Monday, 7 July 2014

Carnage: Minimum Carnage (Marvel) Review

Carnage: Minimum Carnage

Venom and Scarlet Spider really
come off as uncles to Carnage in this
Writers: Cullen Bunn and Chris Yost

Artists: Lan Medina, Khoi Pham and Declan Shalvey

Collects: Minimum Carnage: Alpha and Omega, Venom #26-27 and Scarlet Spider #10-12

Background Information

Oh, Carnage! For a character that’s really pretty basic, you sure do get a lot of love. From video games, to cartoon appearances to even more comics devoted to your name than Venom, you have popped up everywhere except the silver screen.

Maybe it’s because you’re so basic- the basic offspring of the Venom symbiote attached to serial killer Cletus Casady, your character doesn’t get more complicated than “I kill guys”. In most cases, that would be a bad thing, but here, it actually makes you pretty versatile. So it’s understandable that in an era that features two new Spider-Man-related characters, you’d pop your head up again.


Okay, I got this volume because it contained the only three issues of Scarlet Spider that I haven’t read yet (expect a retrospective review, where I’ll take on the whole series). But I’m glad I did, since it’s one of the most enjoyable Marvel books I’ve ever read and easily up there with the best of them.

So Carnage has escaped from prison again and escaped into a little kingdom of elves and fairies.

Hey, look! It's... it's... umm...
Sorry, I meant to say: a micro universe of very tiny aliens.

And fairies.

It falls to Scarlet Spider and Venom to track him down and stop him before ol’ Carnage kills everything around him.

Scarlet Spider’s tale of redemption really started with Spider Island more than his own book. It was a fairly silly affair that wasn’t afraid to point out how silly it actually was. In that light, it’s fun to see that Minimum Carnage is also a story that delights in its own silliness. A miniature universe? Silly as anything! So let’s not pretend that this is The Dark Knight-level serious and just have fun creating an out-there story.

That’s the philosophy of Minimum Carnage and it pays off in spades. Admittedly, Yost’s Scarlet Spider chapters pull this off a little better than the Venom ones, which tend to be more melodramatic, but the story is still insanely fun and offers plenty of ridiculous, even laughable moments.

It’s peppered by these great moments where both Venom and Scarlet Spider really let their personalities shine. Venom’s introspective, spends a lot of time trying to emulate Spider-Man while keeping his own demons in check. Scarlet Spider’s got his demons too, but he’s not trying to keep them in check; he’s unleashing them on everything that gets in his way. Both characters clearly aren’t fond of each other, and their opposite views on pretty much everything make Venom and Scarlet Spider a great Good Cop/Bad Cop duo.

Carnage reveals his true origin as a
glob of tinned spaghetti.
The big mistake made by the writers here is that they force that great duo apart so quickly, and it’s here that Minimum Carnage loses its momentum. It’s a short window of time, but the difference becomes felt very quickly.

Aside from that, Carnage just isn’t terribly compelling. I can see the appeal; he kills lots of people, so he’s obviously a bad guy. As a character, though, he’s incredibly shallow. I don’t see the appeal in making multiple mini-series for him, and I don’t know why it wouldn’t have been just as fine to use any other bloodthirsty villain in this series.

The art, of course, is spasmodic. That’s to be expected from a book that shoe-horns two different ongoings and two one-shots together. Thankfully, it’s all very good. The art shift tends to represent more of a tonal shift than anything, which is nicely reflected in the story as well.

Look, Minimum Carnage is really silly, but don’t let that turn you away. It gets a three and a half elves and fairies.

*** ½

+ Plenty of fun.

+ Venom and Scarlet Spider make a pretty sweet team-up.

- It’s not as fun when they’re not together.

- Carnage just isn’t terribly compelling.

Alternate Option: Spider-Man: Spider Island

If you really want to see more of Kaine and Venom together, this is a pretty good way to do it.

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