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Carnage Vol. 1: In the Court of Crimson
Marvel Comics

Comic Books

‘Carnage Vol. 1: In the Court of Crimson’ review

One of Marvel’s most adventurous and interesting series right now.

I wasn’t sure what I’d be getting into with the symbiote/spider world flipped upside down after Donny Cates’ Absolute Carnage and King in Black events. I had skimmed both and knew Carnage had changed, but I was unaware of how much. As I entered the Court of Crimson, nothing could have prepared me for how much I’d be hooked.

We open with Carnage breaking into prison to find Hydroman. Bizarre choice to be sure, but then he starts torturing him and waxing poetic before and making his escape with his prey. It raises so many questions and led me further down the rabbit hole that is Carnage: In the Court of Crimson.

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What follows is a mix of Hannibal and supernatural horror. V takes this unique approach by creating a whole surrounding cast of characters almost like a police procedural. You’ve got the grizzled detective, protagonist of Jon Shayde, the “artist” serial killer Kenneth, and woven all through the tale is Carnage both in character and deed. What starts off as a cat-and-mouse chase between detective and criminal, quickly becomes a deadly tear through the darker corners of the Marvel universe.

EXCLUSIVE Marvel Preview: Carnage #3

Carnage vs. The Spot?!
Credit: Marvel Comics

Gone is Carnage’s “simple” serial killer persona of Kasady. Here now is an entity who has tasted godhood and craves more. It’s interesting to see Carnage’s goals elevated to a grander scale as he consumes more and more powerful beings to further some dark agenda. It’s equally terrifying with how easily he tears through characters and amasses an unstoppable momentum.

The two new characters, Shayde and Kenneth, find themselves caught up in the havoc as well. Shayde is set up as an interesting juxtaposition against Carnage and Kenneth. Thanks to a twisted “gift” from Carnage, he’s given a fighting chance that comes with its own inner demons. Kenneth, on the other hand, is framed initially as a wannabe Kasady and Carnage treats him as such. He’s mostly just an objective for Shayde but he also works as a sounding board for Carnage’s flowery exultations on the nature of malevolence. The detective/serial killer chase is nothing new, but here it gives the story a grounded core contrasting Carnage’s otherworldly ambitions.

The main artwork is serviceable throughout. The off-kilter perspectives and bizarre page layouts display what works best issue to issue. The rest just comes across as the standard style one could expect from a modern comic. Issue #3 has a different artist take over briefly with a style that feels more distinct and old-school, but it seems to have just been a fill-in issue.

Carnage Vol. 1: In the Court of Crimson

Credit: Marvel Comics

The coloring is rather flat across the first four issues as well. It’s not bad by any means, just none of the colors really stand out. All the murky shadows and reds blend into a hazy fog over the book. Each issue is drenched in someone’s blood at some point and it’s unfortunate that it just fades into the rest of the background. Issue #5 does mark a colorist changeup and it makes a big difference in the vibrancy of the book.

Also included here are the shorts from the Carnage Forever one-shot. Their inclusion here brings the volume down a bit, offering a smattering of shorts from various writers and artists. “Homecoming” reads inline with Carnage’s characterization in the rest of the book, but “A Lesson in Blood and Bone” reads, for better and worse, straight out of the ’90s. There’s also some cheesy little short strips by Ty Templeton. I get why these are included here, because of the prologue short that directly ties into the main book, but it does make the tonal shift rather jarring. Pair that with the confusing decision not delineate these separately after issue #5, and it took me a moment to gather I was reading unassociated shorts. These just stand in such a stark contrast against the main book that it threw off the volume’s cohesiveness.

I’ve yet to hear anyone talk about this book, and that’s a real shame. It’s one of Marvel’s most adventurous and interesting series right now. I would have never thought I’d be into a book about Carnage set apart from Spider-Man, but here we are. In the Court of Crimson kicks the door open with an unrestrained style and tone. It’s not what you’d expect from first glance, which works to the book’s advantage. In the Court of Crimson makes up for its conventional visuals in its distinct story and characters.

Carnage Vol. 1: In the Court of Crimson
‘Carnage Vol. 1: In the Court of Crimson’ review
Carnage Vol. 1: In the Court of Crimson
I've yet to hear anyone talk about this book, and that's a real shame. It's one of Marvel's most adventurous and interesting series right now. I would have never thought I'd be into a book about Carnage set apart from Spider-Man, but here we are. In the Court of Crimson kicks the door open with an unrestrained style and tone. It's not what you'd expect from first glance, which works to the book's advantage. In the Court of Crimson makes up for its conventional visuals in its distinct story and characters.
Reader Rating1 Votes
8.3
Terrifyingly compelling new status quo for Carnage.
Detective/serial killer chase grounds Carnage's otherworldly ambitions.
Consistently engaging dialogue and narration.
'Carnage Forever' shorts throw off the volume's tonal cohesiveness.
Flat but serviceable visuals.
7.5
Good
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