Fifteen issues of Carnage have lead up to this moment. This series has been a roller coaster of stops and starts, with plot threads weaving back and forth between Carnage and his pursuers on a monthly basis. Finally, all the pieces are on the board and the penultimate issue ends with the biggest cliffhanger yet. Chthon has been raised.
Much like last issue, Carnage #15 narrows its focus on one key cast member. Eddie Brock’s narration moves the issue along and sets a tone of regret and repentance, reminiscent of his days as Anti-Venom. His mentioning of God brings a small discussion about religion and faith to the forefront, which the cast muses over casually. More importantly, it serves as one last injection of humanity before the body count starts to rise – one last reminder that these characters are individuals with ideas, opinions, and lives.
Like most issues of this series, the events that transpired in Carnage #15 can be summarized in one sentence. The Anti-Carnage Task Force catches up to Carnage too late and witnesses him summon Chthon. However, this sentence doesn’t really convey the relief felt from reading this issue; the fourteen issues leading up to this moment did pay off in a satisfying and tense way. The title might have lost its way between the mines and the jungle, but writer Gerry Conway is not going to let this series end with a whimper, if this issue is any indication. Perkins slams the ball through the hoop for this issue as well with some particularly deadly looking symbiotes, solid spreads of pure destruction, and more than one giant, striking splash panel.
The focus on Brock was a solid choice by Conway, allowing him to inject religion organically, adding a biblical edge to the sense of doom. Eddie “Shut Up” Brock gains a little humanity after spending most of the series as a chained attack dog, confessing to Jubulile that he asks for forgiveness every day, even if he never gets an answer from God. He admits that the symbiote did not make him the man he was when he was Venom; he was always that man. In the face of growing uncertainty for the future of the world, it seems as if Brock is returning to his Catholic roots and fessing up to the shame he feels about his past actions.
This of course plays counter to Kasady’s thirst for destruction and love for chaos. The two balance the book out so that we don’t end up with an issue that comes off as either too edgy or too self-pitying. If anything, the ability to balance the atmosphere of the two aspects of this title (Carange and the Anti-Carnagers) has been a strong point of the series; even if it might have caused issue with pace. Conway has always been able to hop back and forth between his two principal casts without causing whiplash in the reader.
That’s not to say that the issue is without flaw. Here we see the first casualty in a while: Yuvraj Singh. I understand that in genre tales like this, character depth isn’t something we expect because really most of these characters are present just to pad a body count, but considering how long he’s been in the cast, there could have been a little more to his character before he died. We know that he was saved by Victoria and works with her and is a spiritual man, but other than that, there isn’t much to say. He didn’t really get a defining moment before his demise which makes me wonder why the blood bath wasn’t started sooner? After all, when was the last time a slasher movie waited until the last minute to start the hyperviolence?
As I said earlier, the characters do banter back and forth, and Conway does a great job of making them seem like people rather than pawns on a board, but what he perhaps failed to do was give me a reason to particularly care about most of these characters specifically. As it was paneled, and maybe this is more on Perkins rather than Conway, Singh’s death is portrayed as emotional shock – there’s a tight focus on his face as he is impaled and then the scene widens to show Raze’s tendril through his body. This focus on Singh’s expression implies that the reader is supposed to be moved by the pain on his face when, because of his thin characterization, perhaps it would have been more effective to go with a shock-gore a’la Ares’ death in Seige. That way the reader is moved by the brutality of the act rather than pathos for a character that hasn’t had enough focus to garner much of it.
The single focus on Brock allowed the character room to breath and grow on the reader in a way similar to last month’s focus on Jameson let the reader really connect with Man-Wolf. By the end of the issue, you both understood Brock’s struggle and cared about the choice he made in regard to Jubulile – even if it is not entirely clear to what it is the group is trying to accomplish. Perhaps that focus should have been on the similarly spiritual Singh in order to add some punch to his death scene.
The penultimate issue comes a little later to the party than was probably needed, but Carnage #15 is still able to deliver the punch required to get readers excited for the final issue. My only reservation is that the stakes seem too high to wrap up in a single issue, especially considering how slow moving the rest of the series has been. My only hope is that we get a conclusion that rewards readers for sticking through some of the lows, and there is no worry there if this issue is any indication.
Gerry Conway and Mike Perkins turn the dial to 11 for the penultimate issue of Carnage. With big, in-your-face splash panels, doom and gloom, and plenty of destruction, Carnage #15 delivers the thrills this title has been needing.