For four straight issues Gerry Conway and his team have worked hard to craft a near perfect story arc to introduce this new comic. This issue served to wrap up that story, but would it prove to be a satisfying conclusion?
For the entirety of this arc the biggest thing being built towards was the tantilising showdown between Carnage and his Symbiote son/father, Toxin. The hype was very real with fans as each week they had the battle teased to them only for the narrative to be taken in another direction each time. So then, you would imagine that there would be fireworks when these two monsters finally met, right? Well there weren’t.
The fact is that what could have been a very memorable confrontation was watered down by the rest of the story surrounding it. Conway was trying to do too much in one book and it resulted in nothing being fully developed or all that well executed. In the case of this highly anticipated fight, Toxin wasn’t just taking on Carnage, as many wanted, but was rather fighting him and his new found underlings. What this led to was very little meaningful physicality between the two main behemoths with Toxin instead having to fend off a hoard of creatures that nobody had time to care about. It was woefully underwhelming in this respect and a real let down for anyone who had invested time into the series so far.
All of that may not have stung so badly though if the story had just been finished in an empathic manner. But no, they couldn’t get that right either.
The underpinning tale being told since the very beginning of issue one has been the FBI’s efforts to capture or kill Carnage and, on a more personal note, the quest of Manuela Calderon to see the beast that nearly killed her as a child be put down. So then, the smart thing to do would be to address that properly by either having him be captured and then set the next story arc around his incarceration and escape or by having him finally kill Calderon and evade the FBI. Those were the two options that seemed the most sensible but neither opportunity was taken.
Conway decided that the best way to end his first arc was to have no meaningful character deaths but instead have Carnage escape with ease in search of the Darkhold Cult’s book that promises him meaning in life. As for the heroes, they are all in pretty much the same state they were in at the start, with the exact same tensions between Manuela and Eddie Brock despite their quite key developments throughout the four issues. It’s this kind of lazy, unimpactful ending that causes people to stop reading and investing in series’.
Don’t think this review is as gloomy as Carnage’s setting though as there are some glimmers of light to be found. The most noteworthy of these is the speech given by Carnage that is very telling to his character. The psychopath speaks of his newfound obsession with the book and the cult as, for the first time in his life, he has found something that makes him feel special, something that says he is more than just some insignificant man. It’s such a good speech because the narcissism and arrogance on display is exactly what you are likely to find in an actual serial killer. They are people with a god complex for the most part and that is reflected quite perfectly in Conway’s writing.
Add to this the fact that the atmosphere is still incredibly dark and foreboding, thanks to the top notch artwork by Mike Perkins and Andy Troy, and you have a very good looking book that is capable of drawing you into its world. It’s just a shame that the actual story is unable to keep you there.
Overall, this is a disappointing end to a fantastic arc. There should still be some excitement for where the series will go as of issue #6 but it has to be tempered after this offering. With luck Conway and Co. will learn from there failings here and work harder to craft a more complete narrative next time around.
Score: 2 out of 5.
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