Save for a disappointing finale, the first full arc of Carnage was an enjoyable one. The story was heavy in horror clichés but it also brought enough fresh material to the table to avoid straying into rip off territory. With the second arc beginning in this issue it became clear that Gerry Conway and Co. would not be resting on the laurels as they switched up the tone to the extent that the entire genre shifted for much of the book.
Whereas the mine based story of the first five books was a deeply claustrophobic one, filled with gritty action and intense standoffs, issue six proved to me something more akin to a grand adventure piece. The story took place at sea, hence the title of ‘Sea Devil’, and centred more on the very human lead of Jabulile Van Scotter than it did on Carnage himself. The tone remained light for a large portion of the comic and the hopeful colouring provided by Andy Troy encapsulated that perfectly.
Jabulile proves to be a worthy lead, too, as she sets herself immediately apart from previous accompanying cast members. Typically, a side character in a Carnage story will do little to make their own mark on the story. They are, by and large, one dimensional people who serve primarily as cannon fodder for the far more interesting serial killer hunting them down. This was the case in the first arc as all the supporting characters not named Eddie Brock, or John Jameson were lacking in any major developments or recognisable personality traits. Jabulile, on the other hand, is instantly likable as she portrays a vulnerable side along with her tough exterior which makes her a relatable and endearing addition.
Her good nature is a worry from the off though as she goes out of her way to help the lone survivor of a shipwreck. That survivor? Carnage of course. Once she’s trapped aboard her small boat with the titular psychopath it feels as though time is running out for the young explorer and that just cranks the tension up more than a few notches. You genuinely don’t want this girl to die, which couldn’t be said for the protagonists last time around. She affords the series some lighthearted tranquility and proves to be the perfect thing to counterbalance the overwhelming darkness that accompanies Carnage wherever he goes. Instead of dying however, something altogether more interesting happens. Without spoiling the specifics, it should suffice to say that she will be sticking around on this book for a while longer and her character just got a whole hell of a lot more interesting. You’re going to have to pick up a copy to find out why, though.
Alongside this almost slice of life styled story there is the previously visited narrative involving the Darkhold. Readers got to see some of its power towards the end of the last arc and it was once again on display here, only with a smaller emphasis for the most part. It is already proving to be a compelling piece of the puzzle that is Carnage’s mind and seems to have offered him both some clarity and more confusion all at once. He is happier in himself as he has purpose and increased abilities but he also is now consumed with discovering more about the book and fulfilling his apparent promise. These facets make Carnage a more engaging lead as he steps away from the fairly unevolved killer to be a more complex individual with an evolving psychopathy that should interest any reader.
The only negative that can be pointed out in all of this is that Carnage’s new powers are still not fully realised and it might be more effective to show them in all their glory rather than dropping hints and suggestions throughout the admittedly often overdone dialogue. That’s a small gripe though and not one that detracts from the comic in any measurable way. It’s more of a concern going forward that it is a critique of this as a standalone story.
Once more the art on display in this title is gorgeous. Mike Perkins and the previously mentioned Andy Troy are proving to be a bit of a dream team when it comes to capturing a mood and really driving home a story with unique visuals and arresting landscapes. The use of colour to make a moment pop or to allow the visuals to take a more subdued backseat in order to let the dialogue take centre stage is magnificent. They have not slipped up yet in this run and it would be shock to see them do so at any point in the future either.
As you may have expected, Carnage is on fine form once more as this new arc kicks off. It is not entirely clear where the story is headed from here but it will likely be a hell of a journey as fans find out.
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