Fans looking for a higher energy dose of creepy comic horror will likely be pleased with Carnage #10. This latest offering from Gerry Conway and Mike Perkins improves upon many of the faults that bubbled to the surface last month in terms of the narrative’s pacing, and the creators appeared to have recaptured some of that manic fun that had become a trademark for this wildly weird series.
But even in a comic that gives us ample doses of werewolves, beheadings and symbiotes doing battle — all wonderful things mind you — there are still some elements to how Conway is unfurling his story that may give the reader a moment of pause.
One of which, is that unfortunate sense of déjà vu that hit me while reading Carnage #10. Without trying to sound overly snarky, there definitely was a sense of familiarity with many of the comic’s big moments and beats. Yes, I realize that only a few weeks ago I was complaining about the fact that the series was teasing readers by keeping Eddie Brock in his normal, civilian mode and not unleashing the monster within, but Carnage #10 seemingly gives readers a chaotic “boss battle” between Brock and Cletus Kasady that was overwhelmingly similar to the coal mine showdown between the two characters that was central to the plot of Carnage #5. The only difference being that this time around, the fight included a third symbiote (which we are led to believe is one of the main characters having been transformed by Carnage via the mysterious power of the Darkhold). It was still an incredibly fun sequence that was beautifully rendered by Perkins, but the repetitive nature of these moments lessens some of the high drama and stakes that are designed to evoke.
Similar concerns can be applied to how Col. John Jameson is portrayed in the issue. At this point, it’s well established that the character is in this series for one purpose — to transform into his Man-Wolf persona at the most inopportune times. But when these crises appear to echo earlier crises (is there really a discernable difference between a Carnage rampage in a coal mine and a Carnage rampage on a boat rigged to explode?), the narrative reads as being too predictable — which is an absolute shame since one of the things I’ve truly embraced about this series is its ability to zig when all other signs point to a zag.
Still, even with these criticisms in mind, Conway demonstrates how Carnage is a character-driven story first, and a blood-soaked horror epic second. Jameson’s run as Man-Wolf is surprisingly truncated by having one of the Carnage Task Force members appeal to the beast’s humanity — not a new kind of plot twist by any means, but this particular iteration of the trope feels fresh and inspired by Conway’s firm grasp of these characters and their interactions. These are the kinds of moments that reaffirm my belief that Carnage is more than just another symbiote book (even if another one of my favorite moments of this book happened to be Carnage decapitating a prisoner whining that he didn’t want to “die alone”).
In a bit of a disappointing turn, we learn that the second arc of Carnage ends where the arc actually began five issues earlier — with the task force meeting Jabulile on the high seas. The circuitous timeline is a tad frustrating to follow in my crankier moments, but Conway and Perkins have laid enough groundwork in this issue for me to be optimistic again about the overall direction of this series.