Comic Review: Spider-Man: Carnage

Published: 1992
Written by: David Michelinie
Art by: Mark Bagley

Marvel Comics, 70 Pages

Review:

This three issue story arc originally appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man issues 361 through 363. And it was also one of the biggest Spider-Man storylines to come out during my middle school years when I was the most impressionable, as far as comics go.

In 1992, there were few characters as popular as Venom. However, this milestone story gave us a second symbiote, Carnage.

What made this character’s debut so important is that it changed the landscape.

Venom was no longer Spider-Man’s deadliest foe. In Carnage, we have a psychotic serial killer in possession of an alien suit born from Venom. Therefore, it also inherited Venom’s strength. In addition to that, this symbiote has evolved due to being born on Earth, so it has better control of its mass, structure and can fire off projectile weapons made of its alien skin.

Carnage is so powerful and evil that Spider-Man had to enlist the help of Venom. Because of that, this was the turning point in Venom’s life where he no longer played the villain but he became more of an anti-hero and often times a reluctant ally to Spidey.

For a debut, this story packs a punch. Most of that is because Carnage is so damn scary. But the credit really has to go to the creative team. David Michelinie wrote another classic story and the great art of Mark Bagley gave Michelinie’s words and Carnage’s form real life. While people always talk about Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen’s runs on The Amazing Spider-Man, Bagley was just as iconic and frankly, I like his style better than Larsen’s.

Carnage is one of the highest points in Michelinie’s long run on Spider-Man. While it’s not as impactful as Venom’s debut, it’s nearly on the same level and still, to this day, one of the greatest Spider-Man stories ever told.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the earlier stories featuring Venom and then the later Maximum Carnage event.

Comic Review: Web of Venom: Funeral Pyre – One-Shot

Published: July 24th, 2019
Written by: Cullen Bunn
Art by: Alberto Jiminez Albuquerque, Joshua Cassara, Declan Shalvey (cover)

Marvel Comics, 32 Pages

Review:

I’ve lost count of how many Web of Venom one-shots there have been over the last year but I’ve enjoyed all of them. They tie directly to Donny Cates’ run on Venom, which started just over a year ago, as well as his upcoming Absolute Carnage mega event.

What I liked about this one is that it featured Mania, a symbiote character that’s been missing from Marvel since the death of Flash Thomspon. She was tied to Flash while he was Venom and because of that, became a symbiote herself.

I’ve always dug Mania, so seeing her come back and be involved, in some way, with this mega event is kind of cool.

This sees Carnage, back from oblivion, as he is hunting down all the symbiote pieces on Earth. This puts Mania in his crosshairs.

Overall, this story does a good job of reestablishing Mania into the Marvel mythos and it also helps add another plot thread to the Absolute Carange event.

I thought Cullen Bunn did a good job on the writing, tying this to a much bigger tapestry. I was a fan of the art too.

Ultimately, I don’t give a shit about big comic book events anymore. However, the groundwork that’s been laid for a year, leading up to Carnage’s massive return, has been pretty damn good and at least has me interested in what’s to come over the next few months.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the recent Donny Cates Venom series and its Web of Venom spinoffs.

Comic Review: Web of Venom: Cult of Carnage – One-Shot

Published: April 10th, 2019
Written by: Frank Tieri
Art by: Danilo Beyruth, Joshua Cassara (cover)

Marvel Comics, 35 Pages

Review:

I’m not really sure where the Venom series is going other than it has been working towards the return of Carnage for what I assume will be a massive Venom versus Carnage showdown.

Since last year’s Venom number 1 and the other Web of Venom one-shots, Donny Cates has mostly been at the helm and he’s done a pretty stupendous job. However, he’s seemingly left Venom behind to focus on Guardians of the Galaxy and the upcoming relaunch of Silver Surfer. That being said, this one-shot was written by Frank Tieri, who I mostly only know from his work on DC Comics’ Harley Quinn, as well as Jughead: The Hunger and a Red Sonja miniseries.

Overall, the story here was quite good. There was a bit of cheesy dialogue in one or two panels but not enough the detract from the proceedings.

Venom is nowhere to be found in this story, which is fine, but with his name in the title, I thought maybe he’d be around. In his place are Man-Wolf, a character I’ve always loved, and Misty Knight. We also get an inside look at this cult that has sprung up. The cult worships a strange god but it is really all a front for the returned Carnage, who has big plans that will most assuredly see him cross paths with Venom once again.

I liked the art and the tone of this was good.

These Web of Venom one-shots have all been pretty enjoyable and I like that they kind of feel like scenes edited out of the larger movie. They aren’t necessary to read with the regular Venom comic but they add more context than what you would get from just the primary title.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: the recent Donny Cates Venom series and its Web of Venom spinoffs.

Comic Review: Web of Venom: Venom Unleashed – One-Shot

Published: January 9th, 2019
Written by: Ryan Stegman
Art by: Juan Gedeon, Kyle Hotz, Ryan Stegman (cover)

Marvel Comics, 33 Pages

Review:

I’ve been really enjoying all of the Donny Cates Venom stuff between the ongoing series and the other Web of Venom one-shots. This one wasn’t written by Cates, however, but it was written by Venom artist Ryan Stegman.

Considering that Stegman knows Venom just as much as Cates, at this point, makes this a pretty interesting and unique take on the modern Venom world.

The story shows the Venom symbiote take the form of a dog in an effort to protect Eddie Brock. Recently, Venom went through some heavy shit and he can no longer communicate to Brock in the same way. He’s damaged but he still has loyalty to Brock.

Also, this continues to add more depth to the return of Carnage, who we saw working his way back into Venom’s story back in the previous Web of Venom one-shot.

Stegman got to take a break from the art, apart from the cover, but Juan Gedeon and Kyle Hotz’s art was more than satisfactory.

Overall, this was a quick, fun read and it served to enrich the current Venom mythos.

But now I’m tired of waiting for the big Carnage return. I want that sinister bastard back because when used the right way, he makes Venom stories more interesting. In the hands of Donny Cates, I’m sure we’re in for some really great issues coming up.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the recent Donny Cates Venom series and its Web of Venom spinoffs.

Comic Review: Web of Venom: Carnage Born – One-Shot

Published: November 21st, 2018
Written by: Donny Cates
Art by: Danilo Beyruth, Kyle Hotz (cover)

Marvel Comics, 32 Pages

Review:

Donny Cates has been straight fire, lately, His Venom stuff has been top notch and has given that character and his mythos new life. Cates has a way with the character that most writers in recent memory haven’t come close to. And if I’m being honest, Venom is one of my favorite characters of all-time but I was growing bored with what they’ve been doing with him for years.

Now this one-shot is the second one-shot since Cates took over Venom. This is a side story that gives a lot of context to the big return of Venom’s greatest rival, Carnage. And after everything Cates has done with Venom, so far, it’s great seeing him take on Carnage.

I really missed Carnage.

What this one issue story does is it makes me realize how much the Marvel universe has needed Carnage’s presence again. He is legitimately, one of the scariest villains that Venom or Spider-Man has ever faced. He is everything Venom is but even more powerful and with the mind of a psychotic serial killer that just wants to hurt everyone and everything.

This comic serves to fill in the blanks from the last sighting of Carnage up until now, where he is given something to make him more powerful. For Carnage fans, the end of this is glorious.

As a one-shot, this does its job exceptionally well. It gives us the context we need and it gets you pumped up for the next chapter in the Venom/Carnage rivalry.

Carnage is horror and this is really a horror story more than it is a tale about superheroes and their world.

Kudos to Cates for once again bringing something truly exciting to the table.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: the recent Donny Cates Venom series and its Web of Venom spinoffs.

Film Review: Venom (2018)

Also known as: Antidote (fake working title)
Release Date: October 1st, 2018 (Regency Village Theatre premiere)
Directed by: Ruben Fleischer
Written by: Jeff Pinkner, Scott Rosenberg, Kelly Marcel
Based on: Venom by David Michelinie, Todd McFarlane
Music by: Ludwig Göransson
Cast: Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Riz Ahmed, Scott Haze, Reid Scott, Jenny Slate, Michelle Lee, Woody Harrelson (cameo), Ron Cephas Jones, Emilio Rivera

Columbia Pictures, Marvel Entertainment, Tencent Pictures, Arad Productions, Matt Tolmach Productions, Pascal Pictures, Sony Pictures, 112 Minutes

Review:

“Eyes! Lungs! Pancreas! So many snacks, so little time!” – Venom

If I’m being completely honest, my hopes for this film weren’t too high. However, my minimal expectations were exceeded in a lot of ways.

I guess the acting prowess of Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams and Riz Ahmed can go a log way as all three were pretty damn good in this. Hardy really takes the cake though and even if his Eddie Brock differs a lot from the comic book version, I still liked this interpretation of the character. I kind off miss the blonde boxy buzz cut but that’d probably look silly in 2018… or just too f’n badass!

Anyway, this film had to create its own story, as they didn’t have Spider-Man at their disposal to tell the story the right way. Plus, even though this is put out by the same studio that owns the Spider-Man film rights, it’s not really clear if this even exists in the same universe. There are no signs to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe; none that I saw, anyway.

I liked this film’s plot though and the way that Venom comes to be, worked for me. I wasn’t too keen on Riot being the big bad of the movie but there wasn’t a whole lot they could do being that this was a self-contained movie that doesn’t seem to bleed over into the larger Spider-Man world. Plus, this takes place in San Francisco, as opposed to New York City, which could also have been a way to distance it from Spidey (and his friends and allies), at least for now. There are other symbiotes in this that aren’t just Riot, however. But he’s the only one that actually matters to the larger story.

My one big complaint about the film is the pacing. The first half hour moves at a crawl but once things get going, it really gets going. But then it moves almost too fast. From what I understand, there was a lot of footage cut from this movie. It was initially being made to have an R rating but very late in production, they decided to go with a PG-13 rating. There are moments where it seems as if something violent was lobbed off and it created some bad, choppy edits. Also, it feels as if some key narrative moments were worked out of the plot, after the film was fully shot. Like I said, it starts at a slower pace and then speeds up very quickly and it just feels like there are some time jumps and key things missing. Maybe this can be rectified with an R rated cut or an extended edition once this hits the streaming market.

I thought that the action sequences were a mixed bag. The first big one, which sees Brock on a motorcycle trying to evade big SUVs through the late night streets of San Francisco was superbly done, even if it threw a tiny bit of cheese at you. The final battle between Venom and Riot on the launching pad wasn’t so good. I mean, I’ve seen much worse in comic book movie finales but it was just a CGI shit festival and hard to differentiate between the two aliens. Couldn’t Riot have been a different color than dark grey? In the comic books, symbiotes have lots of color variations. Also, it would have helped if Venom had his iconic emblem on his chest and back.

One thing that stood out for me was the score. Often times it was subtle and atmospheric and then in big action scenes it would become a nice punctuation to the over the top adrenaline rush. The score during the motorcycle chase was stellar and it reminded me of the blockbuster scores of the ’80s to mid-’90s.

Venom is far from perfect but it’s got a lot more going for it than against it. Most importantly, it has my favorite mid-credits scene out of any of these comic book movies. It was chilling, generated the right kind of emotion in me and it made me want the follow up now, as opposed to three years down the road. If you’ve read the earliest Venom stories back when they were new, you’ll probably feel the same sense of awe when you get to this moment at the end of the film.

While this might not be as good as most of the movies in the MCU, it is more fun than most of them and to me, that’s really important.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the harder edged Marvel movies as of late: Logan, the Deadpool films and I’m assuming the upcoming New Mutants movie.

Comic Review: The Amazing Spider-Man: Go Down Swinging

Published: March 7th, 2018
Written by: Dan Slott
Art by: Stuart Immonen, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Jim Cheung, Humberto Ramos, Alex Ross (covers)

Marvel Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

Let me preface this review by saying, “Holy shit balls!”

Man, oh, man… I friggin’ loved this story and this is the best Spider-Man story arc that I have read since before that 2008 catastrophe Brand New Day, which made me quit reading Spider-Man after two decades of loyalty. Yes, I even made it through that godforsaken Clone Saga in the ’90s without quitting.

While Dan Slott was a big part of Brand New Day and continued to keep writing Spider-Man for a decade, including this story, his last, I had heard good things over the last few years. But it wasn’t until I heard about this story that I figured that I’d finally give the guy another shot. Well, he’s really undone the damage of Brand New Day and also seems to be righting the ship with some of the things that have changed since then. Well, at least this arc starts with Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson making out. That’s a big giant leap out of the Brand New Day muck.

So Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin, has acquired the Carnage symbiote. He sort of has it under control and used it to remove the restrictions that Peter Parker put in his blood to prevent him from ever being the Green Goblin again. So what we have now is the Green Goblin and all of his powers enhanced by the Carnage suit. So to paraphrase what the official story arc write-up said, “This is Spider-Man’s greatest villain merged with his most deadly.” Basically, shit just got real.

The story sees Osborn hellbent on destroying Spider-Man, which is made easier when he finally remebers that Spidey is Peter Parker. That’s where it becomes an all out assault on Parker and his loved ones. Osborn tells Parker to stop being Spider-Man and if he abides by this, his loved ones will be safe. Peter’s allies unite in an effort to take on Osborne but ultimately, Peter Parker has to put the costume back on and have a big showdown with this new Red Goblin for all the marbles.

The story is intense, really intense. It was hard to put down and the big 80 page finale that was issue 800 was perfection. I understand people’s reservations with Slott’s epic run on The Amazing Spider-Man but this story arc was some grade A stuff, especially in an era where Marvel hasn’t been putting out a lot of quality books.

This served to not just up the ante and give Spider-Man one of his toughest threats of all-time, it also gave closure to a lot of plot threads that have stretched decades. There is an important death in this but it was done tastefully and only made that character better. Also, it was a decades long redemption story that gave a sad but satisfying payoff for those who hated and then learned to love this character over the years.

I also thought that the art was incredible. Marvel has been letting amateurish looking art creep into their titles but The Amazing Spider-Man has kept the best of the best and the quality of Go Down Swinging is such a great contrast to the terrible Marvel books I see, wall to wall, in every comic book shop I frequent.

I can’t praise this enough. And thank god they pushed Mockingbird out of the equation, as that relationship never seemed to work for me (and others from what I’ve read).

Dan Slott may have started out throwing gasoline on a dumpster fire but he ended by giving us one of the high points in the long history of The Amazing Spider-Man.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Since this is the big finale of the long and storied Dan Slott run, all of the Slott Spider-Man stuff before this. However, you may want to pickup the story arc Threat Level: Red, as it serves to setup this big finale. Try to avoid Brand New Day unless you’re into torture.