Cletus Kasady is back! Writer Donny Cates has been reinventing the symbiote mythos in the monthly Venom title, and this week he and artist Danilo Beyruth are bringing the spawn of Venom back in a big way with the Web of Venom: Carnage Born one-shot. Plus, we’re checking in on a fan-favorite title, the horror-infused The Immortal Hulk. Don’t miss this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!
Written by Donny Cates
Illustrated by Danilo Beyruth
Inked by Cris Peter
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Alexander Jones: AJ, Joe, Marvel superstar Donny Cates is back with yet another property. This time he’s enlisted artist Danilo Beyruth for a new spin on Carnage. What were your initial impressions of the infamous Spider-Man rogue’s reintroduction to the Marvel Universe?
AJ Frost: Hey there, gentleman! I’m gonna atone here because I lost on question 12 during Monday’s Marvel HQ and I feel ashamed! Haha. Man, Donny Cates is a beast as of late, right? This issue of Carnage is gnarly AF. It’s metaphysical, it’s creepy, it made my skin crawl! In other words, I actually really enjoyed it. It seemed, weirdly, like a throwback to Atomic Age horror comics but with a contemporary spin.
Joe Grunenwald: Glad to be back with you gents for another week. The last time I saw Carnage, he was being torn in half in space by The Sentry, so I had a lot of catching up to do coming into this comic. There’s a lot of crazy stuff being tossed around here and I’m still a little torn about how well it landed. I’m interested in what you guys thought of it.
Jones: I think I’m going to kind of chime in with the usual take that I have had towards Donny Cates’s writing with the Venom property. I think that the forward-thinking nature he presents to the material and script is what these old properties and Marvel need, but I’m not sure that this one really landed for me completely. While I enjoyed the title while I was reading it, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to invest in. The protagonist is the antagonist and I just have a hard time disseminating who to root for and how to engage with the material. This is definitely better than the average Carnage comic book.
Frost: Perhaps the meta-theme is not to root for anyone, but just enjoy the weird, cultic stuff that is happening. Or another way of saying this: this book has style to boot, but maybe not as much substance as you’d like, Alex.
Grunenwald: Carnage is definitely not a character I would ever think to root for, and I can’t say that I do by issue’s end. The origin that’s presented for pre-Carnage Cletus Kasady is interesting, and I don’t know how much of that is new with this issue and how much was pre-existing, but it almost seemed like it was trying to paint him in a sympathetic light, like what he was doing was noble somehow (while obviously still being psychotic murder). When I think of Carnage I think of him saying “I’m killing you ’cause I can” from his first full appearance, so the idea that he was actually killing people to ‘save’ them is an interesting retcon. That said, I think it removes some of the ‘bite’ from the character. He’s slightly less terrifying when you humanize him.
Jones: I like the direction the script was headed. Having this giant doomsday cult worship Carnage is definitely a pretty metal idea. This issue is full of atmosphere and pages where Cates is devoted to setting the tone just right. I do think that the issue suffers from too much setup without the amount of payoff I would have preferred in the final batch of pages. I’m also not sure how heavily this ties into the current Venom series and if a reading of that would drastically enrich your idea of this issue. At the end of the day a good comic is a good comic though, right?
Frost: Definitely. I really can’t get over the fact that I enjoyed this issue so much. Carnage just seems so… eh, bloody weird? Is that the technical term? But here, I really enjoyed Cates at this melodramatic best. This issue had some cheese in the dialogue, but it was so campy that I felt like I was in on the joke a little bit. And that, along with stellar art, extremely enjoyable.
Grunenwald: I get the sense that this ties pretty heavily into what’s going on in Venom, which made it a little hard for me to get into. But setting that aside, this really is a weird comic with a bunch of craziness going on, and I dig that.
Jones: I’m not sure if anyone else would even consider this a valid criticism but after deconstructing the issue I was really shocked at just how much of the script sets up the idea of Carnage, and yet for some reason at the end of the issue I still don’t feel any attachment towards him as a character. Does that mean the script didn’t live up to it’s lofty goals?
Grunenwald: I think that’s valid. It’s probably a good thing that you don’t feel any attachment to a mass murderer. He’s basically set up as a plot monster at the end of the issue. ‘This is what’s going to propel a bunch of comics forward.’ You don’t need much characterization.
Frost: I’m with Joe. And honestly, I’m not sure anything about this book is lofty in the first place.
Jones: How did both of you feel about Danilo Beyruth’s art? I thought he captured the strange emotions from the script and the progressive nature of Cates’sMarvel work really well. I don’t want to see a standard Marvel artist take on this book—I want to see someone like Beyruth contribute their vision to the title.
Frost: Couldn’t agree more. The art was on-point and truly conveyed every macabre detail about Carnage, include Cletus’s descent into hell (which reminded me of the psychological strangeness of Jordan Wolfson’s art installations) and his rebirth as a completely amoral vessel of doom.
Grunenwald: I really enjoyed Beyruth’s linework. There’s a lot of very dark stuff in this issue, both in terms of mood and setting, and it would’ve been easy to let the details get bogged down in heavy shadows, but everything was clear and easy to follow, and some of the imagery is truly horrific. The color work by Cris Peter is also excellent.
Frost: Yes! Totally. The coloring of this book reminded me of the lurid colors in those old EC horror comics. Lots of purples and pinks. Really on-point for a book of this sort.
Jones: I like so many things about the title but still have a really difficult recommending it to anyone because none of the material in the issue really stayed with me. What are everyone’s final thoughts on Web of Venom: Carnage Born #1?
Grunenwald: I want to say first, this is a well-executed comic. The writing is solid and the art is pretty great. That said, at the end of the day, this is a Venom tie-in comic about Carnage. If you’re not into those characters, or you like Carnage but you haven’t been following what’s going on in Venom, your mileage is absolutely going to vary. I’d give this book a BROWSE.
Frost: The timing of this book is all wrong. This is a Halloween book, not one suited for Thanksgiving week, but the gods of scheduling are an unusual bunch. That being said, I feel that this issue is strong enough on its own to warrant a BUY. If a reader is totally into this part of the Spider-Verse, then I think this will be a welcome addition to the collection.
Jones: If you have a particular investment in Carnage or the Venom property, you probably aren’t going to want to miss this one. The craft on display here and level of execution merits a BROWSE for me, which isn’t bad for a Carnage story.
Final Verdict: AJ says BUY while Joe and Alexander say BROWSE.
Written by Al Ewing
Illustrated by Joe Bennett and Martin Simmonds
Inked by Ruy Jose
Colored by Paul Mounts
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Alexander Jones: Joe, it appears that we’ve done our readers a disservice in not recognizing the majesty of The Immortal Hulk. After checking back in with the series, how do you feel about the proceeding issues of the title leading up to this new installment?
Joe Grunenwald: It took me a few issues to really get into The Immortal Hulk, but I’m glad I stuck with it. There’s a great horror feel to the series that I’ve felt was missing from prior Hulk runs I’ve read. This book feels like it’s pushing the Hulk concept to a logical extreme, and I really like it. The latest issue is a nice continuation of the ongoing story.
Jones: The series has a thick veneer of psychological horror that is downright unsettling. I think the newest issue is a particularly great installment of the narrative that is told with a great non-linear storytelling device that adds to the overall tapestry of the series. I almost feel like the different stories of the comic are woven together with a small threaded needle instead of containing an obvious through-line to every issue. This is some pretty out there high-brow stuff and it is quite bold of Marvel to even publish.
Grunenwald: I loved the alternating timelines of the latest issue, both as a storytelling device and as a way to seamlessly integrate fill-in art. The imagery of this series is really striking, regardless of who’s drawing it. I never expected to read a comic where, for example, the Hulk’s living body parts were placed in separate jars, and I certainly never expected to enjoy it as much as I have. I have to say that I enjoy this series the most when the rest of the Marvel U isn’t as involved. There was an issue where the Hulk fought the Avengers that, a few lines of dialogue aside, felt like pretty standard superhero fare. But when the focus is strictly on Banner/Hulk and their story, I’m enthralled.
Jones: Whenever I read The Immortal Hulk, I know something bad is going to happen, but I feel like I never know quite how it is going to happen. The last couple pages of this issue in particular really speak to that theory for me. I think the series brought the Avengers in particular in a little too early. That should have been the payoff for later issues and was ultimately one of the biggest, most enjoyable sins this series has committed up to this point.
Grunenwald: Ha, yeah, that Avengers fight wasn’t a bad issue, but it wasn’t on the same level the rest of the series has been on, at least not for me. As for this issue, I agree that the last couple of pages were really strong. I was almost holding my breath waiting for the two timelines in the issue to converge, and it was worth it when they did. Writer Al Ewing took two characters who have faced each other a number of times before and, by changing their circumstances even just a little, presented a fight between the two unlike any before it. It’s the little ‘tweaks’ that Ewing has brought in that have made this book so enjoyable.
Jones: Tell me if I’m a jerk, but I no longer want to see issues of the series where Joe Bennett is the only artist. I have such a good time waiting in bated breath to see who is going to draw the next page. The way that the pencils from Joe Bennett and Martin Simmonds violently collide into each other is the feeling great comics give me.
Grunenwald: Bennett has a very clean, classic style, and I like his art, but I can certainly see where you’re coming from. To say that the two artists’ styles ‘collide’ in this issue is a great way to put it, and it adds a level of visual interest to the overall book.
Jones: Corruption of the soul seems to be a core theme of the book and it is really interesting to see Carl Creel get sucked into the insanity that is The Immortal Hulk and prove he is no better than the rest of the cast members in the series. Yet we still got to an interesting destination at the end of the issue that kept me at the edge of the seat.
Grunenwald: I honestly have no idea what happened at the end of the issue, beyond it being absolutely horrific, but I can’t wait to read the next issue and find out.
Jones: Despite both psychological horror and the Hulk not being my favorite things about comics, I’m still able to find a litany of great things to say about the series. Do you have any final thoughts on this title or issue?
Grunenwald: The Immortal Hulk is a rich book, both thematically and tonally. I’ve never been the biggest Hulk fan, either, but Al Ewing is pushing the character in new and interesting directions and it’s been really enjoyable. I wouldn’t recommend jumping on with this week’s issue, but the series is worth going back and catching up on. From that standpoint, I’d give The Immortal Hulk an overall BUY.
Jones: I’m going to null my usual dissenting opinion and join the crowd. Let’s throw a BUY at this one and call it day, does that work for you?
Grunenwald: This night belongs to the Hulk!
Final Verdict: The Marvel Rundown rights a wrong and awards The Immortal Hulk a BUY verdict.
Next week a landmark run comes to an end in Daredevil #612, while we get to see the new status quo for Old Man Logan in Dead Man Logan #1, and Riri Williams begins again in Ironheart #1.