First Impressions – MINIMUM CARNAGE: ALPHA #1

Some months ago, we saw a miniseries utilize a paint-like art style and the raw insanity of one of Spiderman’s more dangerous foes, Carnage. That was CARNAGE: USA. Marvel returns us to the mad symbiotic serial killer with its new miniseries/event: MINIMUM CARNAGE.

This will take some explaining for those not already in the loop about Carnage. Way back in the eighties, Spiderman got a black costume during the events of Secret Wars, which was actually an alien symbiote that bonded with him and drove him to evil. He rid himself of the suit, only for it to attach itself to rival photographer Eddie Brock. Thus Venom came into existence, and comic fans loved him.

As was the habit of Marvel – still is now that I think of it – Marvel made Venom appear in so many books, he hit overexposure and became a joke. Requiring a new threat to the webbed wallcrawler, Marvel created Carnage as a copy of Venom, but crazier and colored of blood. Within the context of the Spiderman books, serial killer Cletus Kassady shared a cell with Eddie Brock when the latter got busted out of prison by the Venom Symbiote. A piece of the symbiote broke off and bonded with Kassady, creating Carnage.

The other important aspect of Carnage’s history is the maxi-series Maximum Carnage. Depending on how remedial your pattern recognition is, you probably already figured out where this storyline got its name.

There’s yet more to this complex web of symbiotes and wallcrawlers, though. A few months ago, Carnage took over a Midwest American town in Carnage: USA, which I’ve previously gone at length about. This storyline was partly resolved by Venom, who is not Eddie Brock anymore. He parted ways with the Venom suit – and gained another to become Anti-Venom – which attached to longstanding Spiderman supporting character and double amputee Flash Thompson. He’s currently working for the military as Venom.

Finally there’s the Scarlet Spider, a clone of Peter Parker who assumed the identity from the previous Scarlet Spider from the nineties, who was also a clone of Peter Parker. Now once you get over the informational whiplash, know that I’ve been covering the present Scarlet Spider’s ongoing series on the site, which is pretty good.

By the way, I’ll cover the second part of this storyline in the latest issue of Scarlet Spider. Because Marvel – and to a lesser extent DC – has a habit of creating storylines that bridge several different ongoing series. As you can guess, this one will pass through both Scarlet Spider and Venom’s ongoing series, in addition to these one-shot issues that aren’t actually self-contained.

Now imagine trying to read this storyline well after the fact, and you have to jump through hoops to find all the parts. Good luck, future readers.

That exposition dump took altogether too long. To summarize the plot hook for MINIMUM CARNAGE: ALPHA #1, Carnage breaks out of prison with the help of tiny people from a microscopic, subatomic universe.

Indeed, the writers were struggling to find a way to justify the title Minimum Carnage. I need a drink.

Right away we realize this won’t be anything like Carnage: USA. Not just because of the differences in art style, but simply because the tone is entirely different. When Cletus Kassady, serial killer and psychotic supervillain, takes over a town, it’s menacing. He extends his influence over all the innocent people there very a massively inflated symbiote; suddenly he’s got hostages and assassins all rolled into one. Here though, his plan – such that it is – revolves around shrinking technology. Sure he’s a threat, but not in any solid way. Where’s the tension? Where’s the menace? It’s gone, because it’s not that kind of story.

Instead, it’s a team-up between the more unlikely Spiderman spin-off characters, Venom and Scarlet Spider. And that’s where the interesting bits are.

I loved Carnage: USA. In fact I consider it the benchmark for any Carnage storyline (I’ve yet to read Maximum Carnage myself). But the thing about spectacular representations of characters is that not every story needs to be one. Sometimes we just want a more grounded affair. If I may be so bold, Minimum Carnage is a story about the insane symbiotic villain at a…smaller scale.

I make no excuses my love of wit and puns. Small wonder at that.

So am I going to follow MINIMUM CARNAGE, despite it being partially on a series I don’t normally read? It’s kind of a forgone conclusion that I am, considering the other major ongoing series this goes through is one I regularly follow. As previously stated, we’ll get more into that in the days to come. On the other hand, do I recommend MINIMUM CARNAGE to people? Not unless you’re already a fan of the Scarlet Spider, Venom, and/or Carnage. If you don’t fall into one or all of those groups, I’d steer clear. It’s ironically a bit too small of a crossover to recommend to non-fans. In short, not a big deal to skip.

You thought my small puns were finished? Incorrect, my list is not nearly as miniscule.

Do you care about Carnage, Scarlet Spider, or Venom? Did you love Carnage: USA? Are you disappointed by the scale of this endeavor? What’s your opinion on cross-series storylines? Leave your comment below.

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One Response to First Impressions – MINIMUM CARNAGE: ALPHA #1

  1. GNM says:

    I do think it’s kind of cool what they did with Scarlet Spider, it’s better than Kaine continually coming after Peter. But I can honestly say I haven’t had my interest peeked (partly do to not reading that much about him) by Flash having the Venom symbiote. And I’ve liked Carnage as a villain but usually when Venom is involved too, there’s just not a lot of dimension to Carnage.

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