Tuesday, March 28, 2006

They're not symbiotes. They're parasites.

By now I think I've made it obvious that I don't really care for superheroes who kill, and certainly not those who kill casually.

So, why did I cheer when, in New Avengers #2, the Sentry ripped Carnage in half?

Because I hate Carnage. I really, really hate Carnage. And I don't mean the Darth Vader "You're so evil that I love hating you" kind of hate. No, I'm talking about the "Dear god, please never, ever let me pick up another comic that this character appears in" kind of hate.

I've said before that the only Spider-Man books I read right now are his appearances in the Ultimate Universe. This isn't entirely true, I also get Spider-Girl and New Avengers, but for the most part, I've written the 616 Spider-Man off.

But Aaron, you say, Spider-Man is the perfect everyman hero. He's a great character. He gets pushed to his limits more than anyone else in comics. He has great dialogue, and a killer rogues gallery. And you would be right. But there are two sins that have removed Peter Parker from my weekly pull.

The first would be the Clone Saga. What a piece of work that was. Still, it's mostly gone away. So I could almost forgive it. Almost. But there's another sin, an unforgivable sin. Carnage.

Dear god, do I hate Carnage.

So, let's talk about why I hate Carnage.

Set the way-back machine for 1984, the summer of Secret Wars. I was of the perfect age to remember Secret Wars and think it was cool, without being a critical enough thinker to realize where it was weak. Three-quarters of the way through, Spider-Man aquired the Alien Costume. The black costume. The symbiote who would one day become Venom.

I still wish he had just picked up a needle and thread.

But in any case, Secret Wars #8 came out, and Spider-Man got the black costume. This was one of the first times an iconic superhero costume changed. Long before Iron-Armored Vigilante Killer Batman, Electric Kool-Aid Superman or Kyle "I'm a graphic designer and can't wear the classic costume" Rayner picked up the ring. And you know what? It was cool. Look at it. Great design. Iconic in it's own right. Sleek and impressive.

But it couldn't last. Fans wanted to know what happened to the Spidey costume they'd known for two decades, so it had to come back. But the symbiote had functionality that Peter would be stupid to give up, so they had to make it a bad thing for him to keep.

We all know what happened here. The costume fled after being separated from Parker, bonded with Eddie Brock, and by the time we get to Amazing Spider-Man #298 Eddie Brock became Venom.

And Venom was kind of a cool idea. Especially once you realized that, other than the fact that he hated Parker, and his brand of justice made the Punisher seem lenient, Venom wanted to protect others. He was very much the dark mirror that Peter had to examine himself in.

Ah, but there is that segment of the comic book reading population who doesn't share my opinion of what makes a superhero. They like their vigilantes dark and gritty. And Venom was cool. Venom became less a dark mirror of Peter Parker, and more his own anti-hero. He even made peace with Parker, of sorts.

But wait, if Venom is the dark mirror of Spider-Man, but he's no longer the bad guy, then we need something even worse than Venom!

I swear, if I could find the person who made this pitch at Marvel, I would kick them in the shins.

So, we get Carnage in Amazing Spider-Man #361. If Venom was bad, then Carnage was worse. Venom wanted to kill Peter Parker, or people who hurt other innocents, so Carnage wanted to kill everyone. Venom could use the symbiote to make tentacles, and he had nasty teeth and claws, so Carnage could make the symbiote form weapons. Venom was stronger than Spider-Man and Carnage was stronger than Venom. Venom was vulnerable to fire and sonics, Carnage didn't care about these things. Eddie Brock could be separated from the symbiote, so Cletus Cassidy had the symbiote living in his blood.


Even before we got to Maximum Carnage, I hated this character. Even before Venom and Carnage started spawning hordes of symbiotes, I was tired of them. The longer it went on, the more I wanted someone to just pick him up and toss him in the sun.

The Sentry didn't quite throw him into the sun, but hey, close enough.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It may not make up for the comics, but on the bright side, I think Ted has done great things with the symbiotes in our game. Of course, they have nearly nothing in common with their namesakes other than their names (and hence the most likely reason it works) but still...Of course, I'm a bit biased ;-)


5:58 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Hey, I didn't touch on how they've been used in other sources.

I think they've been handled just fine in the Ultimate universe. Sentry didn't throw either Ultimate Venom or Ultimate Carnage into space.

And he-who-plays-a-heroic-Venom, I even said that Venom was kind of a cool idea. Just not Carnage.

Damn Carnage.

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't hold back...tell us how you really feel ;-)

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But wait, if Venom is the dark mirror of Spider-Man, but he's no longer the bad guy, then we need something even worse than Venom!"

You speak much truth, oh wise Aaron. This violates two of my main rules:

Don't make your bad guy a good guy just because he got popular with the fans. He got popular because he WAS a bad guy (DC, you hearing me? Thank god you finally let Deathstroke be a bad guy again!)

When trying to follow up an arch-villain you can't just redrawing them with a new look, a new name, and say "Look! It's MUCH worse than the last ultimate horror". This is lame. Babylon 5 fans will remember "Third Space". Or maybe they won't, which would be merciful.

2:53 PM  

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