Carnage: Mindbomb (1996)
By: Trist Jones on August 18, 2006  |  Comments ()  |  Share 
Cover Art
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writers: Warren Ellis
Art: Kyle Hotz
Back In the late Eighties, Spawn creator Todd McFarlane was the penciller on Marvel's Amazing Spider-man. During that time, he and writer David Michelinie (Iron Man, The Avengers) gave us a character I'm pretty sure everyone is familiar with: Venom. The villain who came about as a result of Spider-man forcing an alien symbiote from his body (which in turn grafted itself to a man named Eddie Brock) quickly shot through the ranks to become the biggest thing in comic book villains since The Joker. Personally, I got tired of Venom real quick, and there are plenty of other Spidey villains that sit above him when it comes to picking favourites, but I digress. In 1992, Michelinie was paired with Mark Bagley and together the two created Carnage – "The Spawn of Venom".

Carnage was met with mixed feelings; many considered him a cheap knock-off of his much loved father, others, myself included saw him as a way to get back to the old Venom, but do it better (Venom had become a sort of anti-hero around this time… Lethal Protector my arse). Initially, he worked, but became a bit of a joke during one of the more ludicrous Spider-man crossover events in recent history: Maximum Carnage. Anyway, after suffering much of the same overexposure Venom did, Carnage went dormant for a while, but in 1996, he was pulled out again by Warren Ellis (Avatar's Black Gas, Image's acclaimed Fell) in a restricted, one-shot comic entitled Carnage: Mindbomb.

Mindbomb was a full force return to what was so appealing about the character. He was a sick and twisted psychopath who had been made unimaginably worse by bonding with an alien symbiote, and this comic pulled no punches. Set pretty much entirely in his cell at Ravencroft Institute (Marvel's Arkham Asylum), Mindbomb introduces (and disposes of) Matthew Kurtz, a suspicious-looking little man and Military Intelligence psychiatric specialist who is determined to work out what makes Carnage tick. By subduing the symbiote through means of a sonic weapon and then pumping it's host (Cletus Kassady) full of drugs, Kurtz begins an interview with Kassady that goes deep into his past and psyche, showing us why he is who he is and why he does what he does. Though, as proven time and time again in these comics, you can never keep a good villain down, and soon the symbiote has rejoined with Kassady. Carnage then takes the good doctor and bores a tendril into his brain, showing Kurtz exactly what he thinks of the world, leaving Kurtz's mind destroyed and just as psychotically bent as the titular villain.

Mindbomb is a generally maligned comic among Spidey fans, simply because of what it is: a grotesque, gothic, and graphically violent trip inside the mind of a serial killer. No spandex to be found on any page. Technically, the comic is more proficient than a large number of the comics Marvel was putting out at the time, especially if they involved Spider-man. Warren Ellis writes the character incredibly well and it's a shame he hasn't been asked or put in a pitch to write Carnage into the more recent continuity. His 'redemption is impossible' take on the character is great, and I wish more people would take the time to realise this when it comes to writing villains – particularly some Batman ones. He also manages to give the supporting cast (who only appear very briefly too) great characterisations, particularly John Jameson, who fans will recognise as the son of J. Jonah Jameson and the alter ego of Man-Wolf.

The graphic content is certainly not what you'd expect from Marvel at the time. Penciller and inker Kyle Hotz gives us artwork similar in style to Kelley Jones (Batman vs Dracula, Aliens: Hive). His use of darkness and lighting suit the story perfectly, presenting Ravencroft as this grandiose masterpiece of gothic architecture, but at the same time making it feel disgusting, dank, grimy and spine-chilling. His visual interpretations of the characters tends to give them an overly accentuated look in terms of proportions (though not too much that it hurts the book), which works perfectly for the story and the characters within, and his loose, sinewy Carnage is one of the better presentations of the character to my recollection. Hotz also handles the extreme violence and gore really well too, and his slightly off-kilter artwork makes it all the more disturbing. The violence present in this comic is handled far better than some of the shock-tactic comics currently on the shelves. Razors to eyes, disembowelling, dogs gored with power-drills and all other sorts of sadistic and disturbing acts of violence are present throughout the book, and though they are indeed impacting images, they're never too much to look at, and the "Carnage" view of the world is really cool as well.

It's a great little package for the Spider-man fan that loves his horror and those that just love horror comics, but the more casual Spider-fan is likely to be completely repulsed, or possibly offended, by the "Mature Content" present within. Had this comic been released now, it would most definitely have been placed under the MAX labelling Marvel sticks on it's adults only titles, as there certainly is nothing in here for children. Well worth a look.
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