Carnage #1 Review: A Slow Start for a New Era of Carnage

Carnage has become bigger than ever over the past couple of years. Not only did the longtime Spider-Man villain make his big-screen debut last year in Venom: Let There Be Carnage, but he also featured in his own Marvel event series in 2019 with Absolute Carnage, which later led into King in Black and a litany of other spinoffs. After becoming such a major player in the Marvel universe, Carnage now has his own ongoing series that will focus entirely on the vicious symbiote. And while this run has the potential to be enjoyable in the future, the inaugural issue doesn't do a whole lot to grab your attention right away. 

Carnage picks up after the events of this year's Carnage Forever one-shot and sees the symbiote merely setting the stage for his next nefarious plan. Much of Carnage #1 focuses less on Carnage itself, and more on the surrounding characters that are going to play a role in this series. One of those characters is a detective that has found himself intertwined with Carnage's latest plot, while the other is a serial killer that has been looking to gain the attention of the symbiote. 

This focus on new characters in Carnage #1, while vital to set the story in motion, doesn't make this first issue all that enticing. Of the three characters mentioned, Carnage itself gets the least focus in issue #1, which isn't desirable when you're picking up a comic book that is literally called Carnage. In addition to this, much of Carnage's own motivations are still shrouded in mystery by the time this issue comes to a close. Instead, all we're really told is that the symbiote is trying to discover what life is like without being bonded to Cletus Kassady. In short, Carnage does very little to hook you over the course of its opening issue. 

If there is one thing that Carnage #1 does well, though, it's that it fills in the gaps of where Carnage has been in recent years. Personally, I haven't read every Carnage storyline that has come about in recent history, which made me a bit concerned that much of this new run would go over my head. Luckily, Carnage #1 quickly catches readers up to speed and lets them know where the character is at now. So if you pick up this comic and quickly find yourself wondering why Cletus Kassady is no longer in the picture, Carnage gives you a solid rundown of how things got this way.

Perhaps my favorite part of Carnage is the short, one-off story that is included at the end of this issue. Although it's only a couple of pages long, the story sees Cletus Kassady's version of Carnage teaming up with troubled youth in the name of revenge and "chaos." Despite being so brief, this story actually finds a way to explore some interesting ground with Carnage as a character, which I appreciated quite a bit. Most of the time, Carnage is just presented as this blood-thirsty monster that is out to cause havoc left and right. And while that still rings true in this short story, we do get to see some other intriguing sides of the character as well. 

Francesco Manna's art in Carnage is likely one of the better elements of this new series thus far. Manna does a great job of nailing the eerie, dark tone that Carnage is aiming for. The look of Carnage itself in this book is also incredibly unique, which is welcoming since the character is really embarking on a new era in this series. Conversely, Ron Lim's art in the aforementioned one-shot at the end of the issue opts to present Carnage with a classic look. Lim's art also does a fantastic job presenting highly-emotive characters, which makes Carnage's eventual rampage in the story even more fun.

Carnage seems like it could have a promising future. Although I still wish this series would have done more to get its hooks into me right away, some of the larger ideas and themes that have been presented in this installment make me interested in seeing where writer Ram V takes the story in the future. I remain hopeful that this new run to coincide with Carnage's 30th anniversary will prove to be equal parts compelling and harrowing as time goes on. 

Published by Marvel Comics

On March 16, 2022

Written by Ram V

Art by Francesco Manna

Colors by Dijjo Lima

Letters by Joe Sabino

Cover by Kendrick "Kunkka" Lima