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Comic Book / Carnage (2023)

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Carnage (Vol. 4) is a 2023 comic series written by Torunn Grønbekk with art by Pere Pérez, following the events of Carnage (Vol. 3) by Ram V and Alex Paknadel and Death of the Venomverse by Cullen Bunn.

Having shed the traditional weaknesses of its kind and attained apotheosis, the Carnage symbiote returns to Earth-616 seeking an answer to the question "What is a god?" Unable to find the answers it seeks on its own, the Carnage symbiote reunites with its long-time host Cletus Kasady to contemplate the nature of their newly attained godhood together. Meanwhile, Agent Anti-Venom (Flash Thompson) finds himself on the deific Carnage's trail, and may be the only one capable of stopping the apotheosized serial killer.

The first issue was published on November 22, 2023. In March of 2024, a crossover arc between it and Venom (Vol. 5), "Symbiosis Necrosis" had the new and improved Carnage go after the new and improved Venom (Dylan Brock) in order to find Eddie.

Carnage (Vol. 4) contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Aborted Arc: Carnage Reigns ends with a piece of the Extrembiote surviving Iron Man's EMP and starting to regenerate into an avatar for Cletus' consciousness. While the events of Carnage Reigns are mentioned in the second issue, the third issue—the cover of which sets up a fight between "God Butcher" Carnage and Extreme Carnage—instead has the original Cletus somehow Back from the Dead in an enfeebled human body and no symbiote, ending with "God Butcher" Carnage killing him and eating his brains.
  • Ambiguous Situation:
    • One of the men Carnage is shown killing looks identical to Jon Shayde from the previous run, though he goes unnamed so there's no telling if it's him or not.
    • Cletus tells Flash not to be too concerned about John Statler-Baker's death while insinuating that the man was a Pedophile Priest. It is unclear if this is true or if Cletus was just being macabre.
  • And Then What?: One of the driving questions of the run is the Carnage symbiote figuring out what it wants to do with its godhood now that it's actually attained it, having been asked said Armor-Piercing Question by the Lord Librarian, and turning to Cletus Kasady to help find the answers to that question. And Cletus' solution to the quandary, of course, involves murder. Lots and lots of murder.
  • An Arm and a Leg: The Lord Librarian loses his right arm at the elbow jamming the black hole at the tip of his staff into the Carnage symbiote's chest in a desperate attempt to kill it.
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • The Lord Librarian barrages Carnage with a number of questions intended to get it to reconsider the path it's walking.
      Lord Librarian: If you are a god — who prays to you? Who worships you? What is your doctrine? What were you created to do? What — Carnage — what is your purpose? And where — Carnage — where is the rest of you?!
    • Cletus asks Flash why he is using the Anti-Venom symbiote to fight crime instead of healing the sick, and then tries to get Flash to question his own existence by asking him about the circumstances of his resurrection during King in Black.
  • The Bus Came Back: Carnage rampages through Omnipotence City while carving a bloody swath through a group of god soldiers wearing Greek armor who are attempting to protect the Lord Librarian — who hasn't been seen since the ending of King Thor.
  • Clone by Conversion: The Carnage symbiote eats a man and uses his biomass to create a clone of Cletus Kasady as he was when they first bonded, then imprints the clone with the decade's worth of memories that have occurred since then to effectively resurrect him.
  • Comic-Book Time: The narration box notes that anywhere between one and several decades has passed in-universe since Cletus became Carnage, though even with Marvel's sliding timescale this doesn't really add up.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover of #3 shows Extreme Carnage (the original Cletus Kasady and the Extrembiote) throwing down with Carnage (the clone of Cletus Kasady and the original Carnage symbiote), but that doesn't happen in the issue itself. Instead, Carnage promptly eats Cletus—who is somehow human again, without any symbiote whatsoever—and pukes up his half-digested body due to Cletus having attempted to infuse himself with Anti-Venom. After some banter, Carnage then cuts off the top of Cletus' head and eats his brains to assimilate his mind into the clone's.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Dozens of heavily-armored god-soldiers barely slow the Carnage symbiote down as it tears a swath through Omnipotence City's Halls of All-Knowing seeking to interrogate the Lord Librarian, getting effortlessly torn to shreds.
  • Curb Stomp Cushion: In #3, the original Cletus sets Carnage on fire by igniting a broken gas pipe, though all this does is annoy the symbiote. Carnage then swallows Cletus whole, only to discover he'd injected himself with concentrated antibodies in emulation of Anti-Venom. Carnage pukes up Cletus' half-digested body, exsanguinates him, cuts off the top of his head, and eats his brain.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The Cletus clone leaves Nathaniel Jones locked in a glass box that slowly fills with boiling water, melting his flesh off as it cooks him alive. By the time onlookers livestreaming his death realize this isn't a publicity stunt or prank, it's too late to save him.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: In the third issue, the original Cletus Kasady—somehow restored to an enfeebled flesh-and-blood human body—is swallowed whole by the Carnage symbiote, vomited out half-digested, and then unceremoniously gets the top of his head cut off and his brain eaten.
  • Eat Brain for Memories: In #4, Carnage eats the original Cletus Kasady's brain to assimilate his consciousness into the clone's.
  • Faux Affably Evil: The series has Cletus blend in and mingle among normal people more than he ever has before, and his behavior while doing so positively oozes this in scenes like the one where he converses with Sarah the waitress in #1, when he chastises the Carnage symbiote for wanting to go on a wanton killing spree in #3, and when he visits Flash's mother, Rosie, in #4.
  • Finishing Each Other's Sentences: As they get closer together, the clone of Cletus and the original Cletus begin finishing each other's sentences as they narrate a school trip to Newmarket.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: The Carnage symbiote's clone of Cletus is as he was when it first bonded to him, and is missing over a decade's worth of memories that the symbiote has to fill him in on.
  • A God Am I: The clone of Cletus takes the Carnage symbiote's mission to heart, and once they become one—mind and body—he starts referring to himself as a god. This starts grating on the Carnage symbiote in the second issue, where he spends ten minutes going on a theological tangent with a hitchhiker he picked up instead of just killing him.
  • Godzilla Threshold: The Lord Librarian's staff is revealed to contain a black hole which the narration mentions is his last defense and something that he has never had to resort to using before he met Carnage.
  • Killing Your Alternate Self: The cover for Issue #3 shows the Carnage symbiote and clone of Cletus Kasady locked in a fight to the death with Extreme Carnage — the Extrembiote being piloted by the original Cletus Kasady's codex — with the solicit suggesting only one will survive. In the issue itself Carnage unceremoniously kills the original Cletus—who was somehow returned to an enfeebled human body—and eats his brain to assimilate his consciousness into that of the Cletus clone.
  • Kill the God: Having successfully attained apotheosis in Death of the Venomverse, Carnage is shown rampaging through Omnipotence City and easily butchering gods.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Flash senses Carnage's return to Earth through the Anti-Venom symbiote as an ominous dread that feels familiar but which he can't quite place. Liz Allan can also sense it via the Misery symbiote, though she insists that Carnage was killed by Iron Man some time prior.
  • Never Gets Drunk: A former alcoholic, Flash is no longer able to get drunk thanks to the Anti-Venom symbiote.
  • Not Worth Killing: After reuniting with the Carnage symbiote following its romp through the Garden of Time, Cletus notices he missed one of the parishioners at Our Lady of Saints Church—a middle-aged woman who says her only regret is having hid while he slaughtered everyone else, and that while she is afraid of death she did as much good as she could and is ready to meet God. Cletus finds her so utterly boring that he walks off in disgust, telling her to do something with her life to make it worth taking.
    Cletus: Then where's the fun? Your life sounds teeth-grindingly boring. Do some drugs. Have an orgasm or ten. Make yourself a life worth taking.
  • Other Me Annoys Me: The Cletus clone is annoyed by the Carnage symbiote's continued attraction towards the original and concerned that he will try to stop their pursuit of godhood, and indeed the original Cletus looks less than impressed when they come face to face at the end of the second issue.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Most of the people Carnage targets are scum—murderers and a Pedophile Priest, for example—not because he's a Well-Intentioned Extremist but in order to drum up support from certain sectors of the public. Nathanael Jones stands out among them due to having only been a billionaire playboy, which only encourages conspiracy theorists to begin speculating what Jones had done to deserve "C"[='-]s wrath.
  • Pet the Dog: The Cletus clone considers killing Sarah, a waitress at a diner he stops to eat at, but when she indulges his questions and unwittingly helps him come to an epiphany he not only spares her but leaves a generous tip... though he also leaves behind his copy of the Bible, which is full of disturbing annotations scrawled in blood, for her to find.
  • Putting the Band Back Together: The synopsis and previews show that the Carnage symbiote reunites with Cletus Kasady, who it had a falling out with in between Extreme Carnage and Carnage (Vol 3). What happens in the first issue is a bit more complex, as the Carnage symbiote creates a clone of Cletus as he was when it first bonded to him—establishing over a decade has passed in-universe since then—and bonds to the clone.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Lord Librarian delivers one to the Carnage symbiote as it's tearing a swath through Omnipotence City's guards while boasting of its godhood; stating that it came to the Halls of All-Knowing seeing the answer to the question "What is a god?" but doesn't even have the courage to articulate it. When Carnage declares that it's conquered all the weaknesses of a symbiote and attained apotheosis, the Lord Libratian retorts that it's still incomplete, came to him for answers it already has, and is asking all the wrong questions.
  • Religion of Evil: The clone of Cletus created by the now-divine Carnage symbiote concludes that the answer to becoming a god is to start developing a religion to worship you. In the second issue his enigmatic murders draw the attention of internet trolls and online conspiracy theorists—which Flash notes in disgust are the very sort of people who would worship someone like Carnage.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • Issue #2, #3, and #4 states that Carnage's sole remaining weakness is the Anti-Venom symbiote's cleansing touch, something that Agent Anti-Venom was previously indicated not to possess in Extreme Carnage, and which the Carnage symbiote already rid itself of in Death of the Venomverse. #2 has Liz Allan note that while the sample of the Carnage symbiote in Alchemax's possession is still vulnerable to Anti-Venom, the current Carnage seems to have evolved past that... but this is then contradicted by #3 having Carnage state that if the original Cletus had acquired some Anti-Venom he'd've been able to kill it.
    • In #3, Cletus Kasady is somehow shown to have a flesh and blood body—enfeebled without a symbiote—despite his human body having been reduced to literal skin and bones in Absolute Carnage before being cut in half, with his consciousness having last been seen indwelling the Extrembiote in Carnage Reigns. No mention is made of the Extrembiote or how Cletus came back to life, and he's unceremoniously killed and eaten by Carnage, who assimilates his consciousness and memories into the Cletus clone's.
    • In #7 Carnage is able to steal the Anti-Venom symbiote from Flash and leave him in a flesh and blood body. Flash is supposed to be just a skeleton puppetted by the symbiote (with his consciousness inside the symbiote), and without it his "body" returns to being inanimate bones, as seen in both King In Black and Savage Avengers—though that Flash returns as Agent Anti-Venom in Venom War suggests that not all of the Anti-Venom symbiote was stolen.
  • Status Quo Is God: In the first issue of this run, the Carnage symbiote jumps at the opportunity to create a clone of Cletus and bonds to him without hesitation after the Lord Librarian states that it's incomplete without its other half. However, throughout both Carnage (2022) and Death of the Venomverse the symbiote vehemently rejected bonding to a host — even one as powerful as Knull — and went out of its way to rid itself of "the weakness of flesh",note  which would otherwise leave it vulnerable to incapacitation and even death if its host was severely injured. No explanation is given for the sudden shift in attitude beyond the Lord Librarian stating that the Carnage symbiote was incomplete without its other half. Furthermore, the original Cletus is unceremoniously killed off.
  • Symbiotic Possession: When the Cletus clone fully bonds with the Carnage symbiote, the narrator says they wholly become one in body and mind — though Cletus seems to mostly be the one in the driver's seat as his purpose overtakes the symbiote's.
  • Take That!: The first issue contains a jab at AI chatbots, cryptocurrency scams, and fake news — all 21st century developments that the clone of Cletus finds amusing. The second issue takes a swipe at online alt-right conspiracy theorists, who form the bulk of the Cletus clone's "congregation"—to Flash Thompson's disgust.
  • To Serve Man:
    • When the Carnage symbiote is warped to Ryker's Island — to the same prison cell where it first met Cletus Kasady — it confronts the current inmate before devouring him, the act itself being shown as a Shadow Discretion Shot with sound effects written in blood.
    • In the preview for #3, Carnage angrily devours the original Cletus Kasady once he tries to set the symbiote on fire.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: In #3, Carnage tries to swallow Cletus whole, only to discover Cletus anticipated this and injected himself with concentrated antibodies in emulation of Anti-Venom, hoping to Kill It Through Its Stomach; leading to Carnage vomiting Cletus' half-digested body and settling for just eating his brain.
  • Unexplained Recovery: When last seen in Carnage Reigns, Cletus' physical human body was dead and his consciousness was indwelling a surviving piece of the Extrembiote. In #2 and #3, he's inexplicably shown with a flesh-and-blood human body again, only to get killed and eaten by Carnage.
  • Villain Protagonist: The Carnage symbiote creates a clone of Cletus Kasady and bonds with him to become Carnage once again, tasking him with finding an answer to what it sort of god they should be.
  • Your Head A-Splode: A light switch being flipped on in John Statler-Baker's home triggers a Saw-style trap that causes John's head to explode in front of a horrified Flash.