It’s the year of Carnage, or so Marvel says as it’s his 30th anniversary! To kick things off, Marvel is releasing an anthology one-shot called Carnage Forever. Out this week, the one-shot features three stories by Extreme Carnage mastermind Phillip Kennedy Johnson, upcoming Carnage writer Ram V, and Ty Templeton! Expect horror that’s at a whole other level, especially for Marvel who seems less afraid to go full disturbing horror.
If Carnage was ever played for laughs or felt a bit cartoonish, you wouldn’t know it by reading this book. The preview gives readers a taste of the first two stories, which lean towards hyper-realistic and almost serial killer movie level of disturbing storytelling. It’s an exciting time to be a Carnage fan as Cletus Kasady is long gone and the Symbiote is on its own. Will it find a new host, or go it alone? That’s a big question that permeates these first two stories.
The opening story is by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Edgar Salazar in a story called “Homecoming.” The story opens with a young girl playing on the street. She has lived a tough life, and if the preview is any indication Carnage is about to make it tougher. Johnson expertly drops the Carnage concept into a real-world scenario of an abused girl encountering a monster like Carnage. Pair her impossible situation with a killer alien that can give its host incredible abilities and you can start to guess where this story goes.
This opener does feel oddly slow, especially for the start of an anthology. It’s unexpected how much time is spent with the young girl and setting up her situation. That might be because the entertaining bits are a kind of twist. The second story ends up feeling way faster-paced, which creates a bit of whiplash for the reader.
Next up, Ram V and Salvador Larroca tell a story called “Unmade in His Image.” This story is set in a prison and given the preview, pages show quite a twisted way of Carnage to infiltrate and murder. One can see the possibilities of Carnage can expand when there isn’t a meat puppet inside of it! It’s tough to talk about this story too much without spoiling it, but know if you’re a fan of Ram V and continuity in the Spider-Man universe you’re going to get even more excited for the upcoming solo series. The story is a lead-in for that series and hints at what Carnage will be up to.
Salazar and Larroca’s art in the first two stories is a nice pairing as each uses a highly detailed, illustrated style. Salazar plays with size and scale well with Carnage and he looks otherworldly. Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors add to that, especially when Carnage lets loose amongst flames. Larroca plays with Carnage as a kind of bogeyman in some respect, which is partly due to the way the eyes seem to glow. Rain Beredo colors the book and Carnage stands out from the flat and monotone colors of the prison around him.
Wrapping up the book is a one-page story by Ty Templeton that plays up the Sunday morning newspaper comic strip format. It’s a fun way to end the book, which has mostly been disturbing and unnerving, mixing things up with a game, a one-panel comic, and a comic strip-style comic. It’s a throwback to the time when single issues had extra materials in the back.
If Carnage Forever #1 is any indication, we’re about to enter an age of extreme horror and adult content with everyone’s second favorite Symbiote. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if in a year Carnage edges out Venom for many since this new wilder version of Carnage is about to begin. There’s a new threat coming onto the scene in 2022 and Carnage is even more unhinged and feral than most will expect.
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