Absolute Carnage was a wild and uniquely horror-focused event for Marvel Comics. I say this in the past tense because today the event has reached its end! Can Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman stick the landing on this much-hyped series?
This issue opens with a flashback to the moment Cletus Kasady and Eddie Brock first met. It adds a bit of weight to their currently ongoing battle as super Symbiotes. Cates utilizes this moment to remind us their hatred of each other has gone on for many years, culminating in this final battle. And final battle it is, as this issue is largely about Venom making the right choices to take down Carnage once and for all. The choices made feel huge and lead to an incredible reveal which will likely kick off a future Venom story yet to be told.
The highlight of this issue and many moments in this series belongs to Ryan Stegman. The art is in-your-face, detailed, and at times horrifically pretty. He continues to prove he’s one of the best in the business, especially with inkers JP Mayer and Jay Leisten and colorist Frank Martin backing him up. The new look for Carnage is equal parts fantasy, sci-fi, and scary. I imagine Marvel Legends will be crafting a figure based on this one soon. Stegman has added a few unique looks for Venom, including one where his mouth is more humanoid, but lacking lips, that gives him a certain emotion that suits the character. In a full-page splash and then later in a double page layout, the fluid nature of the Symbiote is splattered across the page. It’s a sight to see.
Fans of Venom’s son Dylan should also check this out. We already know Marvel is doing a spin-off with Dylan and Normie Osborn and the reveal in this issue will likely play into that heavily. Cates takes this character a bit further and also ends the book with him in dramatic fashion. In a lot of ways, this final issue works as a great lead-in to his Venom series.
Unfortunately, this event doesn’t quite meet the level we’ve come to expect from Marvel events in general. While I appreciate the brevity of the event (some events take place over months and require you read 100 books) the event book is clunky in its pacing and approach. It appears to have taken place over two days max and yet the entire world hung in the balance. This finale seems to rush to the conclusion rather than deliver satisfying conflicts with Carnage and Venom, nor does it do well to capture all the heroes involved in the fight. It might require you to read tie-in issues to get the bigger picture, but as it stands this final issue reads like a quick sprint to the finish line. The weight of the story is lost, making this a somewhat unsatisfying last issue. Considering how powerful this event has made Carnage, he seems to go down rather easily and the issue even seems to gloss over whether Carnage is fully dead or not.
Visually stunning, this finale is entertaining mostly because it sets up so many stories going forward. As a standalone finale, however, I was left wanting, especially since it seems Venom simply had to use willpower to finish this fight. It’s a convenient end that wraps things up too easily.