When a superhero event involves Carnage, you best expect a heavy dose of Spider-Man in the narrative. Peter Parker does appear in the event, but truth be told it’s Venom that is the main hero. That isn’t to say Spidey didn’t get some key moments in his tie-in issues which feature the Red Goblin aka Norman Osborn. What is most fascinating about this 6th trade paperback is how writer Nick Spencer expertly weaves in new developments featuring his mysterious new villain Kindred into the event. Collecting just four issues however, can this book be worth a random pick up or should it only be read by trade waiters who love the series?
This collection opens with Amazing Spider-Man #29 which features Chameleon and a whole lot of character writing. Peter is mulling over asking Mary Jane a huge question and talks over with Aunt May how to not lose her. It goes a long way in setting up anticipation for Peter and Mary Jane to take things to a new level. Following this is issue #30 and Spencer and Ottley do a great job mixing flashback with present-day antics in the Absolute Carnage event. As you can see in the preview Kindred had a little talk with a very loopy Norman Osborn two weeks prior to Norman being given a Symbiote and made to believe he is Carnage. These scenes cut in with Peter recapping the event for us and then diving into a battle with Norman as he attempts to save Venom’s son and Harry Osborn’s kid.
There are a few interesting points made in this issue that’ll make you think. The big one involves Norman and how he’s a bit of a message to the young and hopeful Peter Parker and his crew. There’s also an interesting point made about Gwen and the everlasting love Peter has for her. Kindred continues to be an enigma — frustratingly so — but he plays a good boogeyman in the issue. Following this is issue #31, which weaves in Kindred speaking to Norman in an insane asylum prior to him being controlled by Carnage. We learn a new detail about the characters and also a good reason for why this scene is required for the battle taking place in Absolute Carnage. It helps add purpose to this tie-in. These two issues would almost work better if they were written as one longer issue, but for monthly (or in this case bi-weekly) serial storytelling they do well to keep your interest up.
Ottley does a great job with the material, focusing our eye on the creepiness of Kindred and the ferocity of Norman with the Symbiote. There is an excellent page devoted to the origin of the Symbiote when Spider-Man fought in the Secret Wars and the recap of the Absolute Carnage event is efficiently done in one page. Spatters of blood and tendrils of Symbiote all look really good and once again Spider-Man’s eyes in the mask are shattered. How many masks do you think he owns? There is also a showstopper full-page splash with Peter triumphant and quite angry that you won’t want to miss. Colors by Nathan Fairbairn and inks by Cliff Rathburn capture the feel of the moments, from a soft blue in a seemingly safe scene to a vomit green when Carnage and Spider-Man fight. The inking on Spider-Man is excellent, capturing his ribs and musculature very well.
Following this is the Red Goblin: Red Death one-shot, which gives us more Red Goblin adventures. Split up into three stories, the first story “Great Responsibility” by Rob Free and Pete Woods introduces us to the concept of Norman with Carnage in his head and its desire to literally bathe in blood. The second story is “Big Mouth” by Sean Ryan and Pete Woods, which shows how the evil in Norman can sprout into murder if the wrong person comes along. It ties into a key moment involving J. Jonah Jameson which helps tuck the book into Dan Slott’s story well. Woods plays with light well in this story, casting shadows where they need to be to ramp up your terror and the fear of a bogeyman being ever-present. The third and final story is “The Wayside Darkness” by Patrick Gleason and Ray-Anthony Height which focuses on Normie Osborn. Gleason does a good job playing to what would enrage a child and how that might play out if they were given a Symbiote murder machine on their back. Height’s cartoonish style suits the trick-or-treating and scenes with little kids. The creative team does a good job reminding us what kind of heart Normie has, ending on a note that shows signs of hope for him, which is good seeing as he’s teaming up with Eddie Brock’s son Dylan in a few months.
This is an interesting reading experience in one sitting thanks to Kindred being a villain that has been dragged out for so long we can barely care about him, and the last issue featuring the Red Goblin villain who doesn’t exist anymore. It’s like we’re getting a taste of two extremes when it comes to villains. It also has a schizophrenic feel to it with an opening chapter focused on Peter’s private life, a two-issue tie-in to Absolute Carnage, and then a Red Goblin issue slapped on for good measure.
Of all the Absolute Carnage tie-in stories, this two-parter may be the most intriguing. It sets up Norman as a pawn but also gives us a few new details about Kindred to whet our appetite. I can’t say this collection reads very well in one sitting — the opening and closing issues don’t mesh well with the tie-in issues, but it’s still worth a look in parts.
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