Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Ryan Stegman
Colors: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release date November 20 2019
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)
The wild, wild ride comes to its end with this final book. Now, with my reviews of Absolute Carnage up until now, I hadn’t shied from giving spoilers or recaps. For this issue, I will make this review relatively spoiler free.
Dark Carnage, now possessing the Venom symbiote, is only one codex away from reconnecting the hive to Knull, thus waking Knull and freeing him from his prison. Eddie Brock is hosting the collective codices (or as I had been spelling them, codexes) of several different symbiotes and has become a new makeshift Venom. All the heroes are being swarmed by a never-ending horde of Doppelgangers, and Dylan Brock is the next target Cletus has his sights set to.
It’s really hard to explain my positives with this book when I’ve decided to try and not spoil too much of this issue, and harder still to talk about the specific moments I enjoyed the most without spoilers. Granted, I can say that Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman’s writing and art are great, of course. We even get long-time Venom penciler Mark Bagley, a personal favorite of mine and a treasure, as a guest-penciler during the comic’s opening flashback pages. Great art is not in short supply in this installment. I officially love Donny Cate’s take on Carnage/Cletus. This has been the most sinister version of the character we’ve ever had, and I pray this is how everyone who picks up Carnage in their books in the future writes him from now on. There’s a new dynamic that will probably come out of Eddie and Dylan’s respective status quos by this issue’s conclusion that has be intrigued to follow. I’m eager to see where Cates will take Eddie now, given what happened to the Venom symbiote and the codices Eddie absorbed. There was plenty of enjoyment I got from Absolute Carnage #5.
Still, I feel like I have to make a compromise on the conclusion to Absolute Carnage. On the one hand, yeah, I liked this issue. It just didn’t feel like a satisfying conclusion for an event-level book. Eddie literally “pulls out a win” to stop this unstoppable foe. Cates really pressed the fact that this Cletus is far harder to fell than his previous incarnations. Even a Venomized Hulk couldn’t do much against a Grendal Symbiote “God” Carnage. So when Eddie pulls his win by finding that special something deep down within himself, it felt mismatched given the scope of this event and the degree that Cates took Cletus into, proving Cletus to be too powerful to be beaten by practically anything. In the end, something had to put Dark Carnage down for the count, but I found the method lacking. I won’t deny that this event (and I mean the main book here) has done nothing short of building up excitement and creating some great tension, so its just the feeling that once we got to the end of this epic event, the final stroke just didn’t match the scale of the event. Incidentally, the comic ends in such a way that it seems safe to assume we’re going to get the fallout and true ending in this month’s issue of Venom (issue 20).
This was a solid installment. It leaves a lot on the table for future stories. If this was a television show, this really feels like the end of season one. As far as the event as a whole, this was a fun read. Even if I couldn’t put my gripes aside towards issue 5, there’s still too much good writing to have this event’s main story feel derailed. So the whole of my review is, Absolute Carnage was a fun ride and I would strongly recommend this entire five-parter as a buy.