Donny Cates has done it again, bringing his touch to the reborn crimson killing machine that is Carnage. Carving out a Lovecraftian narrative of epic proportions, Cates delivers one of the strongest portrayals of Cletus Kasady in years. No part of Carnage is left untouched, from his dark past and his sinister present to his dark, undoubtedly violent future.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Honoring the past and heralding the future
To say Cletus Kasady has died is a dramatic understatement. Cletus and his homicidal symbiote have been ripped in half by the Sentry, destroyed by arcane powers and have been presumed dead more times than you can shake a stick at. But he always comes back. Instead of ignoring this, Donny Cates expertly revisits the bloody past of Carnage and puts a new twist on his numerous resurrections. Cletus Kasady is chosen.
Something has kept Kasady alive for all these years, even before he bonded with his sanguine other and during his turbulent childhood (Cates’ even invents a twisted new addition to Kasady’s origin and motives). Cates’ intent is to turn Cletus from your garden variety serial killer into something worse. A harbinger of slaughter, an avatar of the void and the chosen of the symbiote void god Knull, introduced in Cates’ first landmark arc of Venom.
This is a welcome break from the almost 30 year portrayal of Carnage as a simple deranged killing machine and points the character in the right direction. It harkens to Gerry Conway’s portrayal during his 16 issue run on the character which had Carnage enacting a plan to end the world by calling down the dark god Cthon. Conway did a good enough job, but his reworking of Kasady’s character was not drastic enough. As a concept the THREAT of Carnage was always there and significant, but his portrayal never broke the mold of “insane murderous lunatic”. Now as Donny Cates’ Venom continues its stride, we hopefully shall see a welcome rebirth of the scarlet slaughterer.
Speaking of comebacks, the focus of this issue is Kasady’s revival and it is spectacular. First of all, Danilo S. Beyruth has made this issue. While Cate’s take on Carnage himself is fascinating, Beyruth’s pen has crafted a vile and ominous setting. Dark shadows and twisting lines create an unnerving environment. Particular emphasis is put on the color red and every time it shows up, it is vivid and enthralling.
The art fits right in with the cosmic Lovecraft elements Cates is known for. There’s a cult of deranged lunatics, their dark god and their horrific ritual that intends to see Carnage reborn for a violent future. But thankfully Cates does not lose sight of the past. Having read past issues of Cates’ Venom, it is also entertaining to see how the concepts he has introduced bleed into the rest of the world. Nothing is forgotten and everything ties into a swirling pool of nostalgia and reinvention so that by the time the issue ends only one thing is certain. There will be blood and it will be glorious.