Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Ryan Stegman
Colors: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Release Date September 18, 2019
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)
Venom is on the losing side of Absolute Carnage, New York has been overtaken by Dark Carnage, Miles Morales is now a symbiote-Doppelganger, and now Venom’s about to lose the Scorpion to a Norman Osborn/Carnage who still thinks he’s the original, actual Cletus Kasady. When Eddie mentions Norman’s grandson, Norman momentarily hesitates long enough for the Venom symbiote to fatally strike Norman, but Eddie decides to escape with the paralyzed Scorpion than to give up their one chance escaping alive finishing off Norman.
When Venom arrives back at Rex Strickland’s warehouse, he sees that Spider-Man has amassed Captain America, Bruce Banner, Wolverine, and the Thing. Hours later, Banner is running the heroes through the Maker’s machine to cleanse them of their codex, when Spider-Man tries to have a heart-to-heart with Eddie. Without spoiling anything (I’m choosing to keep this issue’s biggest twist and surprise out of the recap and review for once), Dark Carnage shows up and brings the fight to the heroes. The Venom symbiote abandons Eddie and hijacks Bruce Banner, and a Venom-Hulk takes the fight to Dark Carnage.
We’ve reached the third issue of our five-part event, and the bulk of this book gives us some breathing time. While the issues book-ending opening and later acts feature plenty of chaos, the middle majority of the story has Venom returning to base, interacting with Spider-Man and the heroes he managed to round-up. Its an appreciated break from everything that’s happened up to this point. As a fan of Venom, there’s something rewarding to seeing Eddie and Captain America shake hands as allies. It seems like Cates won’t be satisfied until literally every character in Marvel’s library has at one point been exposed to a symbiote. Not only has Miles Morales lost his symbiote-virginity, this issue makes mention of how Bruce Banner has yet to ever be bonded to one, and that felt like very obvious foreboding that that was about to be rectified (of COURSE I am not including various What If’s and alternate continuity instances where some type of parallel canon Hulk was, as Marvel coined, Venomized). For the longest, Cletus has felt like an untouchable adversary, so it speaks volumes who Hulk (w/symbiote) was actually able to hurt him.
A concern I had up until now was that Cletus would be playing less of a physical role in the event. I’m reading and (mostly) reviewing all the Absolute Carnage books, and most of them have given me the impression that Cletus would be the villain waiting in his lair while all of his pawns and lieutenants would be out doing all the slaughtering. Considering that Absolute Carnage could be called the spiritual sequel to the likes of Maximum Carnage and Carnage USA, these being stories where you saw Cletus rack up the body count, never once sitting behind letting others have all the fun, I was worried AC had gotten it a point where Cletus would stay out of the spotlight until the conclusion. Far too many of these tie-ins have ended with Norman as Carnage showing up near the end to be the big bad. This issue reaffirms that actually, factual Cletus/Carnage isn’t going to sit around in his “final boss” lair while the massacre unfolds without him. His appearance in this issue is excellently done and only gives Cletus yet even more of an advantage against the heroes. What Cletus gets by the end of the book makes him even more of a personal threat to Spider-Man and Eddie.
Issue three clears us over the half-way checkpoint, where our heroes finally get to catch their breathe and work towards the possibility of turning the fight around…before their futility is undone by Dark Carnage bringing the fight straight to them. There’s nowhere left for these guys to run, and only two issues left.