstory, and found herself hosting the Scream symbiote. There was always potential to give Patricia a new, second life as a character, as Bunn has done with the Mania symbiote which originated from the same run as Robertson, but its no surprise Bunn would favor his own character for that task. Andi has been through a lot since she’s been around, and there’s more story potential for her still now that she’s hosting yet another new Symbiote.
Even now knowing that there is a new post-Absolute Carnage Scream book on the way, this whole story never felt like its existence was just that to launch a new book, even if that still happens to be a result. This reads like an actual story and not just a prelude to a new title, and more importantly, I actually found each installment an improvement over the previous one, so by the end, I did like this. It may have started off pretty underwhelming, but I got to a point where I enjoyed this enough that I would recommend it if you’re trying to be pretty selective about which Absolute Carnage tie-ins to approach. It’s pretty self-contained with what’s going on in the actual event, but because of that it doesn’t conflict or mess up any of the continuity within the event (something that a lot of the other tie-ins are having a problem with).
I’m one of the very few people out there that has always been a legit fan of Scream, wishing that she as a character had gotten a stronger push long before now, and while I may have been down on this arc at the beginning, it has successfully won me over by the end. With Absolute Carnage having only one more issue left, I doubt Scream will manage to have much (if any) presence in the finale of the event, so I’ll just wait and look forward to seeing more of her in her next (confirmed) limited series. Cullen Bunn and Gerardo Sandoval did a good job reviving the daughter of Venom.