“Try Something New.” That challenge is the whole reason for this feature’s existence. Month in and month out we buy the comics we know and love, the ones we look forward to every time but there are countless series that travel under our radar, ones that we just don’t give a chance and get passed by. That’s why I made a vow: every week I’d pick up an issue for a series that wasn’t on my pull-list in the hopes of finding a hidden gem. Welcome to Off The Shelf where we’ll discover if my leap of faith paid dividends this week. Also, I should mention that there be SPOILERS in this review. You are warned! ________________________________________________________
Superior Carnage #1 Publisher
Kevin Shinick & Stephen Segovia
Prior Experience With Title
I’m pretty familiar with the character dating back to my first experience with him on the FOX animated Spider-Man TV show and my first comic book experience with him during the Maximum Carnage storyline. Recently I picked up his last few mini-series starting with Carnage in 2010 (which was great), then Carnage U.S.A. (which was a big step down), and ending with Minimum Carnage which was so bad I stopped after the first two issues.
Why Did I Give It A Shot?
I’m hoping that this series will be a return to form for the character. Originally, I wasn’t going to pick it up because of the bad taste that Minimum Carnage left in my mouth but I saw it on the shelf, broke down, and decided to give it a try. Why? It’s Carnage, do I need a reason other than that?
The issue began by delving us into the mind of a petty criminal (Ted Connelly) who was arrested for committing a white-collar crime. We really feel for this guy as regular criminals like him are being thrown into prison with the heavy hitters, the super-villains. Life is bad enough for him until the moment that Cletus Kasady aka Carnage is wheeled into the cell next to him. The scene is played brilliantly and the tension systematically rises as you just know something really bad is going to happen…and happen it does. A guard, under the influence of mind control, releases Cassidy who transforms into Carnage and the panels of the comic become a bloodbath. The first surprise hits us on the 9th page when Ted is murdered by Carnage in a truly graphic way, throwing out our narrator and challenging our expectations in one fell swoop. The second surprise is the reveal of the true mastermind behind Carnage’s outbreak, the Wizard. The characterization of the Wizard is brilliant as I’ve never seen him as ruthless as he is here and his charisma/ego just leaps off the page including one “fun” scene between him and three captured guards. His entire goal in freeing Carnage is to mind control him and make him “the cornerstone” of his all-new Frightful Four. What he failed to know was that Cletus was rendered brain-dead in the Minimum Carnage storyline and the symbiote is the one running the show now. The scene is brilliant as Wizard stands defiant, waiting for Carnage to approach, getting closer and closer, and then his reaction quickly changes to one of fear after the Wizard realizes he has made a dire mistake. All looks lost for the villain until the third surprise which begins with a wonderfully drawn double-page spread of the symbiote leaping in pain off of his host’s body due to a high-pitched sound wave. The Wizard has thought of everything: Cletus was his centrepiece but he wasn’t the first one he recruited as we welcome the appearance of the villainous Klaw to end the issue. Overall, Carnage fans got the blood and violence they expected while we also received some solid character work to boot. That along with a dash of dark humor causes the future of this mini-series to look very bright indeed.
Ted Connelly: My name is Ted Connelly. You’ve never heard of me, because I’m not a criminal who’s committed some atrocious crime like trying to destroy the world. For me it was simply insider trading. But I’m guessing what you have heard of is the Governor’s new plan for dealing with overcrowded prisons. Namely, transferring some of us lesser convicts to the maximum-security super-villain prisons. Because, well, let’s face it…these cells have a habit of never staying occupied.
Ted Connelly: But as they wheeled him by, there was still something in the eyes. Something evil staring back at me from the blackness. Since then, I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Along with that lump in my throat.
Ted Connelly: For the first time since I got here I feel everyone is on an equal footing. Scared and running for their lives. And despite the roster of deadly super villains…it becomes clear who’s really at the top of the food chain.
The Wizard: Ohhhh. So much blood. It’s like watching Game of Thrones.
The Wizard: My sources tell me they’ve been playing doctor with a certain Venom symbiote. Taking the alien specimen and converting it to their liking. into a super-soldier of sorts. But that’s not the real crime. The real crime to me is that…they failed! Because you don’t harness evil and make it good. You harness evil and make it wicked!
The Wizard: My son is also becoming a man, and I wish to gain his respect by having him work by my side. Not by forcing him this time. But by reclaiming my rightful position as leader of the most feared group of villains. And with Carnage as my cornerstone, my boy will learn to become a member of…the Fr–
Security Guard: The Frightful Four! Right. Big surprise. What is this, your sixteenth version? Why don’t you just call it the Pussycat Dolls and get it over with?
Final Verdict: My faith in a good Carnage series has been restored and I can’t wait to see how this story progresses. Will the Frightful Four rise again? Can the Wizard hope to contain the maniacal Carnage and make him an even superior threat? Or will it all blow up in his face? Regardless of the answers, this mini-series earns the right to be Added To My Pull-List.