Appearing in "In the Court of Crimson"
- Detective Jon Shayde (First appearance) (Main story and flashforward)
- Detective Booth (First appearance)
- Carnage (Main story and flashforward) (Controlled by the original Carnage symbiote)
- The Artist (Kenneth Neely) (First appearance) (Apparent death)
- Hydro-Man (Morris Bench) (Apparent death)
- Police Department
- Unnamed officers
- Homicide Department (Mentioned)
- Special Cases Department (Mentioned)
- Dave Speakman (First appearance)
- Mr. Neely (Kenneth's father) (Mentioned) (Deceased)
- God (Yahweh) (Mentioned)
- Symbiote Hive (Mentioned)
- The Devil (Invoked)
- Cletus Kasady (Mentioned)
Races and Species:
- Humans (Main story and flashforward)
- Symbiotes (Main story and flashforward)
- Symbiote Dragons (Mentioned)
- Alien Gods (Mentioned)
- Demons (Mentioned)
- Earth (Main story and flashforward)
- Heaven (Mentioned)
Synopsis for "In the Court of Crimson"
Charging into a warehouse, Detective Jon Shayde races down a collapsing catwalk towards an ominous red-and-blue singularity formed from the body of Morris Bench. Realizing it's too late to turn back, Shayde is pulled into the vortex, his body disassembling in the process.
A few days prior, Shayde meets with his partner and rival Detective Booth, the two trading barbs before being chastised by a police officer, who says he wants to get this over with and get as far away as quickly as possible. As they enter a nearby abandoned fur factory, the officer explains that they got an anonymous tip about a murder having taken place, but that it was so gristly that it went up the chain to Special Cases. Stepping into the factory floor, Shayde sees an almost-naked corpse suspended upside-down and framed in a coat, recognizing it as the work of a serial killer called the Artist. Booth disagrees, saying it must be a copycat due to it missing some of the Artist's signatures, but Shayde notices the corpse's abdomen distending and says that the Artist's twisted work is still in progress. Shouting for the CSI technicians to get away, Shayde watches in horror as the corpse's abdomen bursts and a swarm of purple butterflies emerge, gore spilling onto a tray positioned beneath the corpse. As Booth wonders in horror what kind of monster would do such a thing, Shayde remarks that the Artist's theatrics are trying to get the attention of someone other than the police or public. As the blood swirls into a spiral pattern, Booth wonders just who the Artist is trying to get the attention of.
At a derelict house, the Artist -- aka Kenneth Neely -- addresses his soon-to-be latest victim, Dave Speakman. Neely exposits that his father had been a deeply religious mortician who dedicated himself to making even the most horribly-mutilated corpses look beautiful so the dead could enter the kingdom of God, taking Neely to work with him as a child. Lacerating Speakman with a scalpel, Neely sneers that his father ironically died of leprosy, but that his words stuck with him and he now seeks to bring about the gruesome beauty of death... although he serves a different God than the one his father or Speakman worship. Gesturing to the spiral sigils painted in blood all over the room, Neely says that when the black dragons rained from the sky he realized they were divine beings, and that he worships the dark god Knull - performing sacrifices in the hopes of communing with him. The window abruptly bursts open to reveal a monstrous silhouette that Neely initially mistakes for Knull, only for Carnage -- one-time apostle of Knull -- to enter the room. Greeting Neely, Carnage applauds his dedication to mutilation and bloodshed, then berates him for scrawling Knull's "damn spiral" everywhere; hypocritically disregarding said spiral being emblazoned on its forehead. Carnage asks if Neely's mother never warned him about summoning the dark eldritch beings that haunt the shadows, before asking if he's a fan.
The next day Shayde pulls into a hospital and storms into a cafeteria, demanding to know why Booth called him there. Booth retorts that they finally have a lead in their case: Dave Speakman was found bleeding out and delirious, but was able to be stabilized and revealed he'd been abducted by the Artist. Meeting with Speakman in his hospital room, Shayde learns that the Artist's father died of leprosy and that he was talking to someone or something that Speakman identifies as the Devil.
Kneeling before Carnage, Neely says he's been following the monstrous serial killer's work for a long time and heard rumors that Cletus Kasady was gone, leaving the symbiote behind. Carnage verifies this and Neely offers himself as its next host, Carnage remarking that what it had with Cletus was special and irreplaceable, and that without him it's changed. Caressing Neely's cheek with a bladed talon, Carnage considers killing him like he does his victims; before deciding to spare him since he went to such lengths to impress it, offering to show him what it's been working on. At a warehouse in the Southbay Industrial District, Carnage shows Neely the body of Morris Bench, mutilated and infused with symbiote essence. Neely gushes about how beautiful it is, Carnage pondering his choice of words before mockingly asking if Bench feels beautiful. Stabbing a tendril into Bench's eye and mixing symbiote matter into his very molecules and atoms, Carnage activates Hydro-Man latent power as the incarnation of an infinite medium. As Bench's body exploding into a red-and-blue vortex, Carnage says it will now take Bench's power for itself. As the portal expands to fill the room, Carnage turns to look at Neely over its shoulder and says that it's no longer bound by the desires and ambitions of mere humans -- not even Cletus Kasady's. Towering over Neely and extending tendrils towards him, Carnage says that this is just the first step towards it finding its own meaning and purpose, and that it has no want or need for a host.
Tracing a spiral pattern of murders, Shayde informs Booth that the Artist's name is Kenneth Neely and deduces where the serial killer's lair is; arriving at the warehouse just as the portal bursts from the building, filling the sky with red light.
Appearing in "A Lesson in BLOOD and BONE"
- Unnamed teenager (First and only known appearance) (Main story and flashback)
- Midnight Boys (First and only known appearance) (Main story and flashback)
- Jesus Christ (Invoked)
Races and Species:
Synopsis for "A Lesson in BLOOD and BONE"
A teenaged boy in a prison jumpsuit makes a campfire in the burnt-out ruins of the St. Estes Home for Boys when he is accosted by Carnage, the monstrous serial killer threatening to turn him into jerky for trespassing. To Carnage's surprise and confusion, however, the boy is ecstatic, exclaiming that Cletus Kasady is a living legend in juvie hall for his anti-authority nihilism. Intrigued, Cletus retracts his symbiote from his face as the boy says that he sought Carnage out hoping to ask him for a favor: to kill someone.
The boy explains that he was abandoned by his parents, ran away from home, and ended up in juvie; becoming the target of a gang of older teens called the Midnight Boys, who singled him out as an easy target and began bullying and beating him up every opportunity they got -- even crushing his hand in a laundry press and stripping him naked in the exercise yard on a weekly basis. The boy says he's only in for petty theft and doesn't know how to kill, Cletus cutting him off and explaining that he's not a hitman -- he's on a mission to show the world that laws and order are meaningless and that the only real thing is chaos; gleefully adding that he does whatever he wants simply because he can. Concurring, the boy notes that Carnage is infamous for slaughtering countless innocents, and that if he really wants to be unexpected and chaotic he should try killing some bad guys to change things up. Mulling it over, Cletus agrees to the boy's proposal.
Later the next morning, the boy and Cletus watch as the Midnight Boys are escorted out of juvie hall towards a prison van, the boy surmising they're being transferred to an adult prison. Unconcerned, Cletus transforms into Carnage and kills the guards with a barrage of spikes, landing between the Midnight Boys and the entrance to the juvie hall to cut off their escape. Congratulating the Midnight Boys on their matching gang tattoos, Carnage grabs two of them and mashes them together into a gory pulp while quipping that gangsters should always stick together. Tossing the mangled mess over his shoulder, where it lands at the boy's feet, Carnage is pepper sprayed in the face by a guard and licks it off before slamming the guard into the side of the bus, puncturing the fuel tank, and lighting it on fire to burn him alive. Spotting another member of the Midnight Boys trying to climb the perimeter fence, Carnage gleefully enlarges his hands and pushes him through it.
With only the leader of the Midnight Boys left, Carnage notices approaching police sirens and forms a sharpened spike, telling the boy to hurry up and exact his revenge before the cops show up and spoil their fun. Horrified and disgusted, the boy refuses and drops the spike, which crumbles to dust as Carnage incredulously demands to know what he's thinking. The boy states that he'd been borderline suicidal, dreaming of becoming a tough guy and taking his revenge on the Midnight Boys, but ever thought about what would come after. Noting that the guards and inmates had families who will be mourning them forever, the boy says that he's not like Cletus -- though he notes that he did learn something from the nihilistic serial killer: saying no to orders and threats just because he can. Snarling in rage, Carnage prepares to rip the boy apart... then hesitates as he realizes he taught the boy too well and that perhaps the student has become the teacher. Confused, Carnage web-swings away, leaving the equally confused boy standing by the burning bus to reflect on his actions.
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