Thursday, August 8, 2013

Superior Carnage #2 Review

Still Not a Lot of Carnage
By Orion Petitclerc

Well, here we are again. Another Superior Carnage review. Let’s recap, shall we? We found our favorite psychopath in red brain-dead from his run-in with Kaine, the new Scarlet Spider, and under the highly inefficient care of some unnamed super prison. D-lister supervillain the Wizard stages a breakout using mind control, during which he recruits the instant top-dog of the riot—our friendly neighborhood Cletus Kasady. Wizard’s third-rate plan of controlling Carnage’s mind and repurposing him as his own Agent Venom for the new Frightful Four goes, of course, awry when he realizes Kasady had been lobotomized and, in turn, is mind control-proof. Before Carnage gets his chance to tear out Wizard’s throat, the first recruit of the new Four saves the day with his mastery of sound: Klaw.
Hey, wait a second...
In this issue, we find our motley musketeers holed up in some undisclosed location in New York City (I’m sensing a theme) outside of prison, where Klaw and Wizard have their ravaging recruit chained up and neutralized via…some sort of glowing tech. Probably sonic emitters or thermal radiators. Or friendship rays. Yeah, probably that.

Wizard reassures Klaw that he knows what he’s doing in the most unreassuringly fashion by substituting a photo of Agent Venom with a photo of Black Tarantula and then throwing an insecurity tantrum when Klaw points this out. Look how far you’ve fallen from the first issue, Wizard: first you concoct a half-assed, hackneyed prison break against the most insecure containment facility, then you try to mind control someone who even an average joe prisoner knew was lobotomized, and now you’re showing off your scrapbook diary of “intel” collected on a secret government operation, and throwing a hissy fit at whoever you show it to.
Looking real mature there, Wizzy.
Just as Wizard is about to descend into the juvenile (jeez, I swear that’s not an innuendo!), in walks—I mean, in rolls another nobody and the final member of the new Frightful Four, Dr. Karl Mallus. Again, here I am—a relatively new reader to everything Marvel outside symbiotes and Moon Knight—wondering who the heck this guy with the nerdiest bowl cut is, and how in Kevin Shinick’s evil mastermind of a plot Mallus is going to fit in a Carnage title. Supposedly he’s in a wheel chair for some run-in with “the wrong crowd”? With Wizard’s whole karma speech and Stephen Segovia’s layout, I’m assuming Carnage put Mallus in the chair at some point. That’s what I’m reading into, of course.
Dr. Who Now?
Whoever Mallus is, he’s going to be one of the two big brains of the Frightful Four. Okay, I can get behind the evil genius angle. No problem. He even looks the part next to dorky Wizard. Who’s dorky. Did I not cover this in my first review? Anyways, after introductions, Wizard moves on with his silly plan to create the Superior Carnage and releases Carnage from his bonds to try and mind control the symbiote instead. Déjà vu kicks in as Carnage returns to tearing at Wizard to within an inch of his life. Crazy old Wizard constantly fights his comrades with letting him handle Carnage by himself to earn the beast’s control. Methinks Wizard likes himself a bit of abuse.
I feel like I've seen this before...
Klaw swoops in again and saves Wizard from looking like a complete nincompoop (which is Wizard’s true power from what I can tell) causing the purple idiot to totally break down in a delusional, pathetic haze. Again, at this point Wizard mentions his son, Bently, whom he’s seemingly obsessed with. Just when we’re left guessing what’s gotten into Wizard, Mallus pipes in with a warning to Klaw about what they got themselves into, revealing how Black Bolt messed up Wizard’s mind and gave him Dementia. Wizard regains his sanity once more and persists on trying to mind control the symbiote again.
Spider-Man, Spider-Man!
                 Irresponsible Spider-Man!
Then we cut to…FINALLY…the Superior Spider-Man, web swinging over the rooftops of New York City towards stopping the Jackal and his newest evil plan (alluding to events in Superior Spider-Man Team-Up #2). We catch our not-so-friendly neighborhood wall crawler berating some unknown caller on an unseen Bluetooth headset (or the Marvel Universe equivalent) for bothering him with details on the Wizard/Carnage breakout he was already aware of. Most likely this is Mayor J. Jonah Jameson on the other end of the line, considering Spidey says the entire police force is the caller’s. Spidey-Ock (or SpOck, as the internet has dubbed him) hangs up and reminisces on Wizard and the events that lead to his downfall, revealing that not only did Black Bolt mess with his mind, but Wizard only has a few weeks left to live. SpOck ponders whether Wizard’s newest caper is a last attempt to make a name for himself or a suicide mission, and then…pretty much says, “oh well, maybe I should look into it, but guy’s probably gonna bite it anyways, so meh.” And what about Carnage, SpOck? You’re just going to let a mindless murder machine loose in the wild jungle city? How irresponsible.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the only cameo the Superior Spider-Man gets in this miniseries. He pretty much said it himself: he really doesn’t care about the situation as much as Parker would’ve. But I would like to see a fight amongst the new Superior Carnage, SpOck, and Agent Venom by the end of this. That’s a lot of wishful thinking and a plane ticket back from Philidelphia for Flash.
Returning to the Fallible—er, I mean Frightful Four, Wizard has already tried four times to control Carnage with no tangible results. His frustration with failure breaks his fragile mind here and there as his Dementia slips a little. Then, as he’s trying to think of why he’s failing at his plan, Mallus touches upon a tidbit of information that sparks Wizard’s imagination: the government was able to make Agent Venom because the symbiote wasn’t bonded to the host DNA like Carnage is, and that since Kasady’s mind is gone, it will never be controllable.
Finally, someone who's making sense!
Wizard has his light bulb moment and volunteers Mallus for a blood transfusion with Kasady, essentially transferring the symbiote from its brain-dead host to a fully-functional one—relatively speaking, of course. So Mallus is now Flash Thompson (because of his disability), and about to become Agent Carnage. That’s why he’s in the book. Joy. Mallus appeals to Klaw’s reason, proving that Wizard’s own disability is getting to his sanity, but after Klaw gives Mallus a history lesson about himself and Wizard, he sides with Wizard, shakes Mallus down, and straps him to a table. The book ends with Mallus sprouting the signature Venom tongue as his eyes go red and black during the transfusion.
Dr. Mallus is...
This is the way the world ends: not with a bang, but with an obscure, crippled evil genius inheriting the Carnage symbiote. Ay Dios mio. Here I was, ten months ago, wishing Marvel would finally euthanize Carnage in Minimum Carnage for pity’s sake, and now I fear Mallus adopting the mantle only meant for Cletus Kasady. Sorry if this sounds old school, but Shinick should know to never kiss on a first date. We only just met Mallus, and now we’re supposed to accept him as the new Carnage, even though we know so little about him? At least Andi got a strong 8-issue head start before she became Mania, the new symbiote on the block, in Venom #38, and she was a brand-new, original character. And I liked Andi a lot more than Mallus on our first date…I mean at first glance. So besides the Carnage Purist in me throwing a fit over someone else taking the name and symbiote, the lack of character development makes me want the symbiote to reject Mallus as a host, hop back onto Cletus, cure his lobotomy, and kill everyone in the room.
It was nice to finally have Spidey show up in the book as opposed to the last one (a point which I criticized), but it seems he still has no purpose in the plot other than to lend the “Superior” title to an otherwise seemingly inferior Carnage. If he’s going to bow out of the story and we get stuck with Mallus as the new Carnage, then what’s the point of calling this book Superior Carnage? So far, this has still only been Wizard’s story, if not a Frightful Four one. And if Mallus is the new Carnage, then Kasady has no place in Wizard’s Frightful Four, and the name of the group becomes null. This story is really starting to fall apart unless Shinick’s got his ducks in a row for the next three issues. He better or Marvel will have a lot of angry fans to deal with.
Also, as much, or as little, of Carnage there actually was in the first issue, there’s a lot less in the second. There are a grand total of three pages in which he, in all his symbiote glory, makes an appearance. Three pages. I think I need to be reminded again of whose name is in the title of this book, people.
Segovia and Jay David Ramos are still knocking it out of the park in the art department. Although, I’m not a huge fan of the dark eyes they gave the characters in the last three pages. I get that it’s supposed to show the symbiote taking over Kasady and Mallus, but even Wizard had them black eyes on the double-page spread. That’s pretty much my only complaint for the art besides what was already said in my first review.

BOTTOM LINE: Superior Carnage #2 gets a 4 out of 5 for the art and a 3 out of 5 for the story, since it feels like this is less of a Carnage book than before. Overall, I give the book 3.5 stars out of 5.

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