I know I had my reservations about making Carnage the spotlight of yet another Marvel mini-series, but I was shocked all the same after reading Superior Carnage #2 and seeing how the serial-killing symbiote was being used more as a plot device rather than as the star of a series that’s been named after him.
While things could always change between now and when the series concludes in a few months, writer Kevin Shinick has seemingly decided to use a Carnage mini as a way to prop up a classic Silver Age baddie in the Wizard as the central character. As someone who thinks that Carnage’s best days (and stories) took place almost 20 years ago, I don’t necessarily mind reading this story focused on villains with far more history and characterization, but I’m sure there’s a contingent of the fan base who is picking up this mini exclusively because of the name “Carnage.” And I would be willing to wager a lot of money on the fact that they’re probably a bit ticked off by this early (mis)representation of the character.
I’ll defend Superior Carnage #2 because as of now, the story Shinick is building is the eventual confrontation between Wizard and Spider Ock. And I find that infinitely more interesting than just another Spider-Man/Carnage battle, even with the added intrigue of this being the SUPERIOR Spider-Man. Because what kind of beef is Otto Octavius going to have with a lobotomized serial killer like Cletus Kasady masquerading around New York City creating chaos as Carnage again? I just don’t know how adding Spider Ock into the mix changes the dynamic of that story ? You could make the argument that Spider Ock would show less mercy and be more violent in dealing with Carnage than Peter Parker ever did, but Marvel already told that story last fall in “Minimum Carnage” using Kaine as the morally apathetic Spidey stand-in.
But Wizard vs. Doc Ock is a story with the potential of some gravitas behind it (and history. During the Sinister Six Ends of the Earth prologue issue of Amazing Spider-Man released last year, Doc Ock shoots the Wizard into the upper atmosphere). In the one snippet of Spider Ock that we see in this comic, he laments about how he once respected the Wizard for his great scientific mind, but in recent months has been disappointed in the way that character has devolved into a marble-losing evil genius. Of course he’s also dismissing Wizard (and Carnage) in that total egotistical Otto way, but at least he gives the guy as much credit as Spider Ock can give a person these days.
Up until a year or so ago, Otto and Wizard were two similarly crafted characters in the Marvel Universe – old-timers used more for nostalgia than for substance. Superior writer Dan Slott has found a way to elevate Otto as Spider-Man’s equal (or SUPERIOR) again. But the same can’t be said for Wizard, unless there’s a great recent Fantastic Four/FF story that fans of those comics can bring to my attention. He genetically created his “son” (who Spider Ock scares straight in an issue of Avenging Spider-Man a few issues ago) and is portrayed as being a few nuts short of a squirrel’s lunch throughout Superior Carnage #2 (aka, non-threatening).
Where the irony isn’t lost on me is the fact that I think a major reason why these classic Silver Age villains have been shunted down the card a bit in recent years is because of the rise in popularity of newer, more outlandish villains like Carnage, Venom, Toxin, etc. Old farts like me still held on to our love for Otto, but we’re in the minority. In fact, there were still fans who were complaining after the big Superior status quo shift last year that Doc Ock wasn’t a potent enough threat to essentially end Peter Parker? That’s when I realized the bulk of his great “evil” moments took place during the 1960s and 1970s.
What I’m trying to say in long-winded fashion is that maybe this is the storyline that resurrects the Wizard the way Slott revived Doc Ock?
The only problem is, we are still taking about a mini-series called “Superior Carnage.” If Marvel is comfortable issuing a mini-series where Carnage is subdued by the likes of the Wizard and Klaw, then I give them props for looking the symbiote-lovers in the face and saying, “tough cookies.” Granted, the symbiote is alive and well by the end of the issue when another old-timer evil-genius character in Dr. Karl Malus becoming the new “host” for the villain, so we’ll see just how buried Carnage is in his own book as things progress. For now, I’m enjoying the ride with guys not named Carnage, thanks in large part to Shinick’s script.
Hanging out with the Wizard and Klaw has also been helped by Stephen Segovia’s tremendous art in this issue, and in this series so far. There’s a certain darkness to his imagery that doesn’t become too grotesque and macabre and he’s doing a phenomenal job presenting both villains in a way that’s both modern but also honors the classic Silver Age aesthetics of the character. And I honestly can’t get enough of the visuals where Klaw uses his sonic arm to disable the symbiote. It’s just pure artistic spectacle and its visuals like these that make me a comic book fan.
All images from Superior Carnage #2: Kevin Shinick, Stephen Segovia & Jay David Ramos. Cover by Clayton Crain