Saturday, December 17, 2011

Symbiote Fans Anonymous: Why I Love Carnage

I'm come to a very serious conclusion lately. So serious that I'm somewhat hesitant to share, and yet I must. Prepare yourself, I'm about to shed some nerd cred...

"My name is Matt Wheeler, and I have a symbiote problem."

Some might say, "So you like Venom, who doesn't?" or ""it's OK, the black costume saga is great!" or "Spider-Man 3 is my favorite movie, too!" (OK, maybe not that last one) ...but it's more serious than that.

It's very hard to admit, but deep down I've always known it. Carnage is my favorite Spider-Man villain.

Yes that's right - Carnage. Height of the 1990's supervillain, psycho-killer, oughta be committed, Kletus Casady, Carnage. And as one of Spidey's biggest fans, I know I'm supposed to say Green Goblin or Doc Ock or Lizard or Vulture or Sandman, but he's my favorite and I'm coming to terms with it right here, right now.

Back in 1993, I was brand new to fanboydom and Carnage was at his peak of popularity. "Maximum Carnage," the 14-part crossover, pitted Spider-Man, Venom and a motley crew of other Marvel heroes against the psychopath, and I savored every issue. On top of that, we had the video game (complete with Green Jelly soundtrack) to go with it. I felt like the luckiest boy in the world to have his favorite comic book storyline in video game form. Looking back on it, I should have! How many comic book storylines have their own game?

To this day, I still break out the trade paperback from time to time. I won't say that it completely holds up all these years later, but next to Secret Wars, I still call it my favorite Marvel story arc. OK, so besides blind nostalgia, why do I love Carnage? Here's the top three reasons:

1. He has no moral code.
In one of the first scenes of "Maximum Carnage," Carnage attacks a middle-aged couple driving through New York. He rips off the top of their car and brutally murders them with is sharp, symbiote claws. Why? Because.

Before he bonded with the symbiote, Kletus Casady was already a serial killer with all of  the sick and twisted qualities of the best incarnations of the Joker. With the symbiote at his disposal, he was given the power to really do some damage. What make him scary is that he just doesn't have any concern taking human life. He's not trying to take over the world, he's just getting his kicks slaughtering the innocent. You know ... because.

2. He genuinely outmatches Spider-Man.
Nothing makes for a good story more than the deck being stacked against the protagonist. This is the case everytime Spidey and Carnage face off. Carnage doesn't set off Spider-Man's spider-sense, so it's easy for him to get close, and when he gets close, he can slice and dice. Super strength, intelligence and spiderwebs can't do much against that. Once he decides he's coming for you, there's not much you can do about it. Unless of course you have that handy-dandy sonic disruptor the Fantastic Four hoard. (Hey Reed Richards - Can't you just build one of those for Pete? Sheesh. He's gotta ask you guys everytime he wants to borrow it? But I digress...)

3. He's Marvel Universe-level powerful, but he remains Spider-Man's villain.
Sure, Pete always brings a few friends with him when he knows he's going up against ol' Kletus, but you never see Carnage appear as the main threat in X-Men or Avengers comics. He could, but Marvel doesn't use him that way. You always feel that he's Spidey's problem to deal with no matter how large of a threat he's posing. One of my complaints about recent Avengers yarns is that Spidey fans have had to give Norman Osborne up to the rest of the Marvel Universe. Instead of Harry's dad and part-time Gobby, he's Marvel's version of Lex Luthor. Unluckily for Pete, Carnage remains his cross to bear.

Bonus reason: Zeb Wells likes to write him. Clayton Crain likes to draw him. Marvel gives them a long leash. 'Nuff said. If you read this week's superb and disturbing Carnage U.S.A. #1, you know what I mean.

So there you have it: my Carnage confession. Hopefully, my argument allows me to preserve what little credibility I have. What can I say? I'm a sucker for that crazy symbiote. Keep the comics coming and his rumored appearance in future movies in your prayers, even if it's just for this one committed fanboy. Pun intended.

Updated: Think I'm nuts?! You're not the only one. For an opposing viewpoint on all-things Carnage, be sure to check out Mark Ginocchio's article on Chasing Amazing!

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