Hey, let's make another Venom limited series! And let's throw Carnage into the mix! All kidding aside, I personally have been looking forward to this title. After throwing Venom and Carnage to the wayside for most of the last 5 years, perhaps Marvel is ready to straighten out all the problems created by "anti-hero" Venom, that warped character created in the cringe-worthy Amazing Spider-Man #375. Maybe Venom is a villain, and a murderer, like he is supposed to be again. So far, Paul Jenkins has shown Venom the proper way in the recent Spectacular #1-5, and even Daniel Way doesn't screw up what Venom is all about in his Venom series (though he screws basically everything else up). And those two Carnage specials in recent years were pretty good. Above all, I looked forward to seeing what Clayton Crain's art would be like in terms of entire issues, as his Marvel work until now has been restricted to a few covers here and there. Throw in the ingenious X-Statix writer Peter Milligan, AND a new costume for Black Cat that could put Emma Frost to shame, and this could be one heckuva ride. Ring the bell!
We start off with a very nicely rendered battle between America's favorite killer symbiotes, with Carnage telling Venom that he doesn't want to talk about it - "it" of course, is the fact that Carnage is pregnant. Apparently, Venom has a particular responsibility to the child, as it will be the 1,000th of the family bloodline, and the grandfather is supposed to educate it. They continue to battle over Manhatta, and the art is... well, pretty. Venom reveals that symbiote fathers and sons are supposd to feel animosity between each other. Then Carnage flings Venom away, much like that baby in ASM #363. Carnage escapes, planning to murder the infant baby before it can breathe, if he can't stop the birth. Not much plot to go by yet, ther than revealing the pregnancy... but wonderful digital art.
Fast forward, where a young man on a rooftop is using binoculars to check out an old lady undressing in the next building. Venom goes flying by, scaring the poor guy out of his creepshow. Creepy.
Then there's a drawn out scene with Felicia Hardy in a very hot dress (and looking like Jenna Jameson), which lasts several pages and results in her stealing a painting and switching into her new boob-revealing Black Cat costume. You must see it to believe it - it actually puts the X-Men's Emma Frost to shame. Well drawn, and kinda hot, but doesn't add to the story.
Then, we have Spider-Man perching on a roof, interviewing the pervert. Crain must have had some serious fun in drawing Spidey's buttocks in this page... so round, and thick... have to shake my head and continue. Below them, Carnage causes some kind of explosion (Spider-buttocks...Spider-buttocks), and he takes a cop, implanting poor Paddy with his "seed." Paddy goes home to his wife, and they talk endlessly about the child they're about to have together, and Venom breaks in, menacing both of them, but no, Venom isn't there to threaten, he just wants to know what love is like. Spider-Man and His Amazing Buttocks arrive, telling Venom that he shouldn't have sucked up the sould of Eddie Brock if he wanted to know. Good attention to detail on Milligan's part. Venom fights with Spider-Man ass for a while, and then says that he doesn't want to fight anymore, only to save Carnage's baby - because the one-thousandth symbiote of a line will break down psychotically unless a grandparent can educate it in the way of the symbiotes (which... I though was to enslave and kill ANYWAY, but...) So as Venom and Spidye race back to the couple, it turns out Carnage got there first, and tried to kill Paddy's wife as he kidnapped the officer. In the end, Spidey is left saving the mother, Gina, as she is going into labor, as Carnage is about to rip the hell out of Paddy to get his growing baby from within.
As I find with Milligan, he always gives the reader a very solid product. While he rarely does anything revolutionary (as he did with the revamped X-Force in 2000, which of course became X-Statix), he never disappoints his fans - which is the reason for Marvel promoting him to write X-Men this winter. Of course, it is a daunting task to ask someone to put together a good Venom story, but Milligan looks prepared to come through in spades with this issue. He even respects symbiote continuity, such as it is.
As for Clayton Crain, I find that the experiment was a success (with the exception, of course, of the Spider-Buttocks). He is the perfect artist for symbiotes with his unique "digital watercolor' style - though I think having him as a regular artist on a different title wouldn't be so good.
This issue stands well on it's own merits. We see Venom NOT as an anti-hero, but as someone who just plain hates Carnage. The symbiotes talking to each other in place of the hosts, then having Cletus Kasady speak with Carnage is an interesting bit. The dialogue is spot-on. And of course, the final line of the issue from Carnage, which I must share with all of you, stands as one of my favourite comic lines in recent memory:
"Who said anything about killing you? I just have to rip out your rib cage, lungs, and spleen so I can get at my baby. You're welcome to what's left!"
So, while it isn't ingenious, and it is more than a little contrived, this story rises far above the muck that came before it. 4 webs for everything coming together so nicely.