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Comic Book / Carnage (2022)

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Carnage Rules!

Carnage is a comic series written by Ram V and Alex Paknadel,note  with art by Francesco Manna and color by Dijio Lima, and published by Marvel Comics; and is the third ongoing comic starring the titular sanguine symbiote. The series was preceded by Carnage Forever, an anthology one-shot with two main stories; one of which, "Unmade in His Image", is written by Ram V (with art by Salvador Larroca) and acts as a direct prequel to the series. The other anthology story, "Homecoming", written by Phillip Kennedy Johnson with art by Edgar Salazar, shows a young girl's life-changing encounter with Carnage.

In the wake of Extreme Carnage, Cletus Kasady and the Carnage symbiote have gone their separate ways. Cut off from its usual human host, the Carnage symbiote sets out to test its capabilities and become something even more deadly; while NYPD detective Jon Shayde hunts for the Artist, a serial killer swept up in Carnage's schemes.

The first issue of the ongoing series was released March 16 2022, and the series leads into Web Of Carnage and the Carnage Reigns and Death of the Venomverse events.

Carnage (2022) contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Elsie's mother and step-father don't just neglect her, they physically abuse and torture her by burning her arms.
  • Admiring the Abomination:
    • Assuming that the Carnage symbiote is trying to free him from jail because it wants him as its new host, Morris Bench eagerly accepts. Unfortunately for Bench, the symbiote reveals it has other plans for him, ones that don't involve keeping him alive.
    • In the first issue, Serial Killer Kenneth Neely gushes about how witnessing the events of King In Black opened his eyes to the terrible might of Knull, and that he's since been trying to commune with Knull by performing sacrifices and scrawling Knull's spiral sigil in blood. This attracts Carnage's attention, and Neely offers himself to the symbiote as its next host.
    • In "A Lesson in BLOOD and BONE", a teenage boy escapes from juvie and pays a visit to the ruins of St. Estes', where he runs into Carnage... who is rather taken aback when the boy starts gushing about how awesome the monstrous serial killer is.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: While the second story of Carnage Forever, "Unmade in His Image", is definitely set after Extreme Carnage, it's unclear precisely when the first story, "Homecoming", takes place.
  • Answers to the Name of God: Kenneth Neely was driven even more insane by witnessing the events of King In Black and was trying to commune with the symbiote god Knull. Instead, he attracted the attention of the Carnage symbiote, who asked if he was trying to call it up instead.
  • Anti-Villain: Zeiste the dark elf is a member of the Black Bile Clan and was a loyal follower of Malekith when he was alive, despite not being much of a warrior on account of his missing hand and crooked spine. He volunteers himself for the ritual to capture a wolf-god's cubs hoping to either win the rest of the clan's respect or die trying.
  • Batman Gambit: Upon learning that Cletus isn't interested in stopping the Carnage symbiote's pursuit of godhood or even leaving St. Estes, Kenneth Neely baits him into doing so by saying he's second fiddle to the Carnage symbiote and that people are no longer afraid of him. Cletus — who was about to kill Neely — susses out what Neely is trying to do but decides to play along anyway, amusedly saying he understands why his former symbiote found Neely interesting.
  • Breaking the Fellowship: The series opens with the Carnage symbiote and Cletus Kasady's codex having parted ways less-than amicably, with the solicits stating Cletus abandoned it to take over the Extrembiote during Extreme Carnage.note  For its part, the Carnage symbiote is intent on forging its own path sans host — even expressing the opinion that Cletus was holding it back from attaining its full potential — and scorns the idea of taking another host at all.
  • Canis Major: Part of Carnage's plan in Svartalfheim involves obtaining a Nyazen Pup, a cub of the wolf-goddess Nyaz, who chases Svartalfheim's moon in an attempt to eat it. Carnage #5 shows them to be giant wolves that are Wreathed in Flames, and Carnage succeeds in taking over one of them — who he dubs "Spike".
  • Chest Burster: A variant. Serial Killer "The Artist" leaves a body strung up with a stomach full of butterflies, dozens of which flutter out when the corpse splits open.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • "A Lesson in BLOOD and BONE" shows the ruined exterior of St. Estes' looking exactly as it did when it first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #361, as opposed to its even more dilapidated state in "Homecoming".
    • In the fourth issue, Malekith is shown to still be crucified in Hel with his eyes sewn open following his death in the War of the Realms, weeping at the sight of his child-self being happy.
    • In the fourth issue, the ruins of Loomworld on Earth-001 are shown, with Spiderling still putting the Web of Life and Destiny back together from when it was blown up in Spider-Geddon.
    • In the seventh issue, it's revealed that Carnage is after Malekith for the codex left behind by him bonding to the Venom symbiote in War of the Realms.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Morris Bench is subjected to one in the second issue, in which Carnage rips out his core and his body painfully destabilizes before exploding into a heap of entrails and bloody water.
  • Deus ex Machina: In the fourth issue, Jon's symbiote snarks that they'd need the "hand of providence" to save them after they're left stranded in deep space. Close to the end of the issue, Annie Parker from The Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows yanks Shayde into the ruins of Loomworld to get him to help her stop Carnage from destroying the Web of Life and Destiny. In the fifth issue she uses the Web to air-drop Shayde into Niffleheim, putting him ahead of Carnage in the race to Malekith.
  • Devil's Pitchfork: The cover of the sixth issue shows a demonic-looking Carnage holding an ornate red-and-black bident while stomping on Malekith, and the symbiote eventually creates it as its equivalent to All-Black the Necrosword — All-Blood.
  • Eldritch Location: Issue #8 reveals that Cletus assimilated the entirety of St. Estes' Home for Boys into the Extrembiote, turning it into an extension of himself. While the outside looks like the burnt-out ruins of an orphanage, Cletus has complete control over the layout of the interior and uses it to Mind Rape people who intrude — goading them into mutilating and ultimately killing themselves.
  • Enfant Terrible: The main character of "Homecoming" is Elsie, a semi-homeless young girl who lives with her abusive mother and stepfather in a derelict townhouse. After being bullied by some drunk college students, she takes refuge in the burnt-out ruins of St. Estes'... where she encounters the Carnage symbiote — being piloted by Cletus Kasady's codex. The symbiote bonds to her, and Elsie is quickly indoctrinated into Cletus' nihilistic worldview, gleefully murdering the college students, skinning her step-father's dog alive, devouring her step-father, and burning her mother alive.
  • Evil Versus Evil:
    • Over the course of the series, Carnage hunts down Hydro-Man, the Spot, and Malekith; killing or otherwise brutally maiming them to obtain pieces of their powers it can use to augment itself.
    • After escaping Carnage, Kenneth Neely tries to recruit Cletus Kasady to stop his former symbiote from becoming a god of destruction.
  • Freudian Slip:
    • Despite disparaging Cletus and his love of chaos at every opportunity, the Carnage symbiote has slipped up a few times — revealing it still admires and genuinely misses him but is too bitter and angry over their falling-out to admit it.
    • Cletus, for all his insistence that he doesn't care what the Carnage symbiote is doing, gets very upset when Kenneth attributes its Godhood Seeker plan to the symbiote, shouting that the plan was his and sulking when Kenneth points out how worked-up he's getting.
  • A God Am I: Issue #8 has Cletus espouse that within the boundaries of St. Estes he can choose to be a god.
  • Godhood Seeker: With a twist. The third issue reveals that, having gotten a taste of Knull's power in Absolute Carnage, Cletus was plotting to double-cross him and steal his power... only for Eddie Brock to beat him to it at the end of King In Black. Cletus then came up with a new plan to become a god-butcher... only to seemingly give up on it, leading the Carnage symbiote to decide that Cletus was holding it back and execute the plan solo. #9 reveals that it hinges on the symbiote getting its claws on a replica of All-Black.
  • Handicapped Badass: Zeiste the dark elf has one hand and a crooked spine, but is just as capable a warrior as the rest of the Black Bile Clan — if not more so, since he's had to fight to prove himself despite being looked down on for his disabilities. Carnage certainly underestimates him, as he's able to easily ambush and overpower Kenneth Neely.
  • Haunted House: Issue #8 exposits that St. Estes has acquired a reputation of being haunted by the ghosts of the children who died when it burnt down, a certain undead red-haired serial killer, and/or a vengeful young girl turned into a bloodthirsty monster (a nod to Elsie from Carnage Forever's "Homecoming").
  • Heel–Face Turn: The copy of Cletus Kasady's consciousness imprinted into Jon Shayde's offshoot of the Carnage symbiote notes that his goody-two-shoes-ness must be rubbing off on it, since it wants to help him stop Carnage from razing the world rather than pouring on the gas and making s'mores like the real Cletus would.
  • Heel Realization: Ken Neely finds no beauty or satisfaction in betraying and murdering Zeiste in the fifth issue, and in the sixth issue is forced to relive all his crimes by the bird/dragon god Rosvelg — coming to the realization that he was never an artist, only a killer. However, he doubles down on his current path due to pressure from Carnage. In #9 he agrees to help Drorin Runehewer kill Carnage by overloading it with the Godmaker forge’s power.
  • Hell Seeker: Or Hel Seeker, in this case. In Issue #6 Carnage breaks into the Norse afterlife of Hel looking for Malekith, picking a fight with a bunch of draugar after portalling into Niflheim.
  • Horror Hunger: Cletus' appetite has skyrocketed, as issue #12 has him ravenously eating several plates of food and then go berserk over his steak and eggs taking too long, devouring several of the patrons and staff at the diner.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Carnage praises Kenneth for showing such gusto towards mutilation and murder, then berates him for scrawling Knull's "damned spiral" every time he kills someone... despite Carnage having said spiral emblazoned on his forehead.
  • I Never Told You My Name: Jerry, a survivor of the St. Estes' Massacre, notes he never told Elsie his name when she mentions it. Elsie tries to brush him off, but he notices the burn scars on her arms have disappeared... whereupon Elsie drops the innocent act and reveals her new friend Cletus told her all about him, then transforms into Carnage to kill him.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: Once in Svartalfheim, Carnage sends Neely to assassinate the dark elf Zeiste, snarking that even Neely should be able to handle a one-armed elf with a crooked spine. Zeiste effortlessly ambushes Neely and takes him hostage not five pages later.
  • Married to the Job: Detective Jonathan Shayde notes to himself that his job is his life, and that without it he has nothing but an apartment that's empty save for beer bottles and pizza boxes.
  • Mind Rape: Rosvelg is a deity resembling a cross between an eagle and a dragon, and is charged with tormenting those damned to Hel for their sins by crying them out — causing his victims to tortuously relive every sin they ever committed. Ken Neely has a Heel Realization as a result of Rosvelg targeting him, but Carnage gives Rosvelg a taste of his own medicine by mind-bombing him. The sheer magnitude of Carnage's past, present, and future sins drives Rosvelg insane, causing him to collapse into an Angst Coma.
  • Next Tier Power-Up: The Carnage symbiote's goal is to see what it can do without a host and break through its limits to become more powerful and deadly than everstarting with ripping out Morris Bench's core and assimilating it, going after the Johnathon Ohnn to obtain access to the Spotted Dimension, and going after Malekith in Hel to obtain his codex from when he bonded to the Venom symbiote.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In #10, Jon Shayde accidentally saves the Carnage symbiote from Drorin and Ken Neely's attempt to kill it. Carnage attains its desired apotheosis, kills Drorin, and takes Shayde as its new host in "thanks" for him saving it.
  • Noodle Incident: Carnage Forever opens with the Carnage symbiote and Cletus already having gone their separate ways, with no indication as to how or why they had a falling out. The third issue provides a bit more clarity, with Carnage scorning Cletus for seemingly having abandoned their plan for godhood after obtaining the Extrembiote, and deciding to execute the plan solo.
  • No-Sell: The Carnage symbiote retains its immunity to flames from Absolute Carnage, as Varuen discovers when he tries to immolate it with fire-magic.
  • Oh, Crap!: In Carnage Forever, Morris Bench realizes he's in deep trouble when Carnage snares him with tendrils, and his panic only increases when the symbiote somehow prevents him from escaping despite him being made of water.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • Kenneth Neely initially idolizes Carnage, but gradually realizes that something is very wrong due to the sanguine symbiote's insistence on strictly following a plan, disdainfully disparaging Cletus at every opportunity, and mocking its former host's love for wanton chaos and aimless slaughter; ultimately deciding to recruit Cletus into helping stop it.
    • Following his brush with godhood in Absolute Carnage, Cletus plotted to usurp the throne of the King in Black — coming up with the very plan his former symbiote is executing — but decided that no amount of slaughter could match his twisted imagination and opted to just use the Extrembiote to bring that to life while preying on those foolish enough to disturb him. Kenneth pulls a Batman Gambit to snap Cletus out of his The Shut-In phase, leading to the events of Carnage Reigns.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Rather than just kill and/or eat Elsie, an abused child, the Carnage symbiote — and through it Cletus — decides to help her get revenge on everyone who hurt her, with Elsie considering them her best friend as a result.
    • The Carnage symbiote actually follows through on its promise to spare prison guard Santiago Vellez after Vellez helps it get to Hydro-Man.
    • In the second issue, the Carnage symbiote saves Detective Jonathan Shayde's life by bonding him to a piece of itself after his body is almost atomized by jumping through the vortex of energy emitted by the dying Hydro-Man. When Ken Neely expresses jealousy, Carnage says it's also a test to see whether Shayde can resist its corrupting influence or if he'll succumb and become as much of a monster as the man he seeks to stop.
  • Power Parasite: Carnage rips out Hydro-Man's core and assimilates it into itself to become stronger, and seeks to do the same to Dr. Johnathon Ohnn — aka the Spot. Jon's symbiote implies that there's a list of characters Carnage is gunning for, and that if it succeeds in obtaining their powers it will be nigh-invincible.
  • Psycho Supporter: Kenneth Neely is a huge fan of Carnage and wants nothing more than to become the symbiote's new host. Carnage is dismissive of him, but rather than kill him it decides to give him a lesson on how to be a better serial killer. In #9, Neely laments having followed Carnage, saying it’s not the same Carnage he admired.
  • Quantum Mechanics Can Do Anything: In the first issue, Carnage uses its symbiote matter to tamper with Morris Bench's atomic structure and somehow turn him into a blue-and-red vortex of energy, citing water's nature as an "infinite medium".
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • In Carnage Forever, the Carnage symbiote mocks Morris Bench for assuming it would want him as a host, before skewering him with tendrils and ripping him apart while sneering that he hasn't even begun to tap into the full potential of his powers.
    • In Issue #5, the Carnage symbiote delivers a scathing tirade to Varuen mocking the Black Bile Clan's slavish devotion to Malekith, comparing and contrasting this to its former slavish devotion to Cletus Kasady.
  • Resurrective Immortality: The Spot claims to have this, saying that he'll just reform in the Spotted Dimension after Carnage tears him apart.
  • Retcon:
    • The 2015 Carnage series established that Manuela Caulderon was the Sole Survivor of the St. Estes' Massacre, but "Homecoming" from Carnage Forever reveals that at least one other person — Jerry — survived.
    • Both Carnage Forever and the main series treat the Carnage symbiote as being the original spawned by the Venom symbiote when it's actually a piece of the Grendel symbiote-dragon with the original Carnage symbiote's consciousness controlling it. This isn't the first time this happened either; there have been other instances of the original Carnage symbiote being killed and replaced only for the original's remaining mind and biomatter to overtake the ne one.
  • Save the Villain: In the sixth issue, Jon Shayde comes across Malekith, his symbiote trying to goad him into killing the dark elf warlord to top Carnage's plans. Despite his symbiote listing Malekith's numerous atrocities, Shayde instead frees Malekith, who takes an interest in him and decides to help him escape Hel.
  • Serial Killer: The first issue introduces Kenneth Neely, a serial killer known to police as "The Artist". He's a huge fan of Cletus Kasady, though Carnage finds him inadequate.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • The solicit for Carnage Vol. 1 says that Cletus' codex abandoned the Carnage symbiote to take over the Extrembiote symbiote-dragon at the end of Extreme Carnage, but what actually happened was that Cletus assimilated the Extrembiote into the Carnage symbiote — merging them together. This is resolved in Issue #11, where Cletus recaps the ending of Extreme Carnage for Kenneth Neely.
    • In Issue #9, Carnage refers to the Necrosword that Malekith formed from the Venom symbiote in War of the Realms as a manifestation of All-Black.
  • Shadow Archetype: In Issue #5, Carnage explains to Neely that the reason it sent him to kill Zeiste was because Zeiste is so similar to him. Indeed, Zeiste almost convinces Neely to betray Carnage by appealing to their similarities, and Neely found no beauty in killing the dark elf.
  • The Shut-In: Following his falling out with the Carnage symbiote, Cletus retreated to St. Estes and isolated himself inside it until Kenneth Neely baited him into going on a good old-fashioned murder spree.
  • Status Quo Is God:
    • With Jon Shayde's help, Malekith almost escapes Hel again to resume his reign as king of the dark elves and Thor's arch-nemesis... only for Carnage to put a pin — or several bladed tentacles — in his plans. Once Carnage has finished with him, Hela drags Malekith back to his crucifix to resume his torture.
    • In Issue #8, Cletus invokes this by saying that despite their falling out and its current ambitions of godhood, sooner or later the Carnage symbiote will see the error of its ways and return to him.
  • Super Empowering: After Jon Shayde — an NYPD detective whose life goal is to capture the serial killer nicknamed "the Artist" dead or alive — jumps through a vortex of energy to confront Kenneth Neely, Carnage is impressed and bonds a piece of itself to him in order to stabilize his body and give him the power to accomplish his goals. Jon is left with superhuman strength, speed, durability, and a healing factor... but he also has to deal with Cletus Kasady's memories and bloodlust trying to corrupt him.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Rosvelg is a god that resembles a cross between an eagle and a dragon, and is charged with torturing those damned to Hel for their sins via Mind Rape, consuming their sins in the process. Ken Neely is brought to the brink of madness by the weight of his Heel Realization, but Carnage mind-bombs the deity and force-feeds him so much sin and bloodlust that Rosvelg is the one driven insane.
  • Use Their Own Weapon Against Them: The Spot uses the portals on his body and which he can create to deflect Carnage's attacks and hit him. Carnage simply fires dozens of tendrils through all the portals and snares the Spot with them after Kenneth Neely breaks his concentration.
  • The Usurper: The solicit for issue #6 states that Carnage is going to Svartalfheim to usurp the throne of Malekith, who was last seen trapped in Hel after dying at the end of the War of the Realms. The third issue clarifies that the throne Carnage is interested in usurping isn't Malekith's but Knull's, currently occupied by Eddie Brock.
  • Villain Protagonist: Carnage — the symbiote, not Cletus Kasady — is the star of the series, with it trying to find its place within the broader symbiote mythos without its host's nihilistic will to guide it.
  • Villain Takes an Interest:
    • When NYPD detective Jon Shayde hurls himself through the vortex of energy created by Hydro-Man's death to confront Kenneth Neely, Carnage is impressed by his reckless determination and bonds him to a piece of itself to save his life... and see whether he will succumb to its bloodlust and become the very thing he hunts. This leads to Carnage claiming Shayde as its new host, mocking his attempts to resist its control.
    • In the sixth issue, Hela learns of what Carnage plans to become and do, and is shown sporting a Psychotic Smirk. In the seventh issue, she helps Carnage catch up with Jon and Malekith, and prevents Jon from killing Neely while Carnage extracts Malekith's Venom codex from War of the Realms.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Issue #4 introduces a bunch of dark elves who've gathered to take part in a ritual to restore the Black Bile Clan's glory following Malekith's death in the War of the Realms. The best and brightest warriors of the clan are chosen... only for most of them to be effortlessly slain by Carnage in the following issue, with Kenneth Neely reluctantly killing Zeiste on Carnage's orders.