Published June 5, 2023

Carnage's Terrifying Extrembiote Upgrade, Explained

As Cletus Kasady unleashes his Extrembiote in 'Carnage Reigns,' learn how the serial killer took his Carnage to the next level.

Carnage. Has there ever been a more appropriately named villain? 

Cletus Kasady has been waging his blood-soaked feud against the Marvel Universe since his first official appearance as Carnage in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #361 by David Michelinie and Mark Bagley. To this day, that lust for violence is as impossible to abate as his sadistic thirst for bloodshed is to quench… and it’s getting worse.

The deranged spawn of Venom has always been an insatiable abomination, hungry to collect fresh kills and new skills. In fact, right after its birth, the symbiote proved to be more adaptive than its father Venom, merging with Kasady’s blood to forge a more visceral bond with its host. This also gave its “skin” that distinctive red hue. But it didn’t stop there—Carnage continued mutating throughout the character’s horrible history. 

For example, during the MAXIMUM CARNAGE event in SPIDER-MAN (1990) #36 by Terry Kavanagh and Tom Lyle, Kasady revealed the symbiote didn’t just live in his blood; it had permanently bonded with it, changing him from the inside out. This meant that, while his symbiote could be “killed,” no death it suffered would stick so long as Kasady had some form of Carnage in his veins.

Over the years, Carnage went through even more evolutions. He has absorbed other symbiotes to make himself stronger, imbued himself with dark magic from the infamous Darkhold, and was even baptized with evil energies by Knull, the eldritch god of the symbiotes, who bolstered Carnage’s power with that of an unspeakably strong symbiote dragon called Grendel.

Because of these putrid permutations, Carnage has never been more dangerous than he is now. To make matters worse, there are currently two Carnages stalking the Marvel Universe right now. But who are they… and why do they want to kill each other?

Where Is the Original Carnage?

One of these Carnages is the symbiote of old, but hostless after the events of CARNAGE FOREVER (2022) #1 by Phillip Kennedy Johnson and Edgar Salazar. In that story, Kasady rejected his old symbiote in favor of something else entirely, which we’ll touch on momentarily. 

Spurned like a jilted lover, the original symbiote felt furious and vengeful, but also rudderless. So, it began to execute the final villainous scheme Kasady devised. The plan was simple: absorb the super powers of various Marvel villains—like Hydro-Man, the Spot, and Malekith—and attain the level of godhood it had only tasted as a disciple of Knull. Then, obviously, destroy the universe.

This Carnage’s ultimate form was realized in CARNAGE (2022) #10 by Ram V and Francesco Manna. In the issue, Carnage—along with his serial killer superfan/petrified hostage Kenneth Neely—forced a rogue dwarf on Nidavellir to recreate Gorr the God Butcher’s deadliest weapon: All-Black the Necrosword. Recoloring and rechristening it “All-Blood,” Carnage accentuated his might even further by forging his own Asgardian armor from the same Uru metal used to create Thor’s hammer Mjolnir.

With all of this power now at his disposal, the original Carnage became a cosmic force that threatens the whole of existence. Ironically, however, the only being capable of stopping this new symbiote god-killer isn’t some benevolent entity or cosmically-imbued Super Hero—it’s Marvel’s other Carnage.

Iron Manslaughter: What is the Carnage Extrembiote?

The second red menace in the Marvel Universe is Kasady himself, who now commands a symbiote that is just as terrifying as the original—possibly even more so. This horrifying hybrid is a mashup between Knull’s dragon symbiote and Iron Man’s famous tech. As bad as that union may sound, though, it came from a surprisingly good place.

In KING IN BLACK (2020) #2 by Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman, Iron Man came up with a clever, if risky plan to defeat Knull using a substance introduced way back in THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN (2004) #1 by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov: the Extremis virus. 

A revolutionary nanobot project, Extremis was essentially the next evolution of the Super Soldier Serum. Anyone who received a dose was granted incredible strength, speed, and stamina, basically making them the best version of themselves possible on a DNA level; that is, as long as they had the right genetic code. 

The first version of Extremis was only viable in a small percentage of the population, which is exactly why Tony Stark and his brother Arno developed a more stable version that could truly benefit anyone. Of course, that, in itself, proved to be a problem.

In a way similar to a klyntar—or symbiote, as it’s better known on these Marvel streets—Extremis is really only as “stable” as the mental state of the person using it. For instance, a hero may receive more tools in their fight against crime, but a sociopathic murderer would be similarly empowered to commit acts of cruelty on a greater scale.

As dangerous as Iron Man knew Extremis to be, he had no choice but to use it in the war against Knull, so he commandeered a symbiote dragon and injected it with the virus. His plan worked, and the Extremis virus merged with the symbiote to form a hauntingly fleshy suit of Iron Man armor, allowing Stark to give Knull a taste of his own oozy medicine.

The real problem with the armor came in EXTREME CARNAGE OMEGA (2021) #1 by Phillip Kennedy Johnson, Manuel Garcia, Guru Efx, and VC's Travis Lanham, where Iron Man tried to use this “Extrembiote” in an attempt to stop a rampaging Carnage. Unfortunately, Stark didn’t respect the level of control Carnage had developed over other symbiotes. As a result, Kasady absorbed the Extrembiote within his form, making him—at the time—more powerful than he had ever been.

It was shortly after Kasady’s malevolent merger with the Extrembiote that the Great Carnage Schism occurred.

Between Two Carnages: A Symbiote Civil War

In a bid to return to good ol’ serial killing, Kasady decided to surgically excise his original symbiote from the Extrembiote and cast it out into the great wide world. Kasady, meanwhile, kept the Stark upgrade and slithered back to his old stomping grounds.

In CARNAGE (2020) #8 by Ram V and Rogê Antônio, Kasady debuted powers that seemed either psychological or mystical in nature. Once again squatting in St. Estes Home for Unwanted Children, the orphanage that traumatized him, he used the Extrembiote to transform the building into a gigantic torture device. Inside the walls he grafted with the symbiote, he ruled as a god, luring, trapping, and tormenting victims, breaking them both mentally and physically before killing them.

Chances are, Kasady would have stayed in the orphanage, hiding like a spider to catch wayward explorers. However, Kenneth Neely—who escaped the other Carnage after their Asgardian misadventure—came to Cletus looking for help stopping the symbiote from ending the universe. After an appeal to his vanity, Kasady agreed and gathered the Extrembiote from St. Estes’ walls, forming it into his disturbing new suit.

This Extrembiote form looks monstrous, like molten flesh bled over an exoskeleton frame. It is matched only in its horror by his erstwhile other’s devilish new Asgardian appearance.

Kasady has really only begun to explore the true extent of this arc reactor-powered symbiote’s capabilities, which include repulsor beams and access to an interface similar to the one Tony Stark enjoys in his armor. Of particular concern, however, is the Extrembiote’s potential for connectivity.

In CARNAGE (2022) #13 by Alex Paknadel and Fran Galán, Kasady showed he can take his special brand of horror online by directly accessing the internet through his symbiote. He hasn’t pulled a trick like that since VENOM: CARNAGE UNLEASHED (1995) #4 by Larry Hama, Andrew Wildman, and Josef Rubinstein, when the titular symbiotes fought each other in the digital world. And this time, he isn’t just playing games. 

Now able to hack both biological and computer systems, Carnage’s power may very well match that of his once symbiotic partner. With their palpable hate for each other reaching a boiling point, that could mean utter destruction and unfathomable carnage for anyone in their path, including each other.

Interestingly, while their powers continue to grow separately but in equal measure, their natures are juxtaposed: one relies on magic, the other on science. How that confrontation will end is anyone’s guess; will there be a victor, or mutually assured destruction? Anything is possible, but no matter who comes out on top: Carnage Reigns for now.

Behold the next evolution of Carnage in CARNAGE #13, now on sale, and see his fight against the Marvel Universe continue in RED GOBLIN #5 on June 7!

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