The conclusion to the fantastic Carnage miniseries AXIS: Carnage is a weird one, to say the least. Issue #3 picks up where #2 ended, with Carnage realizing that his new lady friend, reporter Alice Gleason, has been kidnapped by Sin-Eater, and it’s now up to Carnage to practice some of the heroics that he’s slowly been learning to save Ms. Gleason. But, of course, nothing’s ever as easy as going and saving the damsel in distress. You gotta have your face blown off a few times first. And so we immediately see Carnage blown to hell by a missile in the opening pages of issue #3. This leads to a wild hallucination of young Cletus Kasady visiting “heaven” and then “hell.”
The juxtaposition of the “heaven” page with the “hell” page created a nice contrast of colors and emotion, and also provided some great comedic dialogue (as Rick Spears has proven he is capable of creating through the past two issues). As always, German Peralta and Rain Beredo provided beautiful illustrations in this issue. I love Beredo’s use of watercolors and washed out backgrounds that seem to meld together perfectly.
I also loved the revamp of the famous “With great power…” quote that an angel version of Gleason tells Kasady while they’re in “heaven.” Gleason tells Kasady, “You have great power, yes. And with great power comes great, like all kinds of, I don’t know, stuff…So don’t be a jerk. You’re good now and you’ve got mad skillz.”
It’s this kind of modern, youthful humor that has made AXIS: Carnage so enjoyable to read. It’s not often that this kind of laugh-out-loud humor is found in comics, especially ones centering around dark, demented characters. Maybe in Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, or Nick Spencer’s Superior Foes of Spider-Man, but in a Carnage comic? It’s a unique take on the character, no doubt.
Getting back to the plot of issue #3, after bringing Gleason to his sewer lair, Sin-Eater reveals to Gleason that he is Emil Gregg, the one true Sin-Eater. A footnote referencing the story of Sin-Eater from way back in Amazing Spider-Man #300 shows that Spears has dug deep into the mythos of Spider-Man to bring back a story that most people had probably written off as already resolved.
If you know the plot behind Amazing Spider-Man #300 (I certainly didn’t) then you’ll remember that issue #300 is famous for being the first time we see Eddie Brock become possessed by the Venom symbiote. But before that in the story, Brock, while working for the Daily Globe, exposes Emil Gregg as the Sin-Eater. Later on, Spider-Man catches the “real” Sin-Eater, Stan Carter. Brock is fired from his job at the Globe for getting the story wrong, seeks vengeance on Spider-Man for causing him to lose his job yada yada yada.
I applaud Spears for reaching back 26 years in the past to bring up a long forgotten blip in history. Although, I was slightly confused by Sin-Eater’s explanation of how he was sucking up everyone’s sins and why he was rocking a green Ghost Rider head underneath that ski mask.
Aside from confusing plot points, the climax of the issue got everything back on track, and provided one of the strangest ways I’ve ever seen a hero take down a baddie. Carnage realizes that he can use Sin-Eater’s sin eating powers against him, and proceeds to absolve himself of every sin he’s ever committed in his tragic and demented life. The last sin that Carnage confesses, that he enjoyed every murder he’s ever committed, proves to be too much sin for the Sin-Eater to eat and the pious murderer explodes into a shriveled husk.
Kasady has now been freed of all his sins, and Spears ends the issue by putting Carnage into a position where he could possibly continue to learn to be a hero, albeit one who’s going to have a lot of proving to do to the seasoned heroes of Earth. I loved this trilogy of Carnage comics, but I have to say I’m deeply saddened that this is the last issue in the series. Hopefully, fans will be able to convince Marvel to give the team of Spears, Peralta and Beredo a shot at a monthly Carnage solo series. If Spider-Gwen can get her own series after only one issue, then who’s to say the manic murderer turned hero can’t?