The jungle seems to be doing good things for Carnage. Back again with another month of darkness and dread, Gerry Conway and Mike Perkins deliver the next chapter of Carnage that continues to fix some of the larger problems the title had leading up to this current turn of events.
Like last month’s issue, Carnage #12 takes place in the lush jungle. However, this month the action has slowed down into an ultra-decompressed issue that spans what seems to be only a few minutes of actual story time. While this sounds like the exact opposite of what a story accused of spinning its wheels needs, Conway manages to add some drama and tension through flashbacks – another thing this title has struggled with in the past that was pulled off with to good effect in this particular issue.
Carnage #12 serves mostly as the “turning point” for the larger story; while the anti-Carnage task force appeared to be winning last issue, it is here that the symbiote hits the fan, so to speak, and the team falls apart. In order to keep the reader engaged emotionally, Conway slows down the plot so we can take a closer look at the players in place. At the center of this issue’s story is the semi-possessed Jubulile, whose psychic link with Carnage is causing her to enter his mind and relive the traumatic moments of his youth. While the idea of a serial killer having an abusive childhood isn’t a very novel concept, Conway puts a more original spin on it by having Jubulile relive them in first person; rather than have her watch as an omniscient third person a’la the Peter Parker ghost in Superior Spider-Man, through this method the psychic link between Carnage and Jubulile is reinforced visually by replacing young Cletus Kasady in the memories with Jubulile.
Meanwhile, the anti-Carnage task force does not know that Jubulile is reliving these memories. Whilethe lasting effectsare not touched upon in this particular issue, but it does seem curious that instead of Kasady’s older life, we see his more formative years. Perhaps Jubulile, now sharing the childhood traumas of Cetus Kasady, will leave this title as the new Carnage? Purely conjecture right now, but I think the seeds are currently planted.
The biggest challenge for this issue is building enough sympathy in Carnage for readers to root for his rescue. Because we know our genre conventions, the heroes of our story wouldn’t sacrifice the well-being of an innocent, even if it means rescuing Carnage from certain death. Yet, Conway teases us in the first few pages by having the anti-Carnage task force debate whether or not they should rescue Carnage to spare Jubulile. Conway begins to build up Eddie Brock as more of a hero this issue than a liability – his voice is the most vocal in support for Jubulile. This creates a great scene of dramatic irony where Jubulile seems terrified of Brock while she relives a memory of him savagely beating Kasady in jail. So if you’ve been complaining that Carnage has been light on Brock, this issue is for you. Conway even manages to bring up Brock’s religion in a few subtle ways, something that I hope plays into the bigger picture as the series moves closer to the summoning of the demonic Chthon.
The art for this issue swapped the moody yet colorful pallet of Carnage #11 for the series’ regular of dark shadows. While some artists excel with this low-key lighting sort of style, Perkins’s use of hatching for facial detail tends to get absorbed by colorist Andy Troy’s large swaths of black. It’s been one of my biggest issues with the entire series, actually, and it is disheartening to see it return. That’s not to say that the art is a disappointment in this issue. Toxin lunges from page to page in a visually striking way, and the double page spread in the first few pages is one of the best visuals in the series, I think. The dancing Broodlings offer a contrast of cool colors to the warm reds that bisect Jubulile and Carnage’s anguished faces. It’s a strong visual way to set up and tell the story of flashbacks that proceed without relying on a narration block telling us “the intense pain that Carnage feels stirs up memories of his own pains!” It’s more respectful of the reader’s ability to follow a story visually and Perkins really pours in a lot of effort into whipping up striking images to use as capstones for the shared memories.
The memory sequences themselves are rendered in a muted grey-brown. It’s certainly less nostalgic than sepia, though the particular trope of washed out colors to denote a memory seems a little trite, but perhaps necessary given present-day Jubulile’s presence in the memory. Perkins’s tight paneling on the faces of Kasady and Jubulile’s tormenters allows for the reader to enter the intimate space of Kasady’s memories as well. By focusing on tight panels with wide angle shots of faces, Perkins is mimicking a first person view of the events themselves, furthering the inherent sympathizing act of shared experiences to compliment Conway’s script.
The issue ends by setting the stage for the story to come, Man-Wolf has gone MIA, Carnage has reacquired the Darkhold and is on his way with Raze to summon Chthon. Proving the title has plenty of steam left, Conway seems to be opening as many new plot points as he is tying up ends. I didn’t think this title had too many issues left before it finishes its story, but if Conway and Perkins continue to put out issues like this one and the one prior to it then I’d be more than happy to keep buying the title past this arc.
Carnage #12 showcases the more heroic side of Eddie Brock while the anti-Carnage task force falls apart. Artist Mike Perkins works his magic on the traumatic childhood memories of Cletus Kasady while Conway plays with the reader's sympathy in what turns out to be one of the better issues of this series.