Absolute Carnage, Marvel Comics’ latest crossover series, is a symbiote-filled adventure spinning out of Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman’s Venom, and the work that series has been doing to flesh out the mythology of the symbiote species. Eddie Brock and his symbiote are trying to stop the villain Carnage from killing every character in the Marvel Universe that has ever bonded with a symbiote — and that’s a long, long list.
It’s a good hook for a crossover miniseries, with strong talent involved. So let’s get you up to speed on the Venom mythos, before you dive into Absolute Venom.
The symbiotes have their own god, Knull
At the dawn of time, Knull was a being in the void of unformed space, who was disturbed by the efforts of the Celestials to form the universe, which reduced his domain. He forged living weapons to enact his will across the vastness of the universe and destroy all light places. Those weapons were the first symbiotes, merging with alien hosts and replacing their consciousnesses with Knull’s hive mind.
But eventually, a great hero (it was Thor) defeated one of Knull’s creatures so soundly that it broke his connection to the symbiotes. Free of his control, they took hosts of their own choosing without replacing their minds, learning mortal notions of “honor” and “nobility.” They then rebelled, returned to Knull, subdued him, and bound him in a giant spherical prison constructed out of billions of their own bodies. For years, the characters of Marvel Comics have just assumed that sphere was the symbiote home planet.
Carnage is trying to awaken Knull
Cletus Kasady, the notorious symbiote-bonded serial killer known as Carnage, had been killed after falling to Earth from space, his symbiote burning up on reentry. However, his body was recovered by a human cult that worships Knull, who bonded him with one of Knull’s most powerful symbiotes, the dragon-shaped Grendel, to reanimate him.
Even though Kasady was able to resist Knull’s will and assert control over his new symbiote, he still decided to do what Knull wanted in the first place: Tap into the collective hive mind of the symbiotes in order to break open Knull’s prison.
If Carnage succeeds, Knull retakes control of his wayward children, and a fearsome evil is unleashed on the universe. But he needs to locate anyone who ever bonded with the Venom symbiote — living or dead — and consume specific parts of their nervous system in order to tap into that hivemind.
Carnage needs to eat everyone’s spine
It has been recently discovered that even after a symbiote breaks up with a host, it leaves behind a little biological package, called a “codex.” To the hivemind, the codex contains a bunch of information about the host, like a genetic hobo sign.
If Carnage can consume the codex of enough people who have bonded with the Venom symbiote or its offspring, he’ll be able to contact the hivemind. And that particular symbiote and its children have bonded with a lot of people in the Marvel universe. 2017’s Venomverse and 2018’s Venomized crossovers slapped symbiotes onto a huge number of the major Marvel players, including the X-Men, the Avengers, members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Strange, the Punisher, Deadpool, Doctor Doom, Ghost Rider, and more.
And, of course, there’s the Venom symbiote’s original human host: Peter Parker.
And now you know why Carnage is trying to eat the spine of half the Marvel Universe! Here’s how the heroes of Absolute Carnage have been doing lately.
Eddie and his symbiote have been on the outs
Disgraced reporter Eddie Brock and his alien other half have had some ups and downs in their relationship lately. First, Eddie discovered that years ago, when their relationship was a lot less stable, the symbiote erased his memories of some pretty important life events. Then, in a battle with the Grendel and an avatar of Knull, the Venom symbiote sacrificed itself to save Eddie from a furnace — surrendering to one of its greatest weaknesses, fire.
The symbiote survived, but it lost the higher functions of its intelligence. Essentially, Eddie could still merge with it to become Venom, but it could no longer act on anything other than instinct, and it could not talk to him. Eddie was very alone, for the first time in a long time.
Then, during the War of the Realms, the Dark Elf Malekith ripped the symbiote from Eddie and forced it to become his imitation of All-Black, the Necrosword — the legendary, god-killing symbiote blade of Knull. When the Venom symbiote escaped after Malekith’s defeat, the dark magic of that transformation had cured it of its “brain death,” leaving it free to seek out Eddie and reunite with him.
But even without his other, Eddie isn’t quite alone anymore.
Eddie Brock has a son
When Eddie discovered that his symbiote had altered his memories, he also discovered what he’d been forced to forget: He has a kid.
Once, when his ex-wife Anne Weying was close to death, Eddie allowed his symbiote to bond with her and heal her. And in the few seconds when he and the symbiote and Anne were all connected, the three of them accidentally conceived a human child. Terrified of Eddie and the symbiote, Anne brought the baby to Eddie’s father. The symbiote erased Eddie’s memories of the event out of fear that Eddie would leave it in order to be a father.
Young Dylan Brock is now nine years old, and, as far as anyone has told him, Eddie is his older half-brother. And as Eddie is his only living relative, our intrepid alien-bonded reporter is trying to stop Carnage and keep Dylan safe all at the same time.
How do I read Absolute Carnage?
Absolute Carnage has the five-issue main series that will tell the core story of the crossover, but it wouldn’t be a crossover if it didn’t show up in a few more books.
The Venom and Amazing Spider-Man series will both have a few tie-in issues; and Marvel is publishing a handful of three-issue tie-in miniseries — including Absolute Carnage: Miles Morales, Absolute Carnage: Lethal Protectors, and Absolute Carnage vs. Deadpool — as well as a handful of one-shot tie-ins — including Absolute Carnage: Immortal Hulk, Absolute Carnage: Avengers, and Absolute Carnage: Ghost Rider — Symbiote of Vengeance.
Absolute Carnage will conclude in November with with Absolute Carnage #5 and Venom #20.