Carnage has come a long way since his debut as a completely psychotic serial killer hell bent on chaos. For much of Carnage’s history, his motives seemed to be primarily driven by his own carnal desires. Shortly before Absolute Carnage, we see in Web of Venom: Cult of Carnage #1 that Carnage has formed a religion. Carnage turns the inhabitants of Ravencroft into brainwashed followers of carnage, each connected to his mind.
In Absolute Carnage, Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman give Carnage a greater purpose as we learn that Carnage intends on waking up Knull, the god of the void, and the god of the symbiotes with the intention of extinguishing all light, setting up the ultimate battle between light and darkness. Carnage has also merged with the Grendel symbiote which we learn had been piloted on earth hundreds of years ago by Knull and was beaten by Thor who was known by the people of that time and place as Beowulf. Do you see what they did there? Carnage merging with the Grendel symbiote greatly augments his power. It seems none of the heroes are equipped to go toe to toe with him, including his father, Venom. In addition to his own tremendous power, Carnage has built a massive army which also includes a completely deranged Norman Osborne who truly believes that he is Cletus Kassidy. You’ll need to read the series to see that madness.
This series is one of the darkest series Marvel has ever produced, perhaps only eclipsed by its successor, The King in Black. Carnage’s means and methods for waking up Knull are truly horrific. He is on a mission to remove the spine from every being who has ever been connected to a symbiote. Even after being separated from a symbiote, the host retains a small piece of DNA from the symbiote known as a Codex. Each Codex absorbed by Carnage makes him stronger and brings him closer to waking up Knull who is at this time imprisoned within Klyntar, the planet of the symbiotes, and their word for “cage.” Perhaps the wildest battle in this series takes place in the three-part tie-in “Absolute Carnage: Deadpool vs Carnage.” Deadpool has a hilarious way of getting under Carnage’s skin. Seeing these two loose cannons battle it out with no holds barred makes for some fantastic reading and artwork. The stakes are also among the highest in these three books as we learn that Deadpool is what Carnage refers to as a (bleep) Unicorn. This is because Deadpool is the only person to have ever been connected to four different symbiotes. If Carnage absorbs his spine, he will gain 4 more codices, bringing him much closer to his ominous goal.
The stakes are also very high for Spider-Man, Venom, and Venom’s son, Dylan as they have formed an alliance against a seemingly unstoppable Carnage who is after all three of their spinal columns. Can Venom rise to the occasion, save his son’s life, and save the world along with his former nemesis, Spider-Man?
As with most of Marvel’s major crossover events, you can generally follow and enjoy the story by just reading the five main books of Absolute Carnage. However, I recommend reading all of the tie-ins, but if you are going to be selective, then I most strongly recommend Absolute Carnage: Immortal Hulk, Absolute Carnage: Deadpool vs Carnage 1-3, Absolute Carnage: Scream 1-3, and Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales 1-3. However, The Separation Anxiety, Captain Marvel, Spirit of Vengeance, and Avengers tie-ins are also worth the time and money investment.