BIG TIME: Venom vs. Carnage

Remember how I said, in my review for New Ways to Die, that Anti-Venom was the first new symbiote to be introduced to the Spidey universe in a while?  Yeah, I had forgotten about Toxin, the offspring of Carnage introduced in the Venom vs. Carnage universe.  I remember Toxin being a big deal when he came out – my wife even told me about how one of her co-workers was excited about the new character, and went out during lunch to pick up the first issue of the Toxin mini series (the entire mini series and trade seem a little hard to come by nowadays).  At the time, I wasn’t really into the Spidey U, so I didn’t care much.

I recently picked up the trade paperback for Venom vs. Carnage at Borders (for a cool $9.99), and forgot that this is where Toxin was first introduced.

In Venom vs. Carnage, Carnage is getting ready to give birth (symbiotes birth asexually), much like Venom gave birth to Carnage.  Carnage wants to kill the child, but Venom wants to make sure the birth happens.  It’s not too much spoiler territory to say that the birth happens (of course), and the unfortunate bearer of the symbiote is Patrick Mulligan, a New York City cop who’s after an art thief (the Black Cat).  When Carnage finds out who’s in possession of his offspring, he sets out to kill Mulligan and his pregnant, while Spider-Man is stuck in the middle of all the madness.

The story for Venom vs. Carnage isn’t going to knock anybody’s socks off, but this is a fun book.  I’ve always been a fan of symbiotes, and getting a book full of symbiote action is a dream for me, especially with the introduction of a new character.  I like Carnage as a villain, always have.  The problem is that I think many writers just make him too one-dimensional.  He’s a psycho killer who cracks a lot of bad jokes.  It’s rare that a writer delves into his persona and portrays him as disturbing, rather than, essentially, a jokey slasher (like Freddy Krueger, actually).

Unfortunately, you don’t get too much actual character development in Venom vs. Carnage.  You just get…well, almost what the title implies.  There’s a ton of fighting in every issue, so people looking for action are definitely going to get it.  The character of Toxin actually seems pretty interesting.  It’s the first time a good person (other than Spidey) is really wearing and embracing a symbiote.  Sure, Eddie Brock has a misguided sense of justice, but this is a cop.  An actual hero in the symbiote, not an anti-hero.  His introduction was actually my favorite piece of the story.

Clayton Crain’s art…it’s tricky.  I mean, His X-Force stuff ranges from AWESOME to…what the hell am I looking at…because sometimes his digitally painted style ends up too dark, or looking like a mishmash of nothing.  Thankfully, though the story is dark, Venom vs. Carnage is brightly colored, so it’s rare (though it does happen) that you’re likely to get lost in what’s going on.  If you’re a fan of Crain’s style, this is a perfect book for him.

For $10, Venom vs. Carnage was worth every cent.  I wish more TPB’s that collected 4 issues worth of material were this cheap.  As it is, it was a nice intro for me to the Toxin character, and I’ve already gone to Amazon (since starting writing this article) to purchase the trade of his mini series.  I don’t think anyone has seen Toxin in a couple of years … and he is alive, supposedly.  Maybe he’ll pop up in the upcoming Carnage mini series from Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain?  Would be nice…

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