Absolute Carnage: Separation Anxiety #1 Review — Short and Sweet (and Horrifying)

Written by Clay McLeod Chapman
Pencils by Brian Level
Colours by Jordan Boyd
Letters by VC’s Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics

Cover price: $4.99 USD

The more tie-ins that release, the more it becomes apparent that the Absolute Carnage event is ripe for spin-offs. It has the veneer of a horror concept, with Carnage becoming truly gruesome and threatening again while Knull resurrects the dead. There are many ways the crossover has taken advantage of this, but the Separation Anxiety crossover specifically embraces the horror concept, delivering a suspense-filled horror movie that feels like a throwback to older horror movies.

The premise of the issue is simple enough, focusing on a family in Colorado as they are hunted by the Lasher, Riot, Agony and Phage symbiotes. The setup is reminiscent of classic horror movies, as the family with its own problems — in this case, a dysfunctional family on the brink of a divorce — are assaulted by whatever monster is the focus of the media. Separation Anxiety doesn’t deviate from this too much, but uses the disturbing visuals and characteristics of the symbiotes for some dark imagery and possession, allowing Clay McLeod Chapman to write some disturbing scenes where the symbiotes wear the parents of the family like a second skin. It does a good job of playing off the established characters and the drama in their lives.

For what little time they get, the family is well defined and established.

What makes this issue further stand out is that the characters are no-name civilians. There’s actual danger because there’s no main character shields in play — the characters actually feel like they’re at risk, with every close call being a gripping moment. Even better, with this issue’s status as a one-shot, it creates a sense of urgency as the reader turns each page. Of course, this story would have benefited from having more room to breathe — I think three issues would have allowed for more time to develop the characters — but as it stands, Chapman does a good job with the concept of a family being assaulted by horrific monsters and making it engaging.

Brian Level’s pencils do an excellent job of depicting a horror story. He excels at body horror, managing to make the symbiotes scary again, with scratchy lines leaning into their organic nature, as well as twisted visuals as the symbiotes violate their hosts. The level of detail and the grotesque design choices help to sell this story as a classic horror movie, while his characters all have overblown expressions befitting the adrenaline and dread that is pervasive throughout the issue. Jordan Boy’s soft, pencily colours fit the small town setting but also create an uncanny sense of homeyness that soon gives way to high contrast and moody colours once the horror truly sets in.

A great-yet-horrifying image.

Absolute Carnage: Separation Anxiety leans into its crossover’s premise to present a truly horrific depiction of the symbiotes. Using classic horror movie tropes and an extremely fitting art style, the issue makes symbiotes scary again. A strong premise that really deserves more done with it, for what little we got, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Separation Anxiety. While it’s probably not the most important Absolute Carnage tie-in, it’s well worth a read.

3.5/5 – Good

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