Friday, October 25, 2013

Superior Carnage #4 Review

Oh, THERE’S Carnage!
By Orion Petitclerc

            Welcome back to another fun-time review about our favorite symbiote comic book of all time: Superior Carnage! (Riiiight…) Anyways, enough with me trying to perfume and beautify something that obviously doesn’t smell like roses or looks like something other than a pile of disappointment. (That’s better…albeit, harsh.) Let’s get to reviewing the penultimate issue in this speeding train wreck, shall we?
Previously in Superior Carnage

            The Wizard and Klaw broke out of prison, dragging along Cletus Kasady, a.k.a. Carnage, in the hopes of forming a new Frightful Four to secure the Wizard’s legacy before his impending death. They came to the quick realization that mind-controlling Carnage would be next to impossible since the Scarlet Spider had lobotomized Kasady prior to his imprisonment. With the unwilling help of Dr. Karl Mallus—some obscure, villainous surgeon condemned to a wheelchair—Wizard and Klaw transfused the Carnage symbiote from Kasady’s bloodstream to Mallus’s. Wizard was finally successful at gaining control of the symbiote once it was bonded to someone with a working brain, and transformed Mallus into the Superior Carnage. After gearing up and making an explosive exit from Wizard’s secret lair, the trio launched a vicious attack on New York City’s City Hall to kill Mayor Jameson, only to meet the Superior Spider-Man and a couple of his Spider Soldiers waiting in the mayor’s office.

            In issue #4, we pick up from the moment before the Terrible Trio’s entrance into the mayor’s office when Spider-Man and his soldiers usher Jameson into a safe room and prepare for battle. As is customary in Superior Spider-Man and issue #2, SpOck’s (fans’ nickname for the Superior Spider-Man combining Spider and Doc Ock, if you didn’t already know or don’t remember) inner monologue dismisses everyone’s intelligence in the room and expresses his nonchalance towards the situation. The next page features a full splash of the three villains as they walk through the hole they blasted to get into the office.

For being so superior, this is lacking...

            I may not be a professional artist, but even with my experience and skills I’m having an issue with the composition on this page that—I guess—was meant to be a sort of epic pinup. Where to start? How about the perspective and foreshortening? I don’t know who was responsible for this page’s layout—Stephen Segovia or Superior Carnage newcomer Dan Mexia—but it feels like the trio was pasted into the background. For one thing, they stand so flatly on the rubble pile below them; for another, it feels like there are two vanishing points that don’t quite line up right visually (one at the bottom and middle of the page dictating the characters’ foreshortening, and one at the left and middle of the page dictating the wall’s perspective). It’s easy to argue the conflicting perspectives of both the left and right sides of the broken wall as irregularities in the blast, but it still doesn’t fit right with the characters’ bird’s-eye perspective. (It’s as if the wall is slanted outward by less than 45 degrees.) Additionally, Klaw’s head looks too big compared to Carnage’s and Wizard’s, and Wizard’s left forearm looks a bit disconnected from his elbow even with the bulk of his bracer. Not to mention their boring, static poses. If these guys are supposed to be superiorly menacing, make them look the part!

            Anyways, SpOck starts to brag about how stupidly superior his preparation for their arrival is when Carnage gets all angsty and shuts down SpOck’s monologue by killing the Spider Soldiers in the room. Of course, this results in the start of the showdown we’ve been waiting for (as if…), and SpOck gets offended when Carnage claims he’s a superior version than any Carnage before him. Luckily, Kevin Shinick remembers that any symbiote spawn from Venom’s line historically doesn’t trigger Spider-Man’s spider sense, and SpOck tells the reader this as if it’s an afterthought. He then spouts off about what makes someone “superior” according to qualities he demonstrates by quickly and efficiently delivering blows to each enemy.

            Klaw’s sonic misfire from SpOck’s punch to the jaw misses Carnage, opening another hole in the wall through which more Spider Soldiers start to pour in. Before SpOck can react, though, Carnage tosses a grenade that explodes and kills the incoming patrol. Wizard orders Klaw to stop any remaining soldiers, and by command Klaw emits a constantly increasing sonic blast that incapacitates SpOck. Somehow, though, Carnage stands in a corner of the office unaffected by what should have been a deadly sonic blast for Venom and at least damaging to Carnage. It’s hard to look past this little canon slip-up, but I will for the sake of brevity.

I can't believe Carnage is just chilling in the corner after that! He's in no way THAT superior!
            Klaw’s arm blaster malfunctions (due to incomplete repairs from the last issue) allowing SpOck to regain his senses and tackle Wizard through the office window and out onto the ground amongst a plethora of paparazzi. (Wow, the mayor’s office isn’t on the second story of City Hall? Poor Jameson.) The paparazzi drill Wizard with questions about his intents, to which he answers he just wants to impact his son with his legacy. He plays up the sympathy card when SpOck grabs him, and the media accuses SpOck of intending to kill a “feeble-minded old man,” to which SpOck points out the destruction of City Hall. He webs up Wizard and takes him to the flagpole on the roof of the building to tell him he’s lost. Wizard tries to prove himself by attempting to take over SpOck’s mind, but discovers Octavius’s secret in the process.
SpOck hesitates and accidently lets slip his web line attached to Wizard. The villain falls and crashes into a van below.

            Lying broken on the vehicle, Wizard dismisses the discovery as a fluke from his dying mind, noting that he’s lost all control. Cut back to the interior of City Hall, where Carnage is unleashed from Wizard’s mental control. The psychotic symbiote lunges for Klaw, who tries to use his malfunctioning arm blaster to no avail. Back outside, SpOck curses himself for letting his shock get the best of him and potentially losing an asset in Wizard (why the Wizard would be of use to him now when moments ago he was nothing to SpOck goes unexplained). He promises to let Wizard see his son if he commands Carnage to stand down, but instead gets a surprise slash to the back from the symbiote. SpOck calls in for back up from his remaining soldiers, but Carnage tells him not to expect a response. He opens his trench coat, finally realizing its usefulness. Lo and behold, a bunch of severed human tongues hang in the recesses of the coat.

Cat got your tongue? You can't even imagine what these guys
are experiencing!

            This is the most satisfying moment in the story up to this point. It feels like we just got good ol’ Carnage back. Looking at just this panel, you wouldn’t even guess that someone besides Kasady was under the suit. That’s how you tickle our fancy, Shinick; that’s how you appeal to Carnage fans: make him do something really screwed up.

            This unhinges SpOck and he goes in for a vengeful sock to the side of the symbiote’s face. Carnage challenges SpOck to a superior pissing contest, but SpOck backs off—and rightfully so—trying to make his previous appeal again to Wizard. Klaw SCHWOOOM!s in (literally) and grabs SpOck, demanding he unhands Wizard and allow him to have his victory. Klaw sonically screams into SpOck’s face, almost killing him before Carnage stabs Klaw in the back with a vibranium-laced spike (which turns out to be Klaw’s only weakness besides a poor sense of fashion). This causes Klaw to explode violently and die in a sonic boom, sending SpOck, Wizard, and Carnage in different directions.

            SpOck rises from the blast, noticing Mallus’s naked body nearby. Naturally, he’s surprised that it wasn’t Kasady bonded to the symbiote. He starts to congratulate himself for saving the city and his secret and taking three more supervillains off the street. All a bit prematurely, of course, when there’s one more book in the story to suffer. He looks over to Wizard as he notes that he has to contain the symbiote, only to find the villain covered in it (it looks like blood, though). The issue ends with Wizard feeling like something is trying to take over his mind.
“And then in the strange way things happen,
Their roles were reversed from that day…”
–“Conquest” by the White Stripes.
            What a ride! From the generally bland and disappointing (and borderline upsetting) previous issues, we get a taste of what once was. Good, ol’ fashioned Carnage came back for those brief few pages, igniting a little hope for this mini for the first time. Still, though, there was nigh sight nor word about the fate of poor, mindless Kasady from his seemingly explosive fate in the last book. There may be a small chance that he’ll show up again for the finale in some form or another, but that’s a very small chance. Now the question is: who will be the Superior Carnage? Mallus or Wizard? Did Mallus die in the explosion, or is he just unconscious (and naked)? Considering Wizard’s condition, he’s probably going to be Carnage for less than a few minutes before he drops dead…unless the theory I posed about Kasady’s return in my last review becomes reality. Maybe the symbiote will cure and save Wizard from his malady and transfer Kasady’s consciousness into Wizard’s at the same time? Ew, on second thought, that’s a terrible idea. Wizard is just so old and…ugly. He would not look good as the new Kasady. Let’s scratch that idea from my brain with a rusty fork.

            Shinick’s work was pretty much the same in quality as he demonstrated in previous issues, but somehow he found that magical place that brought Carnage back from the dead. Brownie points for that. The art suffered this time around in places where it shouldn’t have, though, and I don’t know if that was because of Mexia’s contributions or not. Maybe Segovia’s the one who’s degrading, but it’s hard to tell. Once again, though, Clayton Crain delivers epic cover art for the book. It’s important to note, however, that the cover that printed with this issue is not the same as was advertised in the last issue’s solicitation. The cover was reworked in two places: Carnage’s head was redrawn to emulate his Superior design as opposed to the neo-classic one used before, and Spider-Man’s costume design was changed to the Superior 2.0 one as seen in the interior, whereas he originally wore his neo-classic (red and blue) suit. I personally didn’t mind the change because it fits the story, but I can also understand how this would upset those who’d prefer Carnage’s (and Spidey’s, for those opposed to SpOck) original design. I like the Superior designs, thus my preference for the changes.

            BOTTOM LINE: Superior Carnage #4 gets a 4 out of 5 for the art and a 4 out of 5 for the story for bringing back classic Carnage, even if only briefly. Overall, I give the book 4 stars out of 5.

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