Scarlet Spider #19

Posted by Mike McNulty, a.k.a. Stillanerd 30 July 2013

Let's see...Belladonna Bordearux of the Assassin's Guild came to our favorite Spider-Man clone, Kaine, and told him that unless he wanted his friends killed, he was to assassinate the X-Man, Wolverine.  It appeared Kaine was good as his word, when in reality, Kaine had come up with a rather elaborate, if not incredibly risky, plan to get Wolverine's help in going up against the Guild.    Kaine and Wolverine went to New Orleans to take the fight to the Guild's doorstep, so things were looking up for our two heroes, so of course you know it wasn't going to last.  Turns out that the reason why the Assassin's Guild were killing people was to offer sacrifices to someone called "The Red Death" to keep themselves from getting killed.  And, from the way things were going, the Red Death wasn't particularly happy when see saw Kaine or the 'ol Cancuklehead still alive.   So who is the Red Death, you might ask?  Don't worry, because this issue explains everything in the conclusion of the Scarlet Spider/Wolverine team-up, "Wrath."    

The issue opens right where the last issue ended, with the Red Death holding up Kaine and Wolverine telepathically in the air (yes, I know I said in the last review Kaine and Wolverine were held up by what looked like hair, but it was actually mist. And, unlike the last issue, it clearly does looks like mist this time around. Honest!) and Belladonna and rest of the Assassin's Guild are, as Kaine puts in “looks like [they're] going to wet [themselves]” out of fear. Turns out the Red Death is really Candra, the founder of the Assassin's Guild and one of the Externals (a subspecies of mutants that are immortal). Wolverine says that she's supposed to be dead as he was the one who “put her in the ground,” but Candra explains that even though he and X-Men destroyed her body in their last encounter, her psyche still survived. However, Candra learned how to gain strength and energy from absorbing fresh corpses, and thanks to the Assassin's Guild and their “tributes” of those they've killed, she was able to reconstitute her own body. In short, she has become what Kaine describes as “an immortal death-eating telekinetic zombie.” We also see that half of her face is skinless and exposed muscle tissue, meaning she must continually feed on the dead to literally keep herself together.

Candra states that because both Kaine and Wolverine have survived death before, the essences from the bodies will be enough to fully restore her and proceeds to kill them. Kaine however tells her to let “us” go and that she can have Wolverine since this seems more like “a mutant thing.” When Candra asks what Kaine meant by “us,” Kaine says he means himself “and his little friend"--a spider under Kaine's control. The spider lands on Candra's face and she, grossed out, screams in panic, thus losing her concentration and releasing both Kaine and Wolverine. Kaine webs her face while Wolverine goes in for the kill, but she blasts him away. Belladonna then orders her men to kill Kaine and Wolverine.

As Wolverine defends himself against the Assassin's Guild, Kaine leaps towards a distracted Candra to stab her, when he gets attacked by Belladonna, who says she should've killed him in Houston. Kaine says that while that might've made sense, killing him wouldn't have solve their problem--that by killing for Candra, the Assassin's Guild have basically become enablers for an addict. He tries to tell Belladonna that the solution is for them to kill Candra, but Belladonna refuses to listen to reason.

Meanwhile, Candra tears off the webbing (and more of her skin) from her face, and, enraged, attacks Kaine. Then, green bile starts suddenly oozing from her face, and she realizes she's losing her body is deterorating. In desperation, she turns to one of the Assassin's Guild soldiers and telekientically rips him apart. Then she proceeds to absorb the essences of the Guild member she killed, including those slain by Wolverine.

The Assassin's Guild asks a clearly shocked and confused Belladonna what they should so, but Kaine points out the obvious: because Candra knows who the Assassin's Guild are and is immortal, it's only matter of time before she tracks down each and every one of them and feeds on them. Therefore, they have no other choice but to stand their ground and fight. Thus Kaine leads the charge, but Candra is able to hold blast him away, then declares that they will all die. Bullets prove to be completely ineffective as she freezes them in mid-air, and kills Harvester and several others with ease. That is, until Wolverine is able to slice off one of her arms.

During this, Kaine notices that Candra is growing weaker and believes they might have a chance at defeating her when Belladonna attacks him again. She declares that everything that has happened is all Kaine's fault and says that killing him will appease Candra. However, Flower saves Kaine by knocking Belladonna out with one punch.

Meanwhile, Candra immobilizes Wolverine with her powers, saying that his claws will never touch her again and says she'll strip the adamantium from his bones. And as she proclaims that she will then kill Kaine, there is a sudden SHUNK sound. Kaine has stabbed Candra in the back of the head with a stinger, and Candra collapses to the ground and her body rots and turns to dust.

Belladonna screams “NO!” proclaiming that the Red Death cannot be destroyed, that she will come back, and that her fury will be “righteous and absolute.” She then declares that Kaine and Wolverine “defilers” and demands them killed to appease their mistress. But just at that moment,  the Arranger appears. He tells them that the Assassin's Guild is now under the direct control of the Hand, and that the Kingpin has ordered Kaine and Wolverine are, for the moment, must remained unharmed. Belladonna says that the Arranger, nor the Kingpin, has any authority, that she's can easily kill him. The Arranger however, tells her she's in no position to do anything and reveals that she and the Guild are surrounded by Hand ninjas.

Wolverine, upon seeing the Hand ninjas, tells Kaine to get ready for a brawl (um, Logan? Did you not hear the Arranger tell Bella that no action would be taken against you and Kaine?), but Kaine tells him that he was the one who called the Kingpin. Kaine then explains that the Kingpin owed him a favor (from Scarlet Spider #12.1) and that while he was in New York and before going to the Jean Gray School for Higher Learning, he cut a deal with the Kingpin wherein he would hand him the Assassin's Guild in exchange for canceling his debt with them. Of course, Wolverine gets royally pissed off and punches Kaine in face.

We then see both Kaine and Wolverine flying back to the Jean Grey School in the Blackbird. Wolverine talks to Beast, who proclaims that, now the the business with Kaine is over with, Aracely can finally leave, and Aracely herself interrupts by asking Kaine all kinds of questions about New Oreleans, much to everyone's annoyance. Wolverine then warns Kaine that making “doin' deals with the devil” like Kaine did with the Kingpin will eventually catch up to him. Kaine, however, thinks that he did what he had to do, that he's made “deals with the devil” before, that he's been a “devil” himself, and that “if anyone wants a piece of [him]...they can get in line.” The end.

Thus Kaine's debt with the Assassin's Guild comes to an end, only for him to get in indebted to the Kingpin. Guess some folks never learn. In any case, this served as a decent, action-filled resolution to the story, although I do have some minor misgivings.

First, unless you're really well-versed in 1990s era X-Men, you probably won't remember who Candra is or her history with Marvel's merry mutants, Wolverine and Gambit in particular. I had to actually look up her up on Wikipedia in order to learn who she was, which just goes to show that Chris Yost and guest-writer Erik Burnham should have used footnotes referring to those past stories for clarifications sake. Second, the story wrapped everything up way too easily, not only with how Candra was killed, but also with the Hand coming in for a last-minute save to bail out Kaine and Wolverine from the surviving members of the Assassin's Guild. Finally, Horacio Domingues being brought in as a fill-in artist proves very distracting, and compared to Carlo Barberi's dynamic penciling, looks flat and uninspired by comparison.

Nevertheless, the dialogue and Kaine's inner-monologue on the proceedings is very good and doesn't distract in the slightest. And while this issue is essentially one long fight scene, it's still very engaging. And as far as team-ups go, this one between Kaine and Wolverine was certainly one of the better ones.

Until next time, where it looks like Kaine is about to have a rematch with one Otto Octavious without actually realizing it...cause we all know what the supposedly "superior" Otto is calling himself now, right?

Superior Carnage 1

Posted by Jesse




   It’s the month Marvel is touting as Superior Spider-Man month, and you know what that means; more comics starring the web slinger and his misfit friends or should I say fiends?

Superior is the word to define just about everything that’s happened since the Doctor of Octopus took over the web spinning business, and this recently announced, 5 part mini series is no exception.
Superior Carnage was promoted as “will send shivers down (your spine).", and, “Carnage as you’ve never seen him before.”  What could that possibly mean, and is that too much of an overstatement?
Well, let’s find out exactly that.

Synopsis: At an undisclosed super prison, its business as usual with frequents attempts by the inmates to escape, yet one man is only concerned for his survival. The poor chap Ted Connelly, winds up in this hell hole due to the standard prisons being overcrowded. Ted recollects the day in which Carnage aka serial killer Cletus Kassady was brought in. Kassady seemed rather harmless due to his injuries, (mainly head trauma, suffered by the Scarlet Spider (See: Minimum Carnage)), with the exception of a disturbing red glint in one eye staring back at Ted.

Present day and time, Ted finds him self being harassed and antagonized by one of the guards, regarding his cowardice and vulnerability, when all of a sudden, the guard becomes solemn. A strange neon glow permeates his eyes and his voice confirms his obedience to specific orders. He releases the lock to Kassady’s cell next door. Ted still thinks the guard is toying with him, but it appears the guard is possessed. Kassady sits with his head hanging, and what appears to be his symbiote dripping out of his eye slits and running down his cheeks, then stretching itself out over the rest of his body in dynamic fashion.

The next panel shows a red spiked tentacle bursting through the back and chest of the guard, splashing his blood onto poor Ted, who screams in panic. The cell block goes into Code Red as the alarm sounds and everyone goes running for their lives. Carnage can be seen in the background impaling several unfortunate folks. Ted cowers into a corner of his cell wishing the nightmare like reality would end, but it ends most horribly for him as the symbiote tears through his soft human flesh.

Ahh, but who was responsible for the symbiote’s release, who was behind the mind controlled guard?
The next page reveals it was none other than: the Wizard. No, not the guy from Oz the great and powerful, one of the most nefarious villains of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man fans might remember him from 1990’s Acts of Vengeance crossover, specifically Web of Spider-Man 61.

Now maybe at this point you ask yourself what could the Wizard possibly want with Carnage? Well, if you know the Wizard’s M.O. , the answer is quite simple; he wants to use him to exact revenge on heroes, cause chaos, and spread fear, all in his name. According to his monologue, the Wizard has an ego that needs to be expanded, and what better way to do so then by putting a leash on one of the most heinous villains of the galaxy.

Inspired, but criticizing of what the US government did with the Venom symbiote, (See Amazing Spider-Man 654.1) the Wizard hopes to do the same with Carnage while also including him as the centerpiece to his newly formed “Frightful Four” group of terrorists.  Don’t laugh; although his scheme is redundant, it is at least ambitious. So save your laughing for the next page, when the Wizard discovers a very fatal flaw to his plan, as he confronts Carnage. He soon discovers to his shock and horror that Carnage is a mindless killing machine and therefore cannot be hypnotized. That’s where you think the comic is about to end, just before Carnage tears him a new one, but no, Carnage proceeds to thrash him, until…

 Klaw: master of sound, blasts Carnage, thus saving the Wizard.

Review: Superior Carnage starts off with a predictable setup. The plot tends to be very straight forward and standard in pace and development. The writer doesn't provide much to establish a tone or mood. The perspective however, is at least somewhat interesting; being told from a 1st person scenario. The early protagonist and guy we think is going to take us through the story and give us insight while surviving just by slightest margin, turns out to be the victim of the 1st act, in which a hapless soul is brutally murdered, thereby establishing the threat level of the story’s big bad (wolf). It’s a clich├ęd trope but also a time honored and well received one.

Perhaps if the writer had sprinkled more flavor or telling emotion into Ted Connelly’s words, we would get a better feel for his mentality, and thus sympathize with him more; however he just becomes a forgettable plot device.

Turning our attention towards the Wizard, as the real plot takes focus and shape, his motivation becomes clear to us during his boisterous speech that he delivers while smiling, and showing a maniacal sense of pride. I am grateful that the writer chose to make this an external monologue, wherein he is speaking directly to his captors, rather than just having the character divulge the plot out loud to his self for seemingly no reason. Never the less we get a sense that this guy really has a flare for being dramatic and a desperate need for attention. So now we have a cheesy villain with an out of control ego and an inferiority complex. I’m quit confident that this is intentional on the part of the writer, seeing as how he has a strong background in comedy. I hope this was what he was trying to convey, by underlining the Wizard’s ridiculousness and track record of epic failure. I believe this is a favorable route, often times the best way to take advantage of the lame reputation a character has, is by making fun of it. So cheers for doing that.

The pay off comes quick when seeing the Wizard get exactly what the reader was probably hoping would happen. It’s quite amusing to witness the Wizard standing still in full confidence, expecting to take over Carnage’s mind, while it comes dashing forward at him with the absolute worst of intentions, and then as he gets closer, closer, and closer, the Wizard has a HOLY $#;+ I’m  screwed moment.  

I love how Kevin Shinick anticipates the readers desire to see Carnage wreak havoc and truly shows him unleashed. He recognizes that the fans want to see Carnage get a hold of this foolish villain, in a horrible costume, who is no doubt underestimating Carnage and overestimating his own ability, and scare the living daylights out of him. I love the look on the Wizard’s face and the line “Heaven help me” while he is getting mauled by Carnage. It just comes off as so desperate and pathetic at the same time, perhaps revealing to him how stupid it was to try and capture absolute chaos, hatred, and violence in a bottle.
 That’s mostly why this issue works. It’s that attention to detail and delivering subconsciously what the readers want. It’s rare that a writer has that kind of insight, or plays to the fans that way. Having said that, they should have done an even better job of showing the Wizard’s embarrassing fear but alas, they basically got the point across.

The other reason I really enjoyed this issue was the tremendous art by Segovia. I was really sold on the look and design of the characters. Carnage looks wicked, and as fear inspiring as ever.  The splash page detailing how Venom became agent Venom is particularly gorgeous and 1 of my very favorite depictions of Venom in recent memory.

I recommend this book to anyone that follows Carnage or horror fans. I cannot wait to see the next issues, and render a decision on whether we truly get to see “Carnage like we’ve never seen him before.”

RIP Ted Connelly, you were absurdly unlucky, I couldn’t help feeling sorry for you and yet I hardly knew you. Sorry you got ripped apart by a psychotic alien symbiote, but that sort of thing is bound to happen when you debut in a horror comic.


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