Comics : Venom/Carnage #4

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This story is part of an Arc: "A Child is Born"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

When last we left Toxin, the newest of the Symbiote "family," he appeared poised to start eating brains, following in the footsteps of the legendary Venom. Mostly, though, Paddy Mulligan is struggling to use his newfound "other" to do good in the world. But can he succeed? Can he be a better man than the so-called "Lethal Protector?"

In Detail...

"Do the Right Thing"
Venom/Carnage #4
Dec 2004 : SM Spin-Off
Arc: Part 4 of "A Child is Born"
Editor:  John Miesegaes
Writer:  Peter Milligan
Artist:  Clayton Crain
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Articles: Toxin, Venom

We start the issue, and Toxin tells the bank robbers that he had already eaten breakfast - he's joking about eating their brains. Spider-Man swings in, and tells Toxin that he did an amazing job. Toxin stutters, partly out of fear and partly out of amazement of Spider-Man, a man who impresses him. Mostly, though, Patrick realizes that he is being gradually tempted by feelings of rage. Paddy goes home to his family, where he is saddened by the horrors he felt and for bringing young Edward into such a painful world.

Later, Patrick goes to Randolph's funeral with Black Cat. Randolph was the artist from issues 1 and 2, killed by Carnage. Paddy talks to Cat about his new feelings, but they are stopped short by Paddy's intuition - Venom and Carnage are coming fast. Venom jumps him, and complains that his dreams have been shattered ("you, me, a bloody corpse inside a crumpled spider's suit...").

Elsewhere, Spider-Man is turning over a group of naked criminals to the police. Don't ask. He feels his spider-sense go off, and heads in Venom's direction to the Upper East Side. A massive brawl between Spider-Man and Black Cat and Venom and Carnage erupts, with Toxin caught in the middle, unsure of what to do. Venom insists to Carnage that they must quickly kill Toxin - upon maturing, Toxin will become more powerful than both of them.

Of course, Spider-Man and Black cat really are no match for the symbiotes. It's wet, pouring rain, and there's no Johnny Storms or sonic guns within reach. Carnage pulls Spider-Man through a mausoleum wall, surrounded by corpses. Spidey is pinned down by the ugly monsters, but before anything bad can happen, Toxin appears behind, ordering them to let Spider-Man go. Toxin puffs himself up to look like almost like a miniature Hulk, while Cat comments on his temper. Toxin proceeds to slam the hell out of both Venom and Carnage, throwing them about like rag dolls, over the fear and anguish his family had felt because of them. He completely snaps, his green tongue flicking the air. Spider-Man stares in awe as Venom and Carnage run away from their "son." Paddy is infuriated by his experience, still flicking his monstrous claws at the villains. Spidey manages to convince him to sit down and relax, and Patrick puts the symbiote away.

Pat realizes that he can be a superhero if he learns to control it. However, he's concerned about his family's well-being, and he'd have to live two lives. However would he manage that? Spidey replies: "If you come up with a good answer, I'll be glad to hear it." Pat decides that Spider-Man is a good role model, and has new friends in Spidey and Black Cat.

Going home, Paddy looks at his son, forgetting about monsters completely for once. Then he realizes something awful - little Edward has gotten hold of a dead finger from the graveyard! Paddy takes it and throws it in the East River, apalled that he brought the thing in the house. Upon returning, Pat realizes that he can't wait and take risks - he has to leave. He says a tearful goodbye to Gina and Edward, begging for them not to hate him. Gina doesn't understand - but there's nothing else he can say.

Pat slips away into the night, into his new life. He must model himself on Spider-Man, and never forget who he is - he must do the right thing.

In General...

It didn't suck! I'm tellin' ya, it didn't suck! This was a very good miniseries. Apart from some issues I had in the middle with Cat not knowing Carnage (or maybe she just didn't want to talk about it), this was an excellent story. The art was a mostly successful experiment, only a bit blotchy here. And for once, we get to see what a symbiote would do to an ordinary guy. Not one driven mad by depression and rage, not a criminal sociopath, not a superhero, but an ordinary guy with morals and no disorders. I like it. This is definitely one of the best symbiote-related stories you'll find.

Overall Rating...

This would have been a 4.5 - it was a very impressive conclusion, and Milligan did well to incorporate the irony of a symbiotic hero (not an anti-hero, not a Lethal Protector, but a true hero) into the story of one simple man's worries in life. However, the art got noticeably sloppy in #4. The rain provides a neat effect in some panels, but what happened is that it is extremely difficult to tell Spider-Man, Toxin, and Carnage apart through the second half of the book. On top of that, Patrick's facial expressions upon finding the finger are just... weird. But it was a great story, and I won't punish the art too badly. 4 webs, very good story.

Footnote...

That's it - no more symbiotes in Marvel's forseeable future. At least this series got to end the brief "symbiote revival" on a high note, instead of the terrible Venom #18.