Review: Scream Vol. 1: Curse of Carnage by Clay McCleod Chapman and Chris Mooneyham

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Scream Vol. 1: Curse of Carnage by Clay McCleod Chapman
Marvel (August 25, 2020)
120 pages; $15.99 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage

For those unaware of the Marvel Universe, specifically Earth-616, the Klyntar are a race of conscious symbiotes. While Klyntar are fully sentient creatures, in their natural state they are predators who feed on the darkest emotions of their hosts, compelling their hosts to violence and corrupting them. Scream: Curse of Carnage, written by Clay McCleod Chapman and illustrated by Chris Mooneyham, focuses on one of these symbiotes, Scream, and its host, Andi Benton. For fans of the Marvel Universe, this is a really compelling tale, and for fans of horror, the allusions to classical myth and horror will be entertaining as well.

Andi Benton is a homeless woman in New York City. She suffers from depression and abandonment issues, as well as the constant voice of the Scream symbiote in her head. She takes up residence in the F.E.A.S.T. homeless shelter, where she has a fight with one of the residents. Andi resorts to suicide, but Scream saves her; however, they are detected by a giant symbiote who has taken residence in a shipwreck off the coast of Manhattan. Pursued by an army of undead corpses and mutated sea life, Andi and Scream must save themselves in a primal fight for survival.

Chapman’s storytelling is quite strong. He is able to capture the dueling personalities of Andi and Scream, dancing them off of each other in a complex relationship. While “symbiote” connotes a relationship that is mutually beneficial, it’s clear that those benefits also come with steep costs, and this is explored in Andi’s fight for survival and emotional support as well as Scream’s fight to remain the primary relationship with her host.

Chapman’s allusions to classical myth are quite clever. The primordial symbiote that hunts Andi and Scream turns out to be Grendel’s mother from Beowulf, out seeking revenge for her slain child and wanting to adopt and raise Scream as her new child. This parallels the story of Andi, whose mother left when she was young and whose father was murdered. The idea of parent-child relationships is uniquely explored in this grisly context, touching on some of the deeper emotions of the reader.

Chapman’s story is gorgeously illustrated. Chris Mooneyham and Gary Brown’s art helps to propel the story forward, and the colorwork by Rain Berardo really advances the emotional arc of the piece. It’s a horror comic, so there are some really grisly body horror illustrations that are quite expertly rendered with detail, but there are also some points where the art becomes more abstract and stylized, especially when Andi gets caught in her own memories. While a lot of this is standard comic format, there are a few times when the artists are allowed to break the mold, and play with the format in really strong, full-page illustrations that capture the anxiety of being controlled by a symbiote.

To be fair, this is not a unique comic in that it takes place within a well-established universe by one the major players in comic books. Some of the big characters from Marvel — Thor, Punisher, etc. — make appearances, reminding the readers that they’re in a very established world with its own rules and celebrities. However, the focus on a lesser-known symbiote and creating an arc from them and their host is cleverly done, as are the tie-ins to classical literature. Marvel fans will enjoy this book, and horror fans will not be disappointed.

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