So in Part 1 of Minimum Carnage, Cletus Kassidy escaped from a Colorado prison along with a group of killers from the Microverse, then butchered their way towards Kaine's adopted hometown of Houston, Texas while Flash Thompson, a.k.a. Agent Venom, was in hot pursuit. Then they arrived at NASA's LBJ Space Center where they used a teleportation device called the Prometheus Pit to transport themselves to the Microverse--but not before they kidnapped Flash's reporter friend, Katy Kiernan and killed everyone in the lab. And now, both a very angry Kaine and Venom are face-to-face. If the cover for this issue of Scarlet Spider is anything to go by, this is not going to be a happy meeting, but we'll see what really happens inside, shall we?
Meanwhile the Microverse, Carnage is delighted to be in a universe where there are "no spiders" while Katy, held hostage by one of the killer Microns, moans about she's going to die. Carnage, however, has different ideas--he wants Katy to live (for now) so that she can be an eyewitness and report what he's going to do in the Microverse. As Carnage proceeds to lick Katy's face (yes, that's what we're told he's actually doing to her), we cut over to Carnage's Micron allies, who are beginning to realize just how insane Carnage actually is. They then get a holographic message from some mysterious, dark cloaked figure (just like Emperor Palatine from the Star Wars movies). One of them named Verus inform him that they have Carnage and made it to the Microverse, while the cloaked figure says Base has found "the Redeemer." Verus, however, voices her concern about Carnage, saying he's unstable, but the cloaked figure reassures her that Carnage will do his job and they will theirs.
Back on Earth, Venom is about to eat Kaine, while Flash tries to tell him to run away. Kaine gets free by stabbing Venom in the jaw, then leaps for a gun and shoots him. None of this has any effect, however, so Kaine proceeds to punch Venom repeatedly, only to be body-slammed to the ground. Flash, struggling to regain control, finally manages to revert into his Agent Venom form.
As Kaine voices his anger over how Flash tried to kill him, Flash notices that Dr. Ketola is still alive. She tells them how Carnage and his Micron allies abducted Katy and went through the Prometheus Pit to the Microverse, and Flash says they have to go after them. Kaine, however, wants none of it, saying that since Carnage is no longer on Earth, then it's no longer their problem, adding that he's not Spider-Man. Flash tries to persuade him that it's their responsibility to stop Carnage, and if Kaine doesn't care about saving the innocent lives in the Microverse, then Carnage has to pay for his crimes, none of which Kaine wants to hear and leaves.
With Kaine gone, Flash asks Dr. Ketola to transport him to the Microverse, although she informs him there's no guarantee he'll end up in the same location as Carnage due to a person changing size when traveling to the Microverse. Just as Flash is about to enter the transporter beam, Kaine returns, asking if Carnage could come back, to which Flash replies the bad ones always come back. Then both Flash and Kaine enter the transport beam.
After the teleportation, Flash wakes up to find himself in a strange, alien forest. As he marvels at his surrounding and reminds himself he has to keep his symbiote under control, he spies...a trio of nude pink fairies (WTF?!). As Flash tries to speak to them, the fairies attack him with sonic screams, calling him "Corruptor." Flash, in pain, tries to escape, as the symbiote unravels and makes him fall to the ground. Then an energy blast frightens the fairies away, and we see five strangers--a rock-like creature; another nude fairy, only blue, who is called Flare; another dressed like a Bug; a sword-wielding woman, who we are later told is Marionette; and a pistol-packing human who introduces himself as Arcturus Rann (Yes, Bill Mantlo fans--it's the Micronauts!). Apparently, Rann knows who Flash is and asks him for his help.
Meanwhile, Kaine wakes up on what appears to be a lunar-like landscape when a figure in green robes and bandages aids him, remarking about how much anger in Kaine, saying how it holds him back from his true potential (and Kaine actually does make a deliberate Star Wars reference). When Kaine asks what's going on and who the stranger is, the stranger gives cryptic, evasive answers, and that he is "preparing." When Kaine asks what he's preparing for, the stranger says "to die." Then there's a high pitched scream, and Kaine turns to see a gigantic, alien half-crab, half-lizard monster about to eat them.
There's a great exchange of dialogue between Kaine and Flash with regards to Spider-Man. Kaine tells Flash "I know another idiot who talks about responsibility a lot," to which Flash retorts "Yeah? I know a great man who does the same." For me, this perfectly encapsulates just who both of these characters are--Kaine may be Spider-Man's clone, but it's Flash who tries to emulate his idol. And it's doubly ironic that Flash, a guy who is physically bonded to one of Spidey's greatest enemies, is trying to instill Spidey's carbon copy the value of "responsibility." Pairing both of these characters together has proved to be a very inspired idea.
The rest of the story, however, makes one feel they've picked up an issue of the Fantastic Four by mistake. Perhaps it's my own particular bias, but I've never been keen on Spider-Man having adventures on alien worlds or in bizarre alternate universes; his character is just not suited for those kinds of stories, and neither are Kaine, Flash, or even Carnage. When it comes to Spider-Man and his spin-offs, the more grounded on Earth his stories are, the better, and already I'm concerned about how Spidey-fans will appreciate Minimum Carnage now that it appears the setting will predominately be in the Microverse.
Speaking of Carnage, I've personally never been a big fan of Cletus Kassidy, as I think he's was more or less born out of Marvel's desire in the 1990s to have their own version of the Joker and be an "Extreme" version of Venom. So I wasn't particularly annoyed that he only got one page of story time in this issue, especially since Chris Yost still shows through dialogue and mannerisms that Carnage is a twisted, creepy, and evil individual. Granted, it probably would have been more effective if we actually saw Carnage lick Katy Kierman's cheek and then see the evil Microns react the way they did, but I completely understand why Yost took the "less is more" approach with that scene.
The credits list both Khoi Pham and Reilly Brown as artists on this issue, and it's pretty easy to tell which is which, particularly in the opening and closing pages. Brown's art looks a lot more detailed and consistent, while Pham's just seems adequate, although when it comes to the fight between Kaine and Venom, it's definitely an improvement, conveying action and movement and dynamism that seemed to be lacking in the previous issues.
But again, the big plus is seeing Flash and Kaine interact with each other, and I hope we don't see these two separated for long as Minimum Carnage continues.