With the new mini series Minimum Carnage hitting shelves next Wednesday, I thought it would be a good time to review the Carnage U.S.A. mini series which precedes it. U.S.A. picks off right where the first Carnage mini series, Carnage: Family Feud, left off. Cletus Kasady, who had previously been believed to be dead, is on the run. He makes his way to the small town of Doverton, Colorado, and he begins to wreak havoc.
Kasady doesn’t exactly wreak havoc in the way you would think. Instead of–forgive me for this pun–causing carnage, he takes over the entire town and turns them into his puppets. Spider-Man and and a small group of Avengers (Captain America, Hawkeye, Wolverine, and The Thing) go to stop Kasady in his tracks except…he manages to take control of the Avengers, which leaves Spider-Man to fend for himself with the help of the uninfected townspeople.
Writer Zeb Wells does a great job of bringing out the deranged personality of Cletus Kasady. He gives him a dark sense of humor, which is conveyed through his tormenting of the local townsfolk. For instance, his interaction with the family of Eric Morrell, the local sheriff and a secondary character throughout the story, is sickening. He pretends to be the father in the family, and he forces Hannah, Eric’s wife, to kill Eric else Kasady will kill their two children.
In another scene, he’s at the local church where he pretends to be a pastor. For the offering in his “sermon,” he requires the townsfolk to pull their own teeth out. A Carnage-controlled Cap America lets out a groan, to which Kasady humorously yells, “Keep it down, Corporal Flag Face or whatever!” It’s these dark but comedic machinations that allow the reader to see how depraved Kasady is. Every fan knows he’s a sociopath, but it takes a good writer to execute it well.
A big portion of the story involves the use of other symbiotes. When the U.S. Army gets wind of the Avengers going down, they send in a group of soldiers powered by one of the symbiotes that composed Hybrid. Dr. Tanis Nieves from Family Feud, now known as the cybernetic symbiote Scorn, is also sent in. Anti-Venom, aka Eddie Brock, is obviously out of commission if you read the Spider Island series.
Toxin and Scream are also missing from the fray, but their fates, as well as to how Hybrid was split in the first place, are explained in later Venom issues. When this mini series came out, these aforementioned issues weren’t out yet, so like a few I was a little confused. Nonetheless, this set sets up some amazing panels of the symbiote powered soldiers squaring off against the Carnage-controlled townspeople.
Of course it wouldn’t be a party without Venom, who makes an awesome entrance. The titular moment of this series would have to be the showdown between the symbiote-less and legless Kasady and Flash Thompson, while the Venom and Carnage symbiotes latch on to a gorilla (at least it’s not a T-Rex!) and lion, respectively. The ending is simply wonderful chaos, with brutal fighting, explosions, and a modified sonic gun wielding Scorn.
Although it ends with a bang, the true beauty in this series lies in the buildup. Wells does a magnificent job setting up the climax by showing us Kasady’s maniacal methods, the raw human desperation of the uninfected townspeople (mainly Eric), and the covert operations of the symbiote soldiers.
What also helps make this series a great read, is the perfect complementing art style of Clayton Crain’s gritty digital painting to Wells’ narrative. I immediately became a fan of Crain’s upon reading Family Feud, and his awesome work continues in U.S.A. Dark colors and streaks help set the somber tone. I also love the way he draws symbiotes, with all their tendrils flying about. His style surprisingly conveys emotion very well. And lastly, he just makes Venom look badass.
Carnage U.S.A. is a great read if you want a good character study on a sociopath. It gives you a peek into a villain’s point of view for world domination and the costs that come with stopping such a mad man. While it’s moar exposition and tragedy rather than flashy big battles, the few fights that are present, however, are quite nice and are sure to satisfy most. Wells and Crain did a fantastic job with this sequel, and while they won’t be returning for the third, it sure was a blast.