If I had any kind of a takeaway after reading Superior Carnage Annual #1, it’s that I now know that the upcoming Carnage vs. Deadpool miniseries will not be required reading for my overall enjoyment of the greater Spider-Man comic universe, and that I can save my $20 and skip the series.
That’s not a putdown of what Cullen Bunn and Kim Jacinto had put together in this annual– there’s nothing inherently wrong with the writing or the artwork – but after five months of Kevin Shinick and Stephen Segovia teasing a new direction for the Carnage symbiote in the Superior Carnage mini, Bunn and Jacinto bring everyone back to where we’ve been numerous times before with the character. I’m sure this turn of events pleases Carnage’s cult following, but for more casual fans of the character who best identify with him as being a byproduct of 90s excess, I really can’t be bothered anymore with this guy.
This annual goes out of its way to demonstrate just how impossible it is for Marvel to definitively change Carnage’s status quo for the long-term. The comic starts with the aftermath of Superior Carnage – Cletus Kasady, the serial killer who has long served as Carnage’s host, is speaking and acting human again in prison, but is separated from the symbiote, while the symbiote is being contained at Spider Island. The symbiote breaks out, but instead of an instantaneous reunion with Cletus, Kasady finds himself at the wrong end of shiv to the neck, and is later murdered by someone on the medical staff via suffocation from a pillow. So how could we possible get back to the same-old same-old after all this, right?
The Carnage symbitoe makes its way across town, jumping from host to host, teasing some potential new possibilities for the character (a female Carnage possessing a female scientist who’s been abused by her husband? Color me interested), only to turn around and kill off those possibilities within a few pages. This naturally leads to its reunion with Kasady, reviving his dead body, because OF COURSE IT DOES, and Carnage goes on a killing spree throughout the facility, because OF COURSE HE DOES.
The comic’s final page even shows Carnage singing to himself about being back to “old times.” If I could stick two fingers in my ears and hum the Star-Spangled Banner, I would do so, but an audible reaction like that probably wouldn’t register via the blog format. So at least, you can just close your eyes and picture it.
The one thing this comic is shockingly missing is any actual set-up to the Carnage/Deadpool mini outside of an advertisement for it at the very end of the issue. Since that’s clearly the next major development for Carnage and Bunn is the writer working on this project, I don’t understand how some kind of scene involving Deadpool mouthing off about taking down the symbiote or something to that effect never finds its way into a “giant-sized” annual issue that cost me an extra $1 to boot.
And of course the true moral of the story is that the Superior Carnage Annual is obviously not a comic book that was written for me, or for people who think the way I do about the character. I guess I can’t begrudge anyone for that, but it still leaves me questioning as to exactly what was the purpose of that five-part miniseries that came out last year that had the name “Carnage” in the title, but was more about Wizard and Klaw and their relationship with Otto Octavius. I think Brian Michael Bendis was on to something when he shot Carnage into space and had Sentry rip him in two in New Avengers, but the fact remains, even a death as over-the-top as that was not enough to keep Carnage dead and buried (or floating in space) forever and Marvel continues to have an inexplicable desire to cater to the ever-shrinking symbiote fanbase in terms of how it wants to have this character portrayed.
All images from Superior Carnage Annual #1: Cullen Bunn, Kim Jacinto, Mike Henderson & Jay David Ramos