Absolute Carnage #3
Written by Donny Cates
Art by Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer and Frank Martin
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
Review by Pierce Lydon
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Absolute Carnage has reached a tricky point in its narrative where the threat is understood for the most part, but the solution isn’t. Thankfully, Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman are able to muscle through some of the more intermediary elements of the narrative and get readers to the point where they almost have to pick up the next issue. And ultimately, getting folks to want to read the next issue is the whole point. That said, this is far from the most exciting issue of Absolute Carnage, but Cates does some clever work doubling down on certain themes and moving the chains at an effective pace to make this one a net win for the event.
While I haven’t been totally on board with Cates’ worldbuilding for Venom, his characterization of Eddie Brock’s struggles in life and how those are mirrored in his relationship with the symbiote have been interesting. It’s hard to deny the fact that Cates has brought more depth to the character than we’ve ever seen before. This event has been getting at least a little bit of flack for seeming like Maximum Carnage Redux, but that’s too reductive and ignores something that Cates touches on so directly in this issue: the relationship between parents and children. Both the symbiote and Eddie have children that they need to “take care of,” but of course that’s meant in opposing ways. It helps define Eddie more without the symbiote, and shows his growth as a character since the beginning of this series as well as a stalwart reminder of one of the basic tenets of the Marvel Universe: with great power comes great responsibility. So while a cynical reader might feel as though not much happens in this issue, I’d argue that in the face of huge threats, Eddie opts to regroup, and in doing so Cates gets the breathing room to do even more meaningful character work. It shows really good instincts on the writer’s part and the series is better for it even if he does telegraph the big final page eveal.
Stegman continues his effective work in this series. His symbiotes feel more angular and less fluid than other artists, but that adds to the horror elements that Cates is playing with. Somehow it feels like Stegman’s symbiotes have more teeth than we’ve seen before, and the blades made from their bodies are sharper and more dangerous. JP Mayer’s inks are really strong as well. He plays an important role in a book that has such a focus on the color black, while Frank Martin’s colors do give the whole thing a sort of Mike Deodato Jr. feel to them. (Though admittedly, that might just be because I’m so used to those two artists working together, and Deodato tends to use extremely heavy inks.) This is a good-looking book and the art team really pulls the big moments together even if, as mentioned earlier, Cates script sort of gives away what those moments are.
Is Absolute Carnage a perfect event? No, but few are. This issue isn’t even the best the series has been so far, but it does lay some important groundwork for where the series can go from here, not only from a plot and action level, but from a character level as well. There’s a feeling that if Cates can really stick the landing, there’s an extremely satisfying catharsis coming for Eddie Brock and a further upheaval of the role of symbiotes in the Marvel Universe. That feels like what this creative team has been aiming for with this entire run, and they’re clearly still on that path.