This week marks the release of the first issue of Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain’s Carnage USA. This 5-issue series is a sequel to last year’s Carnage. Originally set to be called Astonishing Spider-Man/Iron Man, Carnage told the story of how Cletus Kasady and his alien costume came back from having the Sentry tear them in half in space back when New Avengers was first starting up. Cletus was shown to be alive, albeit with a robotic bottom half and proceeded to give both heroes a headache while unintentionally creating a new hero with a living costume.
As a guy who never cared for Carnage and had no desire to see him come back, I consider the miniseries shockingly good. It’s definitely worth checking out. The end showed that Carnage was biding his time for his next move while keeping his mindless and loyal pet Doppelganger on a leash. That leads right into Carnage USA where the serial killer has manifested his powers in a scary way that makes him more megalomaniacal than he’s ever been shown. He tussles with a couple members of the Avengers and the fact that this is the first issue should tell that it doesn’t work out so well for the good guys just yet.
It’s the final page that sells me on the series. For the sake of spoilers, I’ll blot out the bottom part in the preview, but click to see the full glory.
Hey now! Someone call the doctor because it’s been well over four hours! Zeb Wells obviously wrote this entire comic for me specifically. I’d imagine that there are a lot of people confused by some of the names here, so as the world’s foremost expert on all things Venom, I thought I’d give a quick who’s who.
Going from left-to-right.
Host: Flash Thompson
What’s His Deal? The government forcefully removed the Venom symbiote from Mac Gargan after the events of Siege. They decided to use the symbiote as a weapon for black ops purposes. Flash Thompson, a military hero who lost his legs in Iraq, was chosen as the host. The idea was to put him through 20 missions and never keep him connected to the symbiote for more than 48 hours at a time. His existence has been like a darker version of Peter Parker’s life, dealing with lies and covers to explain to his girlfriend why he’s always running late or not there at all.
Relationship with Symbiote: Flash hates and fears the symbiote, although he loves the power and ability to walk that comes with it. The symbiote has taken a liking to Flash and makes strides to corrupt him and feed into his desire to kill those he hates, but it also shows him signs of respect. If it gets too impulsive (ie. sees Spider-Man and freaks out), it’ll feel guilty about it later. At the very least, it holds Flash in higher regard than it does its most mainstream host Eddie Brock.
Last Seen: The image claims him to be “AWOL”, which means that this story is very current in its continuity timeframe. Venom’s stuck in a web of lies (sorry) involving a criminal blackmailing him into doing his dirty work or else bad things will happen to his loved ones. After the Spider-Island situation, Captain America became aware that the government was using the living costume on one of its operatives and moved to have it shutdown. Fearing what this would mean for his situation, Flash cheesed it and is now on the run. This is said to eventually lead into Captain America giving him a spot on the Secret Avengers.
Host: Patrick Mulligan
What’s His Deal? Long story here. The short story is that the Carnage symbiote spawned an offspring that latched onto a New York City police officer. Carnage wanted to kill the abomination, but Venom – at the time Eddie Brock with the costume in full control – came to its rescue. Venom later saw how Toxin had the potential to fight against him as an ally of Spider-Man and so Venom decided to align himself with Carnage. Toxin overpowered the two singlehandedly. Then during the massive supervillain breakout from the first arc of New Avengers, Toxin hunted down various escapees, especially Razorfist, who had been building up a cult of teenager who cut themselves. Patrick is one of the more pure-hearted to ever wear a living costume, but his fear of what danger it would bring caused him to walk out on his wife and newborn son.
Relationship with Symbiote: The Toxin symbiote was born fully intelligent, but without any social understanding whatsoever. A complete tabula rasa. Also it tried to coax Pat into violent acts, it was mostly because it didn’t understand why it was such a bad thing. Even when it tried to act rational and showed intent to learn these things, Pat would talk down to it as a no-good monster. This led to a lot of ill-will between the two, but they had agreed to do favors for each other and occasionally trade full control of their shared body.
Last Seen: After thwarting Razorfist at the end of Toxin’s self-titled miniseries from the mid 00’s, Pat decided to reconnect with his wife. He chose to reveal himself as Toxin while at a restaurant and while we got to read the screaming reaction, we’ve never seen any follow-up to that. Toxin’s been recruited into Superhero Registration Act and was an option for Iron Man’s pro-reg Avengers lineup, but was passed over. He’s likely still part of some 50 State Initiative team.
Host: Scott Washington
What’s His Deal? Long story here. Shorter story is that Washington was introduced as a Vault Guardsman in New Warriors as a friend to Justice, who at the time was a prisoner. Meanwhile, a corrupt businessman had kidnapped Venom and forced him into giving birth to five symbiote children, which had been given to the businessman’s trained soldier minions. One of the five, a woman named Scream, ended up slaying the other four hosts after it was revealed that even before bonding to her symbiote, she had been insane for quite some time. The four symbiotes lived and were experimented on in an underground laboratory. They ended up escaping and Washington, assigned to bring them in, let his conscience do the talking and allowed them to leave. For this, he was fired. Soon after, he was shot in the spine by a street thug and was reduced to having to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. The four symbiotes tracked him down and bonded with him all at once, giving him back the ability to walk.
What is it with these guys losing their legs?
Relationship with Symbiotes: Hybrid is opposite to the usual dynamic. The four spawns of Venom are mostly virtuous and want to do good. Washington was, for a while, filled with dreams of vengeance and proceeded to corrupt his alien buddies. He has since calmed down and now has no problem working with all four of them. The only caveat is when the symbiotes see someone who reminds them of the jailors that tortured them, they go into a frenzy.
Last Seen: There’s a reason why Hybrid is the most obscure of the symbiote troupe. After getting the costume, Washington’s only appeared in the backups of Venom’s 90’s miniseries. As Hybrid, he’s only been in six comics total. His last adventure had him team up with the New Warriors to face the symbiote-hunting team the Jury. He refused membership to the New Warriors and instead decided to focus on cleaning up his neighborhood of gang warfare.
With him being out of the picture for so long, what interests me is the text in that last panel. What does it mean that Hybrid is “HACKED”? Why are his symbiotes classified information? Curious…
Host: Tanis Nieves
What’s Her Deal? Dr. Nieves was introduced in the Carnage miniseries as a psychiatrist to Shriek, Carnage’s on-again-off-again-Bonnie-to-his-Clyde. An attack by Doppelganger led to an incident where Tanis’ arm was shot off. A cutting-edge prosthetic company helped her out by giving her a new arm. It turned out that this company had been holding onto Cletus Kasady and his symbiote for quite some time and that all of their prosthetic and armor tech was secretly based on merging symbiotes with metal. The Carnage symbiote got loose and attached itself to her, causing a mental tug-of-war between the two. The symbiote used her as a vessel to where Kasady was being held, leaving her for its main host. A symbiote spawn still lived in Tanis’ prosthetic arm, which she continued to reject until realizing that she needed to give in in order to help defeat Carnage and Shriek. Rather than taking the form of Carnage’s red and black, she instead became purple with a silver right arm.
Relationship with Symbiote: Not much is known in terms of this. Tanis has been learning to control the alien while under government care, but she has a hard time keeping it under control when Spider-Man is in the vicinity.
Last Seen: At the end of Carnage. As shown, she’s still training to understand her powers. We’ll see how much progress she’s made by the next issue.
Host: Eddie Brock
What’s His Deal? Eddie Brock decided to get rid of the Venom costume and tried to kill himself, but it didn’t take. He suffered from cancer for quite some time until doing charity work for the homeless with Aunt May and Martin Li. Li turned out to be the super-criminal Mr. Negative and accidentally created a new lifeform within Eddie’s bloodstream by causing some kind of negative symbiote to mix with cancer cells transformed into super white blood cells. This cured Eddie of his cancer immediately and being exposed to the Venom costume afterwards caused him to become Anti-Venom. Since then, he had become a crazed vigilante (again) with intent on curing New York of its drug sickness, one person at a time. Despite his insanity, he gained Spider-Man’s seal of approval… except for that time he joined Wonder Man’s Revengers team and helped beat up the New Avengers.
Relationship with Symbiote: Can it really even be called a symbiote? Whatever the white shell of Anti-Venom is called, it doesn’t appear to be truly sentient. It’s more of an extension of his body. White blood cells given a larger form to protect its host.
Last Seen: Here’s where it gets interesting. Anti-Venom was a big player in Spider-Island and Eddie ultimately sacrificed his healing powers for the sake of curing all of Manhattan from the spider plague ravaging it. Last seen, he’s been shown to be regular ol’ Eddie Brock, albeit recognized as being a hero for his role. By mentioning Venom as “AWOL” and Anti-Venom as “INACTIVE”, we’re definitely up-to-date on Eddie’s history. Does that mean that he’s going to be getting his powers back?
Please? I promise I’ll be good.