Writer: Leah Williams & Zac Thompson
Artist: Alberto Albuquerque & Guiu Vilanova
Colors: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Corey Petit
Release date October 16 2019
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)
Okay, so, I really liked Carnage USA by Zeb Wells. Its been a frequent reference source during the build up and pre-Absolute Carnage days of Donny Cates’ Venom ongoing and side-series “Web of Venom”. Its one of my favorite Carnage/Venom/symbiote books and I always recommend it when its relevant. Most of these Absolute Carnage tie-ins have been spiritual sequels (at best, sometimes just in-name only references at the most) to previous Venom and Carnage related stories, including Separation Anxiety, Lethal Protectors (in name its referencing Venom’s first ever leading story arc, but in story its a Maximum Carnage reunion), and this one here, our Avengers tie-in, was expected to be the Carnage USA successor. Marvel even made sure the cover (the normal retail cover) was handled by Clayton Crain, the talent who did all of Carnage USA’s art.
To see neither Zeb Wells nor Clayton Crain when it came to the actual plot and story and interior art was initially a blow. Additionally, I wasn’t exactly thrilled to see Leah Williams on this after having read 2019’s Marvel Comics Presents #5 Venom story (I…wow…I was not a fan of the tale.) Lastly, when I got to see the preview of this book before its availability, I realized this was going to be more of an issue where Spider-Man gathers heroes, more so than anything involving Doverton or anything that directly has to do with Carnage USA outside of its key players.
With all of that said, I actually enjoyed this one. Then I read it again for this review, and realized I liked it a little more the second time in some places.
Williams and Zac Thompson stuff a lot of dialogue into this one, and at first it made for a bit of a boring start, but it finds itself cloaked in the action bits you’d expect would have to show up in a action driven event book (or its tie-in). The comic is a progression of Spider-Man seeking out any available heroes, specifically Avengers, who have been compromised from having hosted a symbiote at any time in their costumed careers. The plan is to gather these heroes up, remove all traces of symbiote (codex/codices) from their body via a large machine that’s being safeguarded in a warehouse, and minimize Dark Carnage’s targets while building reinforcements to fight against him. While Captain America, Wolverine, and The Thing are all easy enough to come by, its Hawkeye that’s positioned on the other coast: San Fransisco.
This book is meticulous with getting a lot of important right which are relevant to the overall Absolute Carnage event. A lot of these details are notes readers may already know, while some were even able to catch me off guard; one little detail that I had forgotten about where those spires that Dark Carnage had erected as seen in Absolute Carnage #2, and especially the one from all the way back in Web of Venom: Venom Unleashed. Even in the main book, these spires were never really touch on and it was never revealed what purpose they both served, other than maybe being a base for Cletus and his crew. If I wanted to nitpick at this book, it doesn’t give me anything to nag about, as everything seems to fit with all the continuity its referencing (which is amazing how very few of these tie-ins can seem to even get the events of ONE story that they’re pooling from right, while this one juggles events from as early as Donny’s January issues to details from Carnage USA to more).
The story goes back and forth between Spidey and the makeshift Avengers seeking out the New York based spire and Hawkeye alone doing the same for the spire hidden somewhere in San Francisco. The writers take Hawkeye and us readers down into the underground city beneath San Francisco where Venom lodged during his solo hero/leading title days of the 90s. As a huge Venom fanatic, I am always overjoyed to see that setting again, and its looking even better than ever. I eventually got to a point with both my initial and second readings where I didn’t even mind the sheer amount of dialogue and reading and narration packed inside this book. It shouldn’t be a negative unless the story, pacing, dialogue and script are a mess, and that was not even remotely a concern with this. There really wasn’t anything overtly outstanding or mind-blowing about this issue. Yes, I did enjoy reading this, but its mostly an issue to fill in some important gaps between the events of Absolute Carnage #2/#3 and Venom #18. It just does it’s job very well without ever feeling like a chore to read.
I wasn’t positive on the art when I saw the previews for this. After reading the whole thing and getting further into it, really taking the time to look at the panels, I was satisfied. The styles grew on me as I went through the book. Even as I wrote this review, I scrolled through my copy one last time just taking in random panels and pages. The worst of things may be the Carnage possessed civilians, and yes when the art styles change between the two pencilers (Alburquerque and Vilanova) it is very noticeable. I’m sort of in the middle, still its good enough, but there were some places where I felt things could have looked better. A particular scene of Captain America punching the symbiote of a civilian comes to mind (an act I’m sure the raging Symbiote fanboy in me wants to protest should not be able to happen…)
So here I am in a rare instance of admitting, yes, this isn’t too essential of a read for your Absolute Carnage reading, buuuut it doesn’t get in the way of the bigger picture, it doesn’t jumble up the sequence of events or drops the ball on any continuity. It’s extra, and…I liked it. If you have the time and you’re wallet isn’t starved, I’ll just say its one of the safer, better, non-disruptive tie-ins this event has spawned.