Carnage Reigns: Alpha #1 is the start of a crossover published by Marvel Comics, written by Cody Ziglar and Alex Paknadel, art by Julius Ohta, colors by Erick Arciniega, and letters by Corey Petit. The second story is titled “Field Test,” written by Ziglar, art by Travel Foreman, colors by Dee Cunniffe, and letters by Petit. The second story is titled “Flesh and Blood,” written by David Pepose, art by Paris Alleyne, colors by Andrew Dalhouse, and letters by Petit. The final story is titled “Dead To Rites,” written by Cheryl Lynn Eaton, art by Will Robson, and colors by Chris Sotomayor. Spider-Man is drawn into a building that Cletus Kasady has complete control over, followed by Scorpion and Agent Gao’s men. But Kasady may be at his most powerful yet and more than both Miles and Mac Gargan can handle.
This is a huge comic, containing an extended first story and three backups. The main story is an interesting one, a slow burner for much of the issue. With a comic containing Kasady, you know that there is going to be violence. Carnage Reigns: Alpha #1 takes its time getting there and outwardly states who is in the building too. The writers bring the main players of the book into the building first, leading them into what we and Spider-Man know is a trap. It’s a creepy beginning that only serves as a starter for the real horror.
Once Kasady strikes it is clear how big the situation is. When he is unleashed, the fight scene is terrifying and dramatic, but I might argue that it is slightly tamer than expected. You see the prelude to the gore, moments that are very intense, but then don’t see much after that. The writers may consider that to be too much at this early stage of the crossover, and there are many instances of nastiness and brutality. When it does, it is enacted on the named characters, carrying more weight to the actions. The story ends with a loud conclusion and creates a huge mystery as to the outcome of the fight.
The characters and the dialogue are superb. My reaction changes when it is Miles that interacts with Kasady or Carnage. Because he is so young and raw, going up against such a monstrous being seems more terrifying. Peter Parker or Flash Thompson have had this dance many times, but it’s early for Miles. Thankfully, he still has the experience and is a phenomenal hero, proven many times during this opening issue.
Working separately with him but wanting the same goal is Scorpion, also brilliantly written. He has his own history with Carnage, and his rage is a different energy within the hellscape of the building. Gargan and Miles are only aware of each other’s presence by the end of the issue, but the dialogue between the two is fascinating. Now bonded with the Extrembiote, Kasady has more abilities and looks close to unstoppable. There are parts of the script that seem to break the fourth wall when mentioning Kasady’s tactics and why certain characters are included. His manipulation and demented dialogue is always sadistic fun.
The art is superb, particularly when Kasady is fully unleashed. His new abilities have changed how he moves, and Ohta is able to account for that with a different set of moves. His power and speed are mesmerising, discombobulating those reading and those he’s about to eviscerate. There is a technological element to the design of the Extrembiote, mixed with the writhing, alien quality of a Symbiote. The art and the battle change drastically within the comic too. The first fight is against the cannon fodder that Scorpion brought with him and is a startling display of power. But the second bout is against much stronger opposition, and the scale is raised to match. It’s a terrific matchup between three very contrasting figures and power sets.
The colors are fantastic. The background and location could be considered dull, but the characters themselves are actually very colorful and varied. From Miles’ bright red to the green and yellow of Scorpion, there is something to focus on within the darkness. The lettering is fantastic, and Petit does not resort to using a custom word balloon for Kasady, which could have affected how easy it is to read.
The backup stories are all terrific. “Field Test” gives Scorpion a run as an enforcer for Agent Gao whilst also highlighting the ruthlessness of the unit he runs with. “Flesh and Blood” is an excellent example of the scars that Carnage leaves on a person and those around him, as Miles’ father recalls the last time his son encountered the monster. And “Dead to Rites” provides some background to Agent Gao, connecting her to Carnage as well within her origin story.
Carnage Reigns: Alpha #1 sets a high bar for the rest of the crossover. The book elevates the Miles Morales run by adding one of Marvel’s most violent and freaky villains. For an opening act, it is hard to see how the comic could get more intense. The art is incredible and the script is phenomenal. Kasady always seems inevitable, like he will return in some form and you can’t keep him down. But now he has been given something even more powerful than before, and it could take something more extreme to put him down again.
Carnage Reigns: Alpha Issue #1
Carnage Reigns: Alpha #1 sets a high bar for the rest of the crossover.