Absolute Carnage: Scream #1
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Gerardo Sandoval, Victor Nava and Erick Arciniega
Lettering by Cory Petit
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10
Absolute Carnage proved to be one of the better event debuts in recent memory, but its tie-ins are doing little to support the main book. In fact, entries like Absolute Carnage: Scream might do more to dilute the effectiveness of the event, because frankly the symbiotes outside of Venom and Carnage just aren’t that interesting. Cullen Bunn and Gerardo Sandoval attempt to bring a certain horror tone to the proceedings, but the disconnect from the main story, the reliance on little-known symbiote hosts as protagonists, and a complete lack of meaningful narrative thrust means that this debut is dead on arrival.
It’s not that this team isn’t trying, though. Bunn’s background with horror is all over this book, but it turns the issue into a prose-heavy slog. While a lot of the captioning is necessary for the way that this book is set up, it doesn’t make for the most interesting read as Bunn, essentially has to reintroduce Scream/Donna Diego, Andi Benton and Patricia Robertson. While there is some significance to putting all of these characters back on the board, there is hardly enough meat here to justify a miniseries. And that’s especially clear when double-page spreads and splash pages with repetitive writing are used as a crutch to pad out the issue. Bunn’s writing here feels non-specific and cliche.
Similar to the Cult of Carnage work we’ve seen from Frank Tieri, going further down the rabbit hole with certain flavors of symbiote stuff doesn’t feel additive to the main story, especially when whatever happens here feels so inconsequential. The time taken to rebuild Carnage, introduce Knull as a threat and give Venom meaningful character development took Donny Cates a while to put together. Bunn isn’t going to be able to do that in this miniseries for Scream if this issue is any indication, and she remains a tertiary part of the larger plot.
Gerardo Sandoval gives good monster in this book, but he’s really limited by the design of the Carnage cult symbiotes and his own inability to consistently draw the human characters in this series. There’s no real reader-insert for us to feel any of the terror of the events in the (very lean) plot of the book, and the few human beings there are are generally poorly rendered. Sandoval’s angular, almost jagged linework works pretty well for the symbiote monsters themselves, but with the pages overwhelmed in a wash of red and yellow, it’s really tough to figure out just what’s happening in any given panel. Backgrounds appear and disappear without any real rhyme or reason. There’s an extreme lack of setting, which just makes the book feel weirdly like a bunch of symbiotes hanging out in the rain. At one point, a symbiote seems to pop out from behind a wall that it was unclear it was ever behind. And despite a couple of interesting design choices for a double page spread and a well-posed splash page, the book is just a cluttered, clunky mess.
Unless you have a great affection for Donna Diego, Andi Benton or Patricia Robertson, you may want to steer clear of this limited series. While a rising tide lifts all ships and Absolute Carnage had a great debut, Marvel seems to think that the same approach they’ve been taking to events for a decade and a half now is still the way to do business. Unfortunately, more often than not — and as is the case here — it leads to otherwise talented creators turning in work that’s thin and repetitive rather than robust and additive to the main story. Absolute Carnage: Scream pays a lot of lip service to redefining the women who have hosted the symbiote in the past, but ultimately it doesn’t do anything unique with that opportunity.