Carnage came out swinging in its first issue, recontextualizing the Symbiote villain now that he’s shed, Cletus Kasady. Ram V has set up a character who loves serial killers and also loves killing (or at least absorbing) supervillains. In the second issue, it becomes clear that Carnage’s plan is a lot more complex than we might think as he manipulates a detective on the case to catch the killer who Carnage has already infected.
Carnage is adding up to an interesting look at how humans who are evil and good can be manipulated. It’s particularly interesting since Carnage is a kind of pure evil and chaotic force. For ages, Carnage has maintained a rather basic status quo as Kasady loves to kill and the Symbiote lets him do it. After Kasady was effectively killed down to the cellular level, the Symbiote has taken on its own journey and it’s deliciously unpredictable. So far, that journey seems to be about building Carnage’s power, but this issue reveals it may also be about affecting two human lives.
This issue opens with Carnage speaking to the serial killer known as “The Artist” but soon Carnage is helping the on the trail of the killer. Early on it’s clear Carnage is up to something and maybe playing both sides. It’s not clear if he needs a host, but he’s enjoying himself as he manipulates both. The detective is named Jon and he’s the focus of this issue. As is the modus operandi of the series, Carnage appears to be utilizing new powers we didn’t know he had — one of which is giving Jon some of his Symbiote abilities and also being able to see Kasady’s memories.
This book is enjoyable as a mystery to be solved. Why is Carnage messing with these people and what is his end goal? How can he absorb the powers of supervillains? What could Carnage’s meddling with these humans mean for his own personality and growth? “The Artist” of course listens to Carnage and likes how he thinks while Jon isn’t so sure. As you try to solve these problems it’s interesting to see how the “good” guy and “bad” guy react to things.
Francesco Manna gives Carnage an edgy look thanks to the ink work and details. There are always some small tendrils, veiny bits, or spots on Carnage’s skin to show he’s an always-changing liquid alien. Color artist Dijjo Lima does well to give Carnage an otherworldly look through the glow of his eyes or the variable reds of his Symbiote. There’s also good attention to detail with close-ups to control the pace.
There are a few details that are befuddling. It’s a bit shocking the detectives would still be interested in pursuing Carnage given they have no resources to stop a supervillain. We know from the last issue Carnage wants to find meaning in a life without a host, but we also don’t know why he thinks stealing supervillain powers is the answer. That’s kind of the mystery, but there’s little here to understand motivation or intent. Carnage’s personality is more of a demon on the shoulder than a character with desires and ambitions, making him relatively flat. Sticklers for power-sets in superhero books will also be scratching their heads as Carnage seems to have new powers.
Ram V and Francesco Manna’s Carnage is turning out to be an interesting look at the strikingly different personalities of the two people embroiled in Carnage’s path. Carnage #2 introduces a duality that’s intriguing while offering a police procedural to stop a supervillain from getting stronger. All along the way, we’re witnessing a character evolve in real-time which is so rare in serial comics it’s hard to not cheer it on and ask for more.
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