There will always be more mutants to join with, or fight against the X-Men. There will always be more Lanterns, whether Green, Red, Blue, or the rest of the spectrum. And, I guess, there will always be more symbiotes.
Zeb Wells and Clayton Crain’s sequel to their first Carnage outing continues with the second issue of Carnage USA, and four more symbiotes come with it. For the most part, it’s got a quicker pace than the first issue, and is better as a result. It slows down a bit toward the end, but it’s an issue that is almost exactly the same in quality as the first. The bad parts are balanced out with clever dialogue and interesting plot points, and if you liked the first one, there’s nothing here that will change your mind.
The story gets moving more than it did in the first issue, and Wells’ writing picks up with it. He’s written Carnage before, so he’s familiar with the character, but now that the exposition is over, he gets a chance to be a little more creative with dialogue and pacing. Spidey and Carnage get the best lines, some of which are literally laugh out loud funny. This is a book with serious tones and brutal violence, but it’s also a book that’s funnier than books that spend the whole issue actually trying to be.
The writing stumbles a few times, though. When the government-employed symbiotes are introduced, it’s a bit awkward. They’re each given around a quarter of a page to be introduced, and they each get a caption explaining who they are and what their “assigned bio-weapon” is. Captions aren’t the most eloquent way of introducing characters. It’s asking too much of the reader to remember names and abilities of four new characters at once. The same thing happens in X-Men books all the time, and despite the fact that it’s a simple way to get a bunch of new information out in as little time as possible, it’s about as unoriginal as using a TV news report.
One of the best parts of the book, though, is the art. I take back what I said about Crain’s style of digital painting. It’s grown on me, and his fairly uncommon style is one that captures the tone of the book. It’s super detailed, but most of the colors are dull. His style also won’t work for a lot of stories, or for a few different types of writers, but it works here. For a book set in a small town in the middle of the desert, bright colors wouldn’t fit.
Crain’s biggest accomplishment on the book, though, is the cover. They’ve been great so far, and the rest of the series’ covers look just as good. The cover isn’t a huge part of the book, but it can be the difference between someone picking it up and someone not giving it a second glance. When you’ve got Carnage dressed as Uncle Sam and it’s as good as this, it’s sure to draw in prospective readers.
If you’ve read anything by Zeb Wells before, you know what to expect. For a former writer of “Robot Chicken,” funny dialogue is a given. Wells’ personality can’t carry a series though, so it’s fortunate that he’s got a good plot to back it up. It’s a cliché for villains to want to take over the world (or at least part of it), but Carnage USA comes at it from a different angle. He wants a separate state only for symbiotes (think Magneto, but with spidery alien symbiotes instead of mutants). It’s a fresh take on a tired cliché, and it’s one that’s backed by a creative team that’s just as unorthodox as the character himself.