Friday, October 23, 2009

Hero of the Week #21: Carnage

CARNAGE (Marvel)
Real Name: Cletus Kasady
First Appearance: Amazing Spider-man #344 (March, 1991)
Group Affiliation: NA
Gaming Credentials: Spider-man 2 (1992); Spider-man & X-Men: Arcade's Revenge (1993); Amazing Spider-man: Lethal Foes (1994); Spider-man & Venom: Maximum Carnage (1994); Venom & Spider-man: Seperation Anxiety (1995); Spider-man (2000); Ultimate Spider-man (2005); Spider-man: Friend or Foe (2007); Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 (2009)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #543

Today; 1up reported [video] that Cable will follow Psylocke in the growing list of PS3/360 Ultimate Alliance 2 DLC updates to the moderately popular Marvel action-brawler. For today's HOTW, however, I want to take you back to the previous week, when Carnage was announced as the first character joining the MUA2 cast.

My first instinct is to call it an unlikely announcement, but that would fly in the face of updates like 1up's, which have described the villain as a "fan-favourite" inclusion. The thought occurs that neither assessment is actually especially wrong, which connects in a curious way to a lot of the discussion that's been undertaken on my 1up blog over the past few months...

When last we saw Carnage in the comics, he was being taken on a one-way trip into deep space courtesy of The Sentry. It was the debut of the hero into official Marvel continuity, and was also the stage upon which the company were launching a brand new all-star line-up for the long-running -- and then-recently disassembled -- Avengers franchise. A super-villain prison break was the event to bring the new team together, consisting of many new inclusions featured in Ultimate Alliance 2, but I'm just getting distracted now.

The point I'm trying to make is, that, as an indication of the worth of the Carnage character to the current Marvel Universe, The Sentry took the symbiote villain into deep space and quite literally ripped him apart!

While, yes, this was a suitably 'bad ass' moment within the fiction, it was also the realisation of a contempt writer Brian Bendis had previous voiced for the widely maligned character. This is significant because being ripped in half in deep space is, generally speaking, not a fate likely to befall a Dr. Doom, or Magneto, any time soon. You don't get bisected and left to experience Newton's laws of motion first-hand, unless you're reasonably expendable, and that's pretty much the case for the once heavily promoted villain.

Comics fans in the aggregate have come to regard the symbiote characters, Carnage in particular, as conceptually unmotivated characters of little substance or worth. While I might not necessarily agree with such sweeping dismissal, it's difficult to make a case for the character when the sum of his influence generally revolves around lengthy Dragonball Z-esque tours of murdered bystanders and super-powered fight rematches.

Gamers have very different expectations for Carnage.

As the titular star of one of the first memorable outings for Spider-man in a video game; Maximum Carnage; and a feature villain in several others, it's easy to see how gamers could have a different perspective on the character.
Their experiences have probably been more positive partly due to the fact that video games, particularly in the technologically prohibitive early nineties, are and were more forgiving to a character built almost exclusively around gimmick-driven action.

While mainstream story-driven successes like Batman: Arkham Asylum have at least introduced a counter argument, it's fair to say we're in an age sympathetic to the same mindset of the action-driven nineties. Ergo; despite being completely uninvolved (and still drifting in space) during the superhero Civil War and reviled by many comics fans, it stands to reason that there's a market and a different identity in video games, for a character like Carnage.

My reaction to the character tends to be reponsive to the opinions around me.
As a comics fan; I think it's a disappointing and short-sighted mob mentality that dismisses any potential the Carnage character might have. At the same time, in respect to video games, I think the inclusion of Carnage also speaks to the negatives of that audience, who are in a contrasting rut of familiarity and shallow concepts [RE: the proliferation of shooters].

Take what you will from the striking similarity between some screenshots of Carnage's living costume in action and the nineties-styled chainz, bladez, n XTREME powers in the open-world superhero game, Prototype. Maybe Marvel are taking a little back for themselves?

At present, it seems character DLC isn't going to be the platform for new elaboration in the game's story, so narrative influence probably isn't a criticism to dwell on too extensively. Not in respect to Carnage specifically, at least. Previously on the blog, I did talk a little bit about the potential for the MUA franchise to represent the Marvel Universe more elaborately. You might like to check that article out, as well as recent story-driven blogs about Oddworld Abe, Tekken 6, and Street Fighter, to get a sense of the continuity of discussion!

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is currently available for all major platforms.
There is currently no release date for the PS3/360 downloadable content pack, which will include; Carnage, Psylocke, and Cable. More characters are expected to be announced in coming weeks, and can be previewed upon availablity at the MUA2 developer blog.

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