He’ll eat your liver without even bothering to grab a nice Chianti. The deranged killer Carnage is back in the second issue of his bone chilling new series. After such a strong start could it keep the quality high? With ease.
Last month readers were treated to something of a study in the mind of a serial killer, albeit a super-powered one. That was put on the back burner this time as the focus instead switched to delivering a good old fashioned thriller full of tension and a palpable sense of fear. Taking cues from horror classics such as Psycho and The Silence of the Lambs, Gerry Conway creates something that gets the heart beating that little bit faster and the skin crawling as though you were in the mine along with the soldiers. The opening sequence is particularly effective in giving a human face to Carnage’s victims as the reader sees a lone soldier fearfully begging for his life, not wanting to die alone. The believability of this reaction makes it all the more chilling when Carnage looms over him, poised to kill. You will never actually see that death though as Conway and company avoid showing such things on the page which is tremendously effective in building tension as you will be left to wonder if certain characters are dead once they come face to face with the Symbiote covered killer.
Whilst you won’t see any deaths you absolutely will get to witness the aftermath and this is where the art department shines yet again. Mike Perkins and Andy Troy prove to be a superb pairing as they blend exquisite lines with some of the best colouring work currently being seen in any comic. The mood is immediately set from the first ominous brush stroke and they do not relent through any of the subsequent frames. In one scene where the body of the aforementioned soldier is discovered the pair present it as a horrifically mangled mess, far beyond the point of identification. This gives plenty of room for the audience to draw their own conclusions as to what happened to this poor man at the hands of Carnage and is a truly refreshing approach to storytelling that sets this apart from any other comic on the stands right now.
Atmosphere is not the only place where Conway shines however as the dialogue is also at a high level. Each character is given their own idiosyncrasies and through this there are no nameless drones being led to the slaughter as there often are in other such monster stories. In fact Carnage takes something of a back seat here whilst Conway explores those pursuing him providing an excellent balance and keeping the big bad out of sight enough to build a sense of unease for when he pops up again. A commendable feat achieved here is that the previously rather unlikable Eddie Brock has already successfully been transformed into a character that elicits cheers as readers wait in anticipation for when he is finally let off the leash and once again becomes Toxin.
The script is aided in its excellence by the exceptional lettering work of Joe Sabino who depicts emotion with tremendous effectiveness simply through the way in which he writes a word. With this talent Sabino helps to create these multi-dimensional characters and gives gravity to what they say. This is not simply writing Blam! or Pow! in the old, slightly regrettable style, nor is it just bold lettering done to fill the space, everything about Sabino’s work is carefully thought out and has a reason behind it and as such he is an invaluable asset to this book.
Overall Carnage has excellent pacing, beautiful art particularly on the cover, and intelligent writing. There is only one drawback to this otherwise spectacular series and that is that it only has a very limited number of direction to go in. It seems that Conway may have painted himself into a corner which is a worry as this is not a miniseries but rather an ongoing comic and for it to feel as though an ending is already in sight is not a good sign. Still though everyone can enjoy it for now as this throwback to the monster comics of old brings delights and frights aplenty.
Score: 4.5 out of 5.