Writers: Tini Howard, Benjamin Percy, & Al Ewing
Artists: Ken Lashley, Sara Pichelli, & John McGrea
Colors: Juan Fernandez & Mattia Iacono
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Release date March 24 2021
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)
In “Love Story”, we flashback to the events of Maximum Carnage…
I’m not quite sure when during MaxCarn, since Dagger is alive again (spoilers to an early-mid 90s story…she “dies” and “stays dead” throughout most of the event) and the Carnae Family is fully formed here, so…I’m assuming with Venom nowhere to be found that this short story takes place right at the start of, and retcons, Chapter 13 of MaxCarn…? Just…lets go with it…
I can’t say I really understood what this tale was trying to say. Carnage is delirious from an attack by Dagger, and while fighting the heroes, he shares with them a story of a Roman fighter named Lucius Marius. I had to do a quick online search to see if this man was real, mythological, or someone Carnage flatly made up. Though there was a Lucius Marius Perpetuus according to the all-reliable internet, I still wonder if this was intended to involve the same man in Carnage’s little story.
Carnage babbles on about how Lucius fights and kills his way through hordes of enemies to make his way into the enemy’s city, where a cloaked woman and their baby await. In “real time”, Carnage…pretty much tells his story to Cloak uninterrupted, while literally no other hero, including a Spider-Man who shows up literally feet away from Carnage and Cloak, and just warns Cloak to be careful. I don’t know what’s happening here…
The story of Lucius and his cloaked lover (the woman in the story…not Cloak…) then transform into Carnage and Shriek, while the Carnage Family, in “real time”, escape from the heroes that have assembled to fight them.
And honestly…I’m not sure what to review here, exactly. The back and forth nature of the two stories was used to relate the two characters in Carnage’s story to himself and Shriek, and ultimately this short can be summed up as a tale of two brutal lovers that feed from each other’s violence and chaos. The art in this first story was the best of the three tales in this book, and it took advantage of the issue’s use of red to highlight significant scenes the most, but beyond that, I wasn’t a fan of this one. Eh…I think I’ll pass.
Next up is “End of the Trail”, which I found to be the best read in this anthology. Warden Seth Strode recounts a series of spree killings throughout the country as he follows a lead to where the killer is holding up. I found the visuals to be it or miss, much more so than in our previous tale, although I will say all the close-up shots, most involving Strode, and many of the scenes that lack Carnage, look pretty good. This one is more of a past What If tale, where our killer is personified as Carnage…
I honestly suspected that our killer here would be revealed to be another ancestor of the Kasady family tree, a new distant relative who was enthralled under the gospel of Knull. In fact, I’m damned surprised at how little (ie: not at all) any of these three stories have to do with Knull. It seems like every story involving Venom and Carnage comes back to the King in Black, but actually, what we get here is a pretty straightforward story about a warden hunting down a killer following his trail of carnage. When I got to the end of the first story, I knew to go forward only expecting these compact stories to just be their own little vignettes, so at this point of the book, I was better situated. It also helps that I enjoyed this tale more than the last, for what it’s worth.
Finally, “You Are Carnage” is the most unique of the stories, as the story shapes itself as a one-play dice-roll multi-path game. In this, you, the reader, are the host of the Carnage symbiote, which is being used by the military, and sent out to stop the Ani-Men. Depending on what you roll when you get to a panel prompting you to throw a die, you follow the story to THAT numbered panel, repeating as instructed to see how the story plays out. Ultimately, there are only two endings, one good, and one baaaaad…I was honestly expecting both endings to end up being the bad ending, giving this is a story where you are wearing the Carnage symbiote, and the story isn’t really subtle about just how dangerous that can be.
I’ll give the last story props for being something different, but like the rest of these stories, it was a pretty nothing story. Maybe I would have enjoyed it better had I actually had a die on hand and bothered to play along…but I have to be honest; I would have had the same reaction either way.
And that’s all there is to this issue. Granted, I do come off as if I expected this issue of short quickie stories to offer some serious meat on the bone, and yeah, you could say that that would be an unfair ask for a comic that wasn’t meant to be anything too serious, but I counter that by saying that I found the Wolverine: Black, White, & Blood books to deliver better content while still being restrained to the same rules that this book has to follow. Also, the King in Black: Planet of the Symbiotes books have proven to use the anthology style for symbiote characters to tell better stories. Overall, there was nothing here I could see a non-Carnage fan being interested in. I am a Carnage fan, and I doubt I’ll ever think of these stories again.