Retro Review: Carnage: Mind Bomb #1
By Kevin McVicker
Original Release Date: February, 1996
Story by Warren Ellis and Kyle Hotz
This story takes place prior to the Web of Carnage storyline which is during Ben Reilly’s stint as Spider-Man. It is also followed up by a sequel of sorts in October of the same year, Carnage: It’s A Wonderful Life by David Quinn and Kyle Hotz. While its sequel does have a “For Mature Readers” warning on the cover, Mind Bomb was surprisingly granted the Comic Code Seal on the cover given its graphic and gory content.
On a dark and rainy night, a squat, bald man arrives at Ravencroft Institute. He is Dr Matthew Kurtz, a high ranking government official and physiatrist. He reaches the front door to Ravencroft and is let in by Colonel John Jameson. Doctor Kafka, the director of Ravencroft, knows Kurtz is coming.
Col Jameson walks Dr Kurtz through the halls of Ravencroft towards Dr Kafka’s office. On the way, an inmate with enhanced strength breaks the window to his cell trying to get out. Col Jameson calls Dr Kafka and asks for the level of deterrent force he can use in this case. He is told non-lethal force only. Col Jameson shoots the inmate in the face with three needles of sedative.
Kurtz and Jameson reach an extremely large, reinforced steel door; behind it is Kafka’s office. Kurtz is extremely belittling to the Colonel and the Doctor as he throws his bureaucratic weight around in order to see Cletus Kasaday. It is revealed that Kurtz taught Kafka, and while she has since become the head of Ravencroft, Kurtz has followed a much different and darker path that’s lead to a more manipulative path in psychology.
Reluctantly, Kafka grants Kurtz permission to sit in Carnage’s cell and talk to him. Her permission isn’t really required for Kurtz, but he takes it. Jameson opens the cell for Kurtz, as he puts in ear plugs. Kurtz walks into the cell.
He is immediately struck by the smell of Carnage, which is a barrage of rotting meat. Not wasting anytime, Kurtz pulls out a small sonopistol (sonic gun) and incapacitates Carnage while he hurls promises of disembowelment.
Kurtz then injects Carnage with a massive overdose of vitamin C. This is supposed to alter the brain chemistry and disengage the link between the symbiote and Kasady. It works and the red alien writhes on the floor of the cell while Kurtz then follows up the previous injections with a second secretive solution injected in the eyebrow straight into the brain. Kasady starts foaming at the mouth and his body in locked up in intense seizures.
Kurtz then asks Kasady to tell him about himself.
Kasady tells him he loves to kill people. He goes on about how many ways he knows how to kill people. He dreams about killing his parents and disposing of their bodies in the garbage disposal. He then talks about the symbiote finding him. All of this is shared to grotesque and violent imagery as we get to see in the mind of Kasady.
Kurtz is shocked by how simple Kasady is. He kills – that’s it. There is no deep hubris as is typically found in most villains. Kasady with or without Carnage kills because that’s what he loves to do.
Kurtz then asks Kasady why he kills.
Kasady replies because it is pretty. It makes him feel like God. It makes him feel like he is important and famous. It’s art. All of this is represented to even more gory and disconcerting imagery from Kasady’s mind.
Kurtz then asks Kasady how he sees the world.
Unbeknownst to Kurtz, the vitamin C has worn off and the symbiote comes rushing back to his host. Carnage takes a tendril and jams it into Kurtz’ mind offering to show him how he sees the world. Kurtz screams as Carnage creates something akin to a psychic connection with him.
Carnage fills his mind with obscene thoughts and brutal images, all the while explaining how he is the everyday evil and violence that fills the world. Kafka and Jameson are watching the entire event unfold on a monitor. Jameson rushes to the cell to get Kurtz out. Kafka authorizes lethal force. Jameson and several other guards get to Carnage’s cell. As they open the cell a hulking shadow rushes out to attack them. It is a naked and foaming at the mouth Kurtz. He leaps on the first guards and starts to bite and eat his face. He sees another guard reaching for his gun and Kurtz reaches for his neck. He sinks his fingers into the guard’s throat and stands over the dying guard with glee and blood on his face.
Carnage sits in his cell humored by the actualization of his beliefs. He believes under the cracking veneer of humanity lies this violent, bloodthirsty nature which he set free in Kurtz. A guard shoots Kurtz in the back three times. He then walks up to Kurtz who is still moaning about killing and eating everyone. Jameson fires six more times on the man, with one bullet piercing Kurtz’ temple and ending his rampage for good.
Jameson and Kafka do everything in their power to close the cell door on Carnage. Carnage doesn’t attempt to escape, but bides his time as he sits back and mocks them. He says he showed Kurtz the real world and Kurtz finally went sane, because chaos is sanity; chaos can’t be locked up.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m a sycophant for Warren Ellis. So first and foremost, keep that in mind as you read this.
What Warren Ellis truly does wonderfully here is show who Carnage is. He does so in a single issue, better than what was done in the fourteen issues of Maximum Carnage. He also creates not only a simplicity in Carnage, but a true face of evil that doesn’t on the whole exist otherwise in the Marvel Universe. Most other villains have complicated and human flaws which make them compelling and sometimes sympathizing. This story and the examination of Kasady shows that he is evil and chaos. He’s a surprisingly simple character, but there is horror in that simplicity.
There is a point where Kasady talks about how the Zapruder film was his favorite movie to watch as a kid, and it is important to know that if you’ve mainly only grown up in the internet age with multiple disturbing and free sites where you can see images and videos of death, there was a point that the only murder most people had actually seen and could find was the JFK assassination. It may feel a bit anachronistic to modern comic readers (mainly those around twenty), but considering this came out in the mid-90’s and Kasady is supposed to be around thirty, it actually makes complete sense.
Kyle Hotz does an amazing job with the art. He has a bit of a Sam Keith feel to this art, but it is more grounded in the “real world” sequences of the story. He creates a strong sense of horror and revulsion in the panels that take place in Kasady’s mind – because of that, this book isn’t for kids. I’m kind of surprised there wasn’t a warning on the cover and this issue received the Comic Coder of Authority seal. It shows you at this point in time how meaningless that seal was. If this had come out five years later, this would easily have been a MAX title.
I’m familiar with Hotz work from an Alien comic he did for Dark Horse sometime after this issue, and there is definitely foreshadowing of his Xenomorph drawings littered through the pages of this issue. That’s some fun Easter-eggs if you are a fan of his work. (We also got to interview Kyle Hotz at Gem City Comic Con last year! Check it out here! -Editor Jarid)
Also, In line with the chaos that is Kasady, he does a great job of making the symbiote appear fluid and unstable on Kasady. Only at the extreme end of the issue when Carnage is focused on watching Kurtz killing guards does the symbiote appear stable and at rest. There are small things like that through this issue that show a great deal of thought in the structure and the psychology behind this issue.
Without a doubt, this is a must read for any fan of Carnage. This is also a strong entry by both of the creators, so fans of Ellis and Hotz should definitely check this out as well. If you’re a comic fan but also love the pop-psychology in the Hannibal Lector movies, books, and television series then this is a great comic for you. If you don’t like disturbing serial killer examinations, you should probably stay away. For me, I love Carnage, I love Ellis, and I think Hannibal was one of the greatest shows ever on television, so this comic is entirely made for me.
5 out of 5 M’s