Absolute Carnage #1 Review

by Harlan Ivester on August 07, 2019

Writer: Donny Cates
Penciler: Ryan Stegman
Inker: JP Mayer
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics

            Fresh off the near universal acclaim of Cates and Stegman’s Venom run so far, Absolute Carnage has a lot to live up to. Thankfully, that acclaim means this creative team has a pretty good track record, and they’re still going strong. This is the best Carnage story we’ve had in a long time.

            Absolute Carnage is about the $#!% finally hitting the fan when Eddie is forced to face Carnage after learning about his hunt for the codexes codice. What’s great about this is it gets right to it. It’s easy for anyone to pick up and read, but it’s also a much anticipated pay off for roughly a year of build up from Cates. A win-win. I was so happy to see Eddie not be a stubborn idiot and go straight to Spider-Man for help, for a number of reasons. Off the top of my head: the alternative would have been annoying, everybody loves Peter Parker, and I was looking forward to seeing how Cates handles him in a serious matter. I mean, Peter Talks to a Spider is an all-time great, don’t get me wrong – but this is a different thing entirely. I’m happy to report that Peter is a highlight in this issue. The presently unwarranted (and rather annoying) disdain for Venom that he’s had on and off for the past few years is gone, and the interactions between the two are so entertaining. Their talk in a coffee shop is my favorite part of the story because the banter between them is so excellently written. Cates shows there that one of his most valuable skills as a writer is to not overlook often forgotten faults of a character, i.e. daddy issues. The symbiote insanity in this issue is absolutely everything it should be, but the character interactions are what my mind will first think of when I go back to this story. That’s the mark of a fantastic writer. Although, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the awful line, “Hey, dummy! Hey, [SPOILER REDACTED]! We’re trying to save you, dummy!” It just stuck out because the rest of the dialogue is A+ material.

            This event holds what is surely some of Ryan Stegman’s best work. Between this and Immortal Hulk, Marvel is really pushing it lately with the body horror. Not that I’m complaining – it’s awesome! Just look at this new Carnage design and it will make your skin crawl. There’s an intensity to the action pieces that tells you that Stegman is giving it his all. That quality isn’t lost on the slower moments, either. You can so clearly see heartbreak, shame, guilt, sadistic joy, fear, or any number of feelings on a character’s face at any panel, with or without a mask. That ain’t easy, but he doesn’t do it alone, of course. Credit must be given to JP Mayer for knowing just the right way to put emphasis on the dynamics found in each and every panel. The coloring by Frank Martin is the weak link, in my opinion, but it is not bad by any stretch of the imagination. It’s great! The shadows and ghost-story lighting he adds really bring each scene to the next level. Especially in the third chapter – OOH. I just think there’s a little too much attention given to the somber tone of the book in some areas. But I get that that’s what the book is going for, so I can’t really fault anyone for that. Just makes me wonder what it would be like to see this art team do a scene on a bright, beautiful sunny day, you know? I have to give a shout out to Clayton Cowles as well, for some subtle but incredibly effective changes in the lettering. Like how he changes the font size of a particular word, you know exactly what type of inflection that line is said with. The earlier mentioned coffee shop talk is so much better because of it. It’s a perfect example of how every member of the creative team worked together perfectly bring the script to life.

            Absolute Carnage #1 is an absolute must read. This is a creative team firing on all cylinders. I dare you to find a single panel in this book that isn’t teeming with thought and care. The story has the payoff we’ve been waiting for but still takes time to set up new ideas going forward and keeping things interesting along the way, either through enthralling conversation or symbiotic madness. All of it, tied together by brutally intense visuals. Absolute Carnage does not disappoint. It’s worth all the hype and then some. Don’t let the price tag scare you. This one has got to be on your pull. #8MillionCopies

Our Score:


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