I’ve been on a bit of a symbiote kick lately here on the blog, but I’m finally moving on from Venom. The first Spider-Man action figures I ever got were a three pack of Spider-Man, Venom, and Carnage, branded with the Maximum Carnage video game graphics. I didn’t even know who Carnage was back when I got that figure, but over the years, I’ve learned more about the second symbiote and while he’s honestly not that great of a character, he’s still very popular and it’s no surprise that Carnage showed up in the Marvel Legends line.
Carnage was released in the Marvel Legends Amazing Spider-Man 2 line. Considering how few movie characters get released in “movie waves” anymore it’s not surprising to see him show up here. I do, however, have to roll my eyes at all the fans who thought that meant Carnage would be getting the movie treatment at some point. While I think he looks cool, Carnage is honestly a pretty crap character. He’s a serial killer obsessed with chaos who can kill people super effectively now that he’s got a symbiote. It’s not exactly the most movie-friendly character out there since he doesn’t really have a plan beyond killing everyone he can. If Marvel ever wanted to make an R-rated Spider-Man movie, he’d be great, but since they’re logically focused on PG-13 movies, Carnage isn’t going to show up any time soon, and that’s fine. The Marvel Legends Carnage uses the base body they’ve used a lot over the years, and that’s unfortunately a problem for me. Under the symbiote, Cletus Kasady was a pretty thin guy. Yeah, the Carnage symbiote bulked him up, but this is way too big a body for Carnage. I wish the wirier new Spider-Man body had been around at this point because that would be the perfect base for Carnage as well. Since this is the first time I’ve reviewed a figure based around this body, I’ll discuss the articulation a little more in depth. Carnage has hinged ankles, swivels at the mid-shin and just below the hip, the standard ball-and-socket hip joint, a waist swivel, an ab crunch, ball joints at the shoulders, bicep swivels, double-hinged elbows, hinges and swivels at the wrists, and a hinge and ball joint in his neck. This makes Carnage quite poseable and everything moves quite well. Despite being built around the standard Marvel Legends body, Carnage gets a surprisingly large number of new pieces. Both this lower legs and lower arms are new pieces because there are ports that allow Hasbro to plug tendrils into. No other figure before Carnage had something like this, so I think they originated with Carnage. Carnage also gets new hands with large, knife-like fingers. This fits Carnage quite well because that’s how he spends most of his time. Unlike Venom, Carnage is always ready to kill and his symbiote reflects that. Up top, Carnage also has a new head and this is a great piece. Carnage’s mouth has always been a bit weird. Originally, when Carnage transformed in the comics, the pink of the symbiote’s mouth actually covered Cletus’ face. Over the years, that’s evolved more into an actual mouth with pink inside. The Marvel Legends version opts for the second design and as such, Carnage’s head sculpt is actually two pieces. The lower jaw is a separate piece, but it’s not poseable. However, doing it this way adds some depth to the sculpt and makes Carnage look like he’s got an evil smile. Considering how much he loves killing, I think that’s a great call. The head sculpt is also where most of the actual sculpting is done. His eyes are slightly recessed and that’s literally the only sculpted detailing on the body. Carnage may be a simple figure, but the simplicity serves it well and makes for a great version of the symbiotic serial killer.
Carnage is mostly red, and with a name like Carnage, that’s not surprising. Add in the fact that in the modern comics, the Carnage symbiote is now literally part of Cletus’ blood, and the red everywhere makes sense. Carnage is molded entirely out of red plastic, yet there’s enough depth in the design that he doesn’t look plastic-y. Black swirls are painted over the red. In the comics, they’re kind of used to show the chaotic nature of the character. In fact, in the original discussions about the character, Marvel’s editors wanted Carnage’s patterns to look entirely different in every panel of the comics he appeared in. Mercifully, cooler heads prevailed and while the black swirls aren’t always consistent, the black is usually in the same spots. The black is well done throughout the body, though the paint work on the head is a little weak. There’s a bit of black slop on the eyes and a bit of white undercoverage as well. While the eyes are a bit weak, I do like the pearlescent white used. It just looks a little more sinister than the pure white that’s often used for Carnage. There is a pretty noticeable paint flaw on my Carnage’s right eye. Normally, that would be a deal-breaker, but Carnage was such a popular figure that I only ever saw him once on the pegs, so I figured I’d better buy him. Carnage was released labeled “Spawns of the Symbiote.” Marvel has started doing this thing where, to sell more figures, some characters are released under generic names so they can swap in a different figure later in the run. In this case, Carnage was released first but then down the road, Hasbro released a version of Carnage’s spawn, Toxin. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the cool, original version of Toxin but the crazier, Venom-like version. Carnage definitely moved a lot better than Toxin, so it was out of necessity that I bought a slightly-flawed version of the figure.
Carnage is another accessorized Marvel Legends figure, though it’s not much considering what they could have done. Carnage is known for forming wicked weapons like axes and huge blades with his symbiote that take the place of his hands. Marvel Legends has dabbled in swappable hands before, but unfortunately, they didn’t do that with Carnage. The bladed fingers are nice, don’t get me wrong, but I’d love to have seen an axe hand like my vintage Carnage figure had. He does, however, get a batch of tendrils that plug into has back. That works well for Carnage because he’s traditionally drawn with a lot of tendrils coming off his body. It’s another way to quickly differentiate Carnage’s silhouette from Venom’s when drawing him. The tendrils are made of soft plastic and plug securely into his back. They really do add a lot to the figure, but it still would have been nice to see some sort of symbiote weapon for Carnage.
Many people consider Carnage to be a character defined by 90s excess. Basically, he was created to be a more extreme version of Venom. However, just because the character’s origins and the character itself aren’t that great, that doesn’t mean it’s not a cool looking character. Sometimes Spider-Man doesn’t need to fight someone that has plans of world domination. Sometimes he just needs someone to flatten and Carnage fits the bill well. Yes, the symbiote makes him more formidable, but at his core, he’s just a souped-up punk with a hard-on for killing. I still disagree with many fans that the symbiotes need to show up in the Spider-Man movies eventually, but I can’t disagree that Carnage, when used properly, can be a fun character. I have strong ties to Carnage because of my first Spider-Man action figure purchase ever and being a comic child of the 90s, I definitely remember Maximum Carnage. At the end of the day, Carnage is a character that sells action figures, so it makes sense for Hasbro to make him and it’s a solid figure of a less-than-impressive Marvel character.