AXIS: Carnage #2 continues the crazy premise of the current “AXIS” arc by giving us a little more of a feel for how Carnage/Kasady is handling his new found change of heart. And I suppose it’s going…pretty well?
The first few pages of this issue give a quick little flashback scene of Kasady’s childhood living with his father and step-mother (or step-father and foster mother, Kasady isn’t the most reliable of narrators). We see a few disturbing scenes of young Kasady saving Alice Gleason, the reporter he kidnapped in issue #1, his father murdering his mother, and Kasady’s choice to push poor Alice in front of a moving school bus after a failed attempt at expressing his love toward her. The origins of the mass-murderer’s younger days is something that has never been touched on in any past Carnage stories and writer Rick Spears successfully adds some much needed background to the character’s shallow mythos.
Carnage, who has been criticized in the past for being a villain who is static in character and has no real motive for his madness, is given a little more depth here. One scene that seemed to intentionally humanize Kasady was right after his vision of pushing Gleason in front of the moving school bus. Kasady states, “You just need one beacon in the dark. One person to show your true face to. Where your heart can be broke and your innocence lost. Then you kill that one good thing to perfect the pointlessness of the universe.” In a normal pre-“AXIS” world Kasady would have just left it at that and moved on to his next victim, but in a world where alignments have been altered and bad becomes good, Kasady feels a real sense of remorse and knows that his life now has the opportunity to turn around for the better.
This feeling of remorse is beautifully illustrated thanks to German Peralta’s magnificent drawings of Kasady’s broken and pain-stricken face. The expression on Kasady’s face after realizing that life isn’t pointless really captures the raw feelings of Kasady at that moment, but his eyes are what really struck me hard. I could almost feel the pain expressed through his eyes, and this is complimented well by Ranier Beredo’s heavy shading around Kasady’s eyes and the redness of his eyeballs.
This issue isn’t entirely about the pain and terrible childhood that Kasady experienced though. Spears also manages to garnish a majority of the issue with the same oblivious humor that made the first issue so enjoyable. Kasady still doesn’t quite understand that being a hero means you can’t rip someone’s face off anymore. The element of Alice Gleason as the angel on Carnage’s shoulder that helps show him what’s right and what’s wrong is a fun piece to this crazy puzzle. It’s reminiscent of the way Anna Maria Marconi attempted to teach Spider-Ock right from wrong in Superior Spider-Man.
At one point, we even see Carnage attempt to rescue Gleason from plummeting to her doom after she slips from Carnage’s grip to the ground below. This further illustrates how Kasady is growing as a hero (albeit, still very much fitting into the anti-hero archetype at this point).
Spears mostly succeeds in the humor department this time around. Much of the issue is spent showing scenes of Carnage beating the living crap out of a perceived wrong-doer, Gleason scolding him for his lack of heroic tact, and then Carnage trying to make up for his failure. The events of the first issue seemed to be pushed aside for the most part and Sin-Eater, who looks to be the main antagonist of this series, only shows up for two main scenes, both of which showed only teases of the character from behind or in reflections.
Seeing as there’s only one issue left in the series, I’m hoping that Spears is merely buying time to lead up to an epic battle between Carnage and Sin-Eater in issue #3. It’ll be interesting to see how this series will wrap up, whether it be Carnage reverting back to his old, blood-thirsty self, or if he retains his hilariously heroic position. I’m personally hoping for the latter.