Published May 31, 2023

Meet Kenneth Neely, Carnage's Biggest Fanboy

Who is Kenneth Neely? Read on to learn more about the Artist, a serial killer who devoted himself to the Carnage symbiote and, later, Cletus Kasady.

Since its introduction in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1963) #345, the Carnage symbiote has racked up a stunning kill count in the Marvel Universe, butchering countless people while bonded with such villains as Cletus Kasady and Norman Osborn. However, despite the symbiote’s monstrous ways, there are those that still admire Carnage… including the serial killer known as Kenneth Neely. 

Here’s everything you need to know about Neely and his Carnage obsession as he continues to work alongside Kasady in the ongoing CARNAGE REIGNS (2023) crossover.

How Kenneth Neely Met Carnage

Created by Ram V. and Francesco Manna, Neely debuted in CARNAGE (2022) #1. The son of a mortician, Neely helped his father prepare the bodies in his morgue when he was just a child. These early experiences kicked off a fascination with death that led Neely to become the Artist, a serial killer obsessed with using murder to transform his victims into something he viewed as beautiful. 

Neely’s life took a major turn following the KING IN BLACK (2020), an event that saw the villainous Knull unleash a symbiote army on Earth. After that event, Neely tried to reach out to the villain by duplicating his iconic spiral using the blood of his victims. 

Carnage sought out Neely after one of these kills. A fan of Carnage, Neely offered himself up as a new host for the symbiote, who had recently separated from Kasady and was operating independently. Carnage expressed no interest in having a new host, but it decided to take Neely on its mysterious quest anyway. 

The journey began with Carnage murdering Hydro-Man and Spot and taking their powers. Neely also lost his hand during the latter encounter due to a stray blow from Carnage. Following that, Neely accompanied Carnage to Svartalfheim, the Dark Elf home world, where he was tempted to betray the symbiote. In the end, Neely decided not to turn on Carnage, though the serial killer was clearly becoming less comfortable with his companion’s actions, viewing them as more barbaric than beautiful.

The fight on Svartalfheim led the duo to Niffleheim in search of Malekith, leader of the Dark Elves. The confrontation there allowed Carnage to take Malekith’s symbiote codex, after which he headed to Nidavellir to build a weapon based on a memory contained therein. 

Carnage forced Dronin Runehewer, a dwarf on Nidavellir, to aid him in building the weapon. Although Runehewer seemingly complied, the dwarf struck a secret deal with Neely to kill Carnage. After all, the Artist had come to see the symbiote’s desire for destruction as something ugly. 

Neely and Runehewer turned the Godmaker forge, the powerful device that forges Uru metal into such powerful weapons as Mjolnir, on Carnage and nearly killed it. Just when victory seemed certain, though, Detective Jonathan Shayde—who had been pursuing Carnage and Neely across the universe—arrived. A remnant of the Carnage symbiote that Shayde possessed quickly saved the other version of itself. 

Fresh from its near-death experience, Carnage returned wielding All-Blood, a new version of the god-killing All-Black the Necrosword. With this new version of Knull’s weapon in hand, Carnage found itself closer than ever to its true goal of having the power of a god.

Neely Becomes a Cletus Kasady Devotee

In the aftermath of that attempted betrayal, Carnage murdered Runehewer and bonded itself to Shayde, while Neely used a teleportation cube to escape. Believing only one person capable of standing against Carnage, Neely went to Kasady. 

The Artist found Carnage’s former host hiding out at St. Estes Home for Boys, the institution where he grew up. During the KING IN BLACK, Kasady had bonded with the Extrembiote, a combination of a symbiote dragon and the Extremis Virus. Using this hybrid symbiote’s incredible powers, Kasady treated St. Estes as his own personal playground for torturing others.

Initially, Kasady used his ability to manipulate reality inside St. Estes to mess with Neely. While unable to physically stand against Kasady, Neely appealed to the serial killer’s vanity by suggesting people had forgotten what the fearsome murderer was capable of. This motivated Kasady to leave St. Estes behind and attack a diner in Brooklyn. That act brought him face-to-face with the borough’s protector: Miles Morales, AKA Spider-Man.

To find out what happens when Neely and Carnage meet Brooklyn’s resident Web-Slinger, pick up MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN (2022) #6 now! The CARNAGE REIGNS event then continues in CARNAGE (2022) #13, also on sale now.

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