Originally Published: January 10, 2011, on my StrongProtector profile on ComicVine.com

As someone who works in media, there is always one adage to live by when it comes to putting out a product. “Sex, humor, and violence sell.” Now, although this may be true, there is also another primal focus that can draw us into a product, even if devoid of those other aspects, especially from what I’ve seen of my generation. Nostalgia.

So even though I haven’t been staying up to speed on the more modern adventures of Spider-Man outside of his time in the New Avengers, (I’ve mostly boycotted Spider-Man since the One More Day story arc. Check out my blog post here from Oct. 2009 to understand why: http://raycarsillo.com/2010/04/24/just-call-me-j-jonah-jameson ) when I saw this new mini-series with Carnage gracing the cover, I knew I had to pick it up.

And let me tell you, as someone who originally got into Spider-Man due to the infamous Maximum Carnage storyline, I’m glad I got this as Carnage just grabbed my nostalgia factor by the balls and pulled me right in.

Into the second issue now, Carnage, written by Zeb Wells and drawn by Clayton Crain, sees a classic super hero team-up in progress as Iron Man is helping Spider-Man try to piece together what caused a sudden riot during a routine prisoner transfer, and what drew out a Spidey foe we haven’t seen in years, the Doppelganger, in issue 1. Of course, this was anything but a routine prisoner transfer from the Ravencroft Sanitarium though since the reader knows that it was actually Shriek in the armored car and her emotion destabilizing powers that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

During the riot, Iron Man, who arrived on the scene around the same time as Spidey, obtained a sample of a red organic residue that wasn’t blood and returns to his lab to analyze it with the wall-crawler. Meanwhile, a corporate foe of Iron Man is getting ready to give our favorite red and gold Avenger a run for his money by activating a handful of his own armored super soldiers that are running on a very special biofuel. And I don’t think there’s any vegetable oil in there. This sets in motion the events that will lead to a great fight scene and cliffhanger confrontation at the end of the issue that will leave you starting a riot of your own as you realize this mini-series is being released on a bi-monthly basis (meaning we have to wait until February for the next issue!).

Carnage #2 features some spectacular artwork by Clayton Crain as the many dark tones of the book are emphasized by the settings the characters usually find themselves in. From dimly lit hospital rooms to Iron Man’s workshop left mostly unlit, you can feel the atmosphere oozing out of this book. And the scene where the strand of organic residue continues to act…negatively…towards the sound of Spider-Man’s voice is just classic.

The writing is also very good by Zeb Wells as he expertly weaves a complex web (pun intended, pun always intended) of intrigue and suspense as he bounces back and forth from Spider-Man and Iron Man to Shriek, Carnage, and the holding cells until they explosively collide towards the end of the issue and set us up for what seem will be three thrilling final issues.

But the most powerful thing about this mini-series so far is clearly the nostalgia. From the moment Doppelganger showed up in the first issue, you knew this was going to be something special and to bring back rarely featured villain Shriek, and any reason to bring back Carnage, is a great move in my book. The only thing that could make this book better is if we start seeing other heroes and villains brought into it much like in the original Maximum Carnage story arc as I’m sure this fight will spread beyond Carnage’s current holding cell. Maybe this could be a good way to feature Toxin and/or Anti-Venom some more?

Anyway, going back to my old adage, this book has almost everything you would need. Lots of violence, Spidey’s classic humor, and so much nostalgia that you almost feel like looking for a Green Jelly CD to listen to in the background as you read this. All it needs is a little more sex and this would be an instant classic. Maybe get a few gratuitous shots of Mary Jane or Black Cat in the next issue and we’d be all set!

Even without that though, Carnage #2 (of 5) gets a 5 out of 5 from me due to the tremendous way in which the plot has been forwarded and the triumphant return of one of the greatest comic book villains of all-time.

-Ray Carsillo

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