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|First appearance||Black Costume, The Amazing Spider-Man #252 , The Spectacular Spider-Man #90, and Marvel Team-Up #141 Symbiote, The Amazing Spider-Man #258 (May 1984)|
|Created by||Jim Shooter (Writer)
Mike Zeck (Artist)
|Inherent abilities||Symbiosis with a host provides superhuman strength, speed, agility, and endurance; gains characteristics of host; increases original powers of hosts|
The Symbiotes (originally known as the Klyntar) are a fictional race of amorphous extraterrestrial parasites which appear in the Marvel Comics shared universe. The Symbiotes envelop their hosts like costumes, creating a symbiotic bond through which the host's mind can be influenced.
The first appearance(s) of a symbiote occurs in The Amazing Spider-Man #252, The Spectacular Spider-Man #90, and Marvel Team-Up #141 (released concurrently in May 1984), in which Spider-Man brings one home to Earth after the Secret Wars (Secret Wars #8, which was released months later, details his first encounter with it). The concept was created by a Marvel Comics reader, with the publisher purchasing the idea for $220. The original design was then modified by Mike Zeck, becoming the Venom symbiote. The concept would be explored and used throughout multiple storylines, spin-off comics, and derivative projects.
The Klyntar, as the symbiotes call themselves, originate from an unnamed planet from the Andromeda Galaxy, and are a benevolent species which believes in helping others, which they attempt to do by creating heroes through the process of bonding to the morally and physically ideal. Hosts afflicted with chemical imbalances or cultural malignancy can corrupt symbiotes, turning them into destructive parasites which combat their altruistic brethren by spreading lies and disinformation about their own kind, in order to make other races fear and hate the species as a whole.
The corrupted Klyntar became more widespread than their benevolent counterparts, establishing a space faring culture dedicated to infecting and overtaking planets. The corrupted Klyntar force their hosts to perform death-defying feats in order to feed off of the resulting rushes of adrenaline, and other hormones, such as phenethylamine. These host beings would be sucked dry, exhausted by the constant stress and exertion, or simply die in a failed stunt.
At some point, corrupted symbiotes overran a planet which was later devoured by Galactus. Due to their genetic memory, all symbiotes now loathe both Galactus and his former herald, the Silver Surfer. ZZZXX, a symbiote with a predilection for eating brains, was also captured by the Shi'ar, and imprisoned and studied for years until it was released and employed as a Praetorian Guard by Gabriel Summers.
The Venom symbiote is the first permanent symbiote resident of Earth, brought by Spider-Man after the events of Secret Wars. It was later established that the Venom symbiote was considered crazy by its fellow parasites since it sought, like the peaceful Klyntar, a mutual bond with a host rather than domination, and for that reason the symbiote was placed in a prison canister, and supposedly condemned to death by disintegration on a planet that would later become part of Beyonder's Battleworld where it briefly bonded with Deadpool while he was trying a machine that create any article of clothing a person can imagine, however, after sensing it feeding on his thoughts, Deadpool rejected the symbiote. Yet having communicated with Deadpool's twisted psyche drove the symbiote insane. The symbiote soon afterwards bonded with Spider-Man and returned with him to Earth where it remained bonded for some time until Spider-Man discovered the suit was actually an alien symbiote and forced it off. Stung by the rejection, the symbiote went looking for Deadpool again and bonded with him a second time, as the hate for the superhero began to grow. The symbiote eventually went to Eddie Brock and during this time it remained bonded with Brocks, it pawned six children, with its first child later having two of its own. Brock would soon reform and spent a considerable amount of time trying to become a hero with the suit.
Though originally happy with Brock, because Brock blamed Spider-Man for his failures, the symbiote gradually became increasingly possessive and abusive of him, eventually being sold off by Eddie. It is later revealed that it only stuck with him because of cancer of his adrenal glands. Since then, the Venom suit has gradually grown more and more monstrous and psychotic. It is currently bonded to Flash Thompson, who struggles to control it, but the symbiote has recently been shown to be developing some slight affection for him. This would suggest the host's mental state might affect the symbiote just as much as the other way around, as the Carnage symbiote is as psychotic as its host and the Venom suit's explosiveness got worse after bonding with its two hosts after Brock, both of which were career criminals. Likewise, the various symbiotes bonded to heroes are not shown to be as twisted, though they occasionally struggle with aggression.
Angel Medina claims he was reluctant to start work on Mighty Avengers because he was working on a Venom project, only to be told he would be drawing a story with "the Avengers vs. an alien invasion—by the Venoms." This story arc was later confirmed to be drawn by Mark Bagley, as Medina would be unavailable. Solicitations state that the New Avengers will also be part of this arc, themselves becoming infested by symbiotes. New Avengers #34 revealed that Doctor Doom is responsible for dropping a "Venom Bomb" on New York that unleashes the symbiotes. The story was completed in Mighty Avengers #8. Further backstory reveals that Doctor Doom collected a tiny sample of the symbiote's cells from the drone he had sent in earlier. Later, it is revealed that Kristoff Vernard actually orchestrated this so that Doom would be arrested for the event above.
A swarm of Brood that had been overtaken by symbiotes later invade the S.W.O.R.D. satellite and possess all of its inhabitants, among them Abigail Brand, and Deathbird. The symbiotes are defeated by Spider-Man (who temporarily merges with one, controlling it with the help of Martha Johansson) and the X-Men.
Powers and abilities
Symbiotes empower the natural abilities of a host to the point where they far exceed that of normal members of the hosts' species. These abilities include the following:
- Superhuman strength, speed, endurance, agility, healing factor, and intelligence, enhances other natural attributes as well.
- Genetic memory, recalling information from previous hosts.
- The ability to negate damage caused by terminal illnesses and permanent injuries while not actually healing it. For example, Eddie Brock was able to survive indefinitely with terminal cancer, and Scott Washington was able to walk despite being paraplegic. Also Flash Thompson had received "legs" after bonding with the Venom symbiote when he lost his legs in a war. While symbiotes can somewhat heal their hosts, they generally seek to force their hosts to depend on them and thus ensure the symbiotes' survival.
- Can expand to any size as long as they have something to grow on such as a host or an object. Symbiotes can get inside of small areas such as electric wires and the insides of cars and completely disable them.
- Its own senses extend over its entire surface, enabling its host to "see" what is behind or otherwise not in his/her line of sight.
- The symbiote also reacts to the thoughts and will of the host. When Spider-Man was originally selected, he had been thinking about Spider-Woman's costume in the Secret Wars. The symbiote acted on this and formed a similar costume, the one seen on him and Venom.
The following are functions that have been demonstrated from various hosts' wills (but are not limited to):
- The ability to block part of the host's mind.
- The ability to form fangs or simple bladed weapons out of their limbs. First appearance was the Carnage symbiote
- The ability to form tendrils from their body.
- The ability to project the surface of the symbiote to attack at a distance.
- The ability to shapeshift, from mimicking clothing up to and including complete change of appearance, regardless to the host's actual stature and bodily dimensions as the symbiotes are living tesseracts.
- The ability to camouflage itself and its host by assuming the color or texture of the material behind or around it. (The Venom symbiote displayed the ability to do this with water and wood.)
- The ability to stick to walls (adapted from Spider-Man).
- The ability to produce toxins and venoms, such as in the venomous bite Venom delivered to Sandman.
- The ability to produce webbing from its own mass (adapted from Spider-Man).
- The Venom symbiote also has empathic abilities, and is able to project desires and needs into the thoughts of its host or potential hosts; this ability can also aid Venom in detecting the truth from those he interrogates.
- Can sense the presence of other beings within a certain distance.
- Symbiote bonding protects the host from Ghost Rider's penance stare.
- Venom and its descendants all possess the ability to bypass the Spider-Sense, because the original symbiote was attached to Peter Parker (Spider-Man) first, it took his genetic information and spider-powers. This means that the symbiote attacking Peter would essentially be Peter attacking himself, which wouldn't set off his Spider-Sense (during the Clone Saga, this became complicated, as Venom and Carnage did set off Ben Reilly's Spider-Sense).
- The ability to create storage portals inside of them (this created easy access to Peter's camera).
- Each symbiote has their own unique ability, such as Carnage being able to see from every direction of his body (this is similar to Spider-Man's Spider-Sense). Venom's venomous bite, Toxin's ability to change his shape of a form of Spider-Man like build (Slim, but strong) and Venom like build (Big and Muscular) which is controlled by its feelings.
- In some realities, Venom's symbiote has been shown to be able to replicate.
- In some realities, the symbiote feeds on the baser emotions of its host, creating an increasingly hostile personality. The longer the host is exposed to the symbiote, the more overpowering this state of mind becomes.
- Has the ability to breathe underwater (seen in Vengeance of Venom).
Symbiote were naturally weakened by intense sounds and intense sonic waves – especially large fires of guns. For example, Spider-Man got the Venom symbiote off him using the intense sound of a church bell. Additionally, in some stories and games, (mostly mentioned in the 2000 Spider-Man video game), they are also weakened by fire. However, as each new symbiote has spawned a child, a natural evolution seems to not only increase their strengths, but also reduce their weaknesses. Even already existing symbiotes can mutate and develop these resistances. Still, there has not been an invulnerable symbiote in mainstream continuity, because the newest breeds can be harmed by incredible amounts of sonic waves and heat. Also, in the Ultimate Marvel Universe, symbiotes are vulnerable to the heat produced by high voltage electricity.
There are other weaknesses as well besides sonics and heat. Iron Man managed to create an antidote formula that could destroy a symbiote (it should be noted that these were actually just virus-like biological organisms created by Doctor Doom, originally based on the Venom symbiote and were specially made as a bio-weapon). With Venom and Carnage, authorities have been able to keep the symbiotes in check with a chemical inhibitor. The criminal Styx nearly killed the Venom symbiote with his lethal touch. Whether a symbiote can mutate and reduce the effect of these weaknesses is unknown, although Carnage claimed to have developed invulnerability to sonics. Also, when a symbiote bonded with Wolverine, it was pushed out by his advanced healing factor, although Wolverine's healing factor had no use when he was bonded to a clone of the Venom symbiote.
In some incarnations, the symbiote is depicted as requiring a certain chemical (most likely phenethylamine) to stay sane and healthy, which has been said to be found abundantly in two sources: chocolate and human brain tissue. Thus, the host is forced to steal/buy large amounts of chocolate or become an unwilling cannibal who devours the brains of those he kills. This peculiar trait has only been witnessed in the Venom symbiote. However, both Carnage and Toxin have threatened their enemies with aspirations to "eating their brains", as well as various other body parts. When Toxin teamed up with Spider-Man and Black Cat, he struggled to keep himself together, telling Spider-Man that he was only "joking" about eating the robbers' brains.
On at least one occasion, Spider-Man was able to exhaust the Venom symbiote by taking advantage of the fact that it made its webbing out of itself; after the symbiote had already used a great deal of webbing to bind him to a bell, Spider-Man forced Venom to use further webbing so that it would exhaust itself, like blood dripping from a wound (although the sheer amount of webbing that the symbiotes would need to use for this weakness to be exploited makes its use in a fight limited).
Another weakness that they have is their hunger for feelings. In the storyline Planet of the Symbiotes, Eddie releases a cry of pain and agony so great that the entire symbiote race commits mass suicide. However, how they kill themselves is not clear.
List of symbiotes
The following symbiotes have appeared throughout several years of Spider-Man's history, appeared in multiple media such as film and video games and were main characters/villains in story arcs.
|Venom||The Amazing Spider-Man #300 (April 1988)||Chronologically introduced in Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #8, merged with Spider-Man, and notably Eddie Brock. Mac Gargan then went on to be the symbiote's host for a while, but since then it has been acquired by the government and is now being used by Flash Thompson under the alias Agent Venom.|
|Carnage||The Amazing Spider-Man #361 (April 1992)||A child-spawn of Venom bonded to serial-killer, Cletus Kasady. This spawn was eventually reabsorbed into Venom. After losing his symbiote, Kasady discovers a similar symbiote in the Negative Zone and once again became Carnage.|
|Toxin||Venom Vs. Carnage #2 (September 2004)||A spawn of Carnage that bonded with police officer Patrick Mulligan, becoming a hero. Later forcibly bonded to Eddie Brock by the Crime Master sometime after Patrick was beaten to death by Blackheart.|
|Anti-Venom||The Amazing Spider-Man #569 (October 2008)||Created when remnants of the Venom symbiote in Eddie Brock's body were combined with his white blood cells by the mystical energies of Mister Negative. Anti-Venom possesses curative abilities and its touch is corrosive to the Venom symbiote. Unlike other symbiotes, the Anti-Venom suit is non-sentient. The suit is seemingly destroyed in the 2011 "Spider-Island" story arc.|
Other, side symbiotes
The following symbiotes have made only a few other appearances in comic books and are usually excluded from adaptations in other media.
|Dreadface||Fantastic Four #360 (January 1992)||A symbiote capable of mind-controlling subjects by touch. The alien was captured aboard the ship of Devos the Devastator but escaped during an altercation between Devos and the Fantastic Four. Dreadface is presumed destroyed.|
|Scream||Venom: Lethal Protector #4 (May 1993)||In an attempt to create "super-cops" to police their new Utopia, the Life Foundation probed the Venom symbiote and extracted the last five of its "seeds" - the materials used to create its spawn. These were cultured and bonded to five of the Life Foundation's best security personnel to form the Guardians: Donna Diego (Scream), Carl Mach (Phage), Leslie Gesneria (Agony), Trevor Cole (Riot), and Ramon Hernandez (Lasher).
In the comics none of the five symbiotes were originally given names. However, in the Venom: Planet of the Symbiotes story line the yellow symbiote was named Scream and the green symbiote was named Lasher. The name Scream was eventually used in Marvel Super Hero Island Adventures #1 and the Spider-Man Back in Black Handbook. The toyline also featured a four armed symbiote named Riot that was loosely based on the unnamed symbiote in the comic What if Scarlet Spider killed Spider-Man?. The other symbiote names became popular among fans but did not appear in an official Marvel work until the 2011 Carnage U.S.A. mini-series.
Mach, Cole, Hernandez, and Gesneria were all murdered by Diego after she decided that symbiotes were evil; the murdered guards' symbiotes fused to create Hybrid. Years later, Scream and Hybrid are hunted and killed by Eddie Brock. The Hybrid symbiote was taken in by the US Government, forcibly separated, and bonded to four soldiers to battle Carnage: Rico Axelson (Phage), James Murphy (Agony), Howard Ogden (Riot), and Marcus Simms (Lasher). The four soldiers come to be known as the Mercury Team. While on another rampage, Carnage kills the Mercury Team without their symbiotes. The four symbiotes temporarily bond with Deadpool to fight Carnage. After Carnage's defeat, Deadpool unbonds with the symbiotes and the symbiotes bond to Mercury Team's dog.
|Hybrid||Venom: Along Came A Spider #1 (January 1996)||The character was introduced as the fusion of the four 'Life Foundation symbiotes', bonded to prison guard Scott Washington. Though Eddie Brock later hunted down and murdered Washington, the symbiotes survived and were somehow captured by the US government.|
|Payback||True Believers (September 2008)||Bonded to a more evolved cousin of normal race of symbiotes. Is currently a vigilante and head of the True Believers.|
|ZZZXX||X-Men: Kingbreaker #2 (March 2009)||He is a unique brain-eating member of the Symbiote species that was discovered several years ago by Shi'ar Emperor D'Ken. Unlike other symbiotes, ZZZXX didn't bother to ask permission or care to know his host.|
|Scorn||Carnage #5 (August 2011)||Originally a piece of Carnage recovered after his apparent destruction by Sentry. The piece was used to develop an advanced prosthetic arm used by Dr. Tanis Nieves. After she rejected its attempt to bond with her, it became attached to Shriek but grew fearful of her. Dr. Nieves accepted its desire to return to her and bonded with the symbiote to become Scorn.|
|Mania||Venom #31 (April 2013)||Eugene Thompson's neighbor in Philadelphia who bonds with a clone of the Venom symbiote (which is possessed in turn by a demonic entity).|
|Marcus||Deadpool: The Gauntlet #8 (February 2014)||An ancient centaur/werewolf hybrid with a black symbiote and diabetes, Marcus was hired by Dracula to be a member of the New Frightful Four.|
|Karl Malus||Captain America: Sam Wilson #3 (November 2015)||Somehow surviving within the Carnage symbiote after being consumed by it during the events of Superior Carnage, Malus later emerged from it as a symbiote/human hybrid.|
|Atrocity||Spider-Man Edge of Time||Atrocity is a combination of Anti-Venom, Walker Sloane, and Doctor Octopus (though Rhino takes Anti-Venom's place in the DS version). He has no back-story or explanation.|
In the Ultimate Marvel universe, the Symbiotes are featured. The Venom suit is a man-made creation born of an experiment by Richard Parker and Edward Brock, Sr. to develop a protoplasmic cure for cancer. It used Richard's DNA as the starting base for it, thus himself and Peter are "related" to it. The suit enhances the wearer's strength and natural abilities, but also attempts to permanently bond with the host and can affect his/her mind. The Ultimate symbiote is seemingly weak only to electricity. When worn by a host other than Richard's son Peter, the Ultimate Spider-Man, the host is compelled to devour the life energy of other human beings or else have their own be consumed by the suit instead.
The Carnage symbiote also appears in the Ultimate universe as a parasite genetically engineered by Curt Conners from Peter's DNA. Traces of the Venom suit remaining in Peter's blood give Carnage similar properties to the Venom suit. It also devours people, but does not require a host. It is killed after being consumed by fire following its attempt to absorb Peter to become whole. It later reappears in the form of Gwen Stacy, and during an encounter with Venom, the latter absorbs the Carnage suit into itself, making Venom "complete" though more monstrous than ever before.
In other media
- The Venom, Carnage, and Anti-Venom Symbiotes appear in Ultimate Spider-Man. Venom and Anti-Venom are created by Doctor Octopus. Venom was created by altering a sample of Spider-Man's DNA and Anti-Venom was created from the Venom sample used to counter and destroy the Venom Symbiote. The Carnage symbiote is created by Green Goblin and later recreated by Michael Morbius from the Venom symbiote he obtained.
- In the Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. episode "The Venom Within," Doctor Octopus creates Gamma Venom by having the Venom Symbiote combine with each members of the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. This version of the Venom Symbiote is destroyed by the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. and Spider-Man.
- The Symbiotes appear in the Guardians of the Galaxy episode "Hitchin' a Ride." The Guardians of the Galaxy end up encountering a group of super-evolved Symbiotes at an abandoned mining facility on an unnamed planet. They end up fighting past the Symbiotes where one of them absorbs Groot's left arm and they then run into Yondu's Ravagers. There was a temporary truce to fight off the Symbiotes where some of them got sucked into Rocket Raccoon's inter-dimensional vial. Afterwards, the Guardians of the Galaxy leave the planet, unaware that one Symbiote had stowed away on the Milano. The Symbiote traps Gamora and Drax in a cocoon, possesses Groot, and changes the next destination to Hala. When Star-Lord and Rocket Raccoon confront the Symbiote-possessed Groot, the Symbiote speaks through Groot where it states that the Symbiotes will attack other planets. Rocket Raccoon uses a sonic weapon he made to defeat the Symbiote. While Rocket Raccoon goes into the interdimensional vial to find the Symbiote that still has Groot's arm in order to regrow Groot, the Milano is attacked by the Ravagers. Once the vial is opened, Rocket Raccoon exits with Groot's arm, then the remaining Symbiotes emerge and start to take over the Ravagers' ship. While the Guardians of the Galaxy make it back to the Milano, Yondu and the Ravagers escape the Symbiote-possessed ship in an escape pod. To make sure that the Symbiotes don't use the Ravagers' ship, Rocket Raccoon sets the wrench he left behind to self-destruct destroying the Ravagers' ship and the Symbiotes on board.
- The Venom symbiote appeared in Spider-Man 3 after it landed inside a meteorite.
- The Venom symbiote appeared in a trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just after Vulture's wings. It did not, however, appear in the actual film.
- In the arcade title Spider-Man: The Video Game after the defeat of Dr. Doom, the final boss fight consists of a battle against an infinite number of Doom-created symbiote clones. All the clones can be killed, but there is one "prime clone" with much more life. Defeating this clone is the only way to win.
- In the N64/PlayStation title Spider-Man, the symbiotes become the more common enemy after the player rescues Mary Jane and heads back to the Daily Bugle. The fastest way to kill these symbiotes is to find a fire-imbued web cartridge.
- The symbiote family are major characters in the video game Venom/Spider-Man: Separation Anxiety.
- Venom, Scream and Carnage appear as bosses in Spider-Man: The Animated Series.
- Venom appears in Ultimate Spider-Man (for Game Boy Advance) as a playable character. Carnage appears too, but as a boss, Venom also appears as a boss a few times when playing as Spider-Man.
- Venom is a playable character in Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects.
- In the Spider-Man 3 video game, Shriek appears. Shriek's powers come from a symbiote in this game which is also black in color. However the symbiote only covers half of her body. This is only found on the Wii/PS2 versions of the game.
- In Spider-Man: Web of Shadows, Venom returns to New York. During a fight with Venom, the Symbiote suddenly reproduces and the spawn bonds with Spider-Man creating a replica of the Black Suit, but with considerably more Carnage-like abilities such as projecting bladed tentacles. Over the course of the game, Venom creates symbiote "seed-pods" in various locations around the city which absorb passing civilians and infect them with various types of symbiote ranging from Snatcher Symbiotes (the small black Symbiotes that drag unsuspecting victims to the "seed-pods"), Zombie Symbiotes (the weak white Symbiotes), Berserker Symbiotes (the red shiny Symbiotes), Grappler Symbiotes (black and red versions of the Berserkers), and Slasher Symbiotes (the white and pink Symbiotes). The Symbiotes even manage to infect Electro, Vulture, Black Cat and Wolverine. Symbiote-Electro and Symbiote-Vulture go on to spawn other symbiotes with powers similar to their hosts resulting in Electrolings and Vulturelings. All are eventually defeated by Spider-Man and the symbiotes are separated from them.
- In Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions, the Ultimate Marvel version of Spider-Man in his symbiote suit is a playable character. Madame Web had restored the black suit as it provides this world's Peter Parker with additional abilities that he will require to succeed in his mission while she uses her psychic abilities to prevent the suit attempting to take over his mind though it does affect his temper. Also, the Ultimate Marvel version of Carnage appears as the final boss in the Ultimate levels where it was granted the ability to reanimate its victims into symbiotic zombie-like creatures thanks to the powers of a fragment of the Tablet of Order and Chaos when S.H.I.E.L.D. are foolishly mixing the fragment with Carnage.
- In Spider-Man: Edge of Time, it is revealed that a brainwashed Anti-Venom is responsible for killing present day Spider-Man, altering the future of the Marvel 2099 timeline and prompting Spider-Man 2099 to tamper with the timeline further in order to save his predecessor's life and repair the timestream. In one of their battles, Anti-Venom, Doctor Octopus (who in the new timeline was never a villain, but still uses his trademark arms) and game exclusive villain Dr. Walker Sloan (the man from 2099 who tried to alter the timeline) are knocked into a portal and become Atrocity (vocal effects provided by Fred Tatasciore), a bloated version of Anti-Venom with tentacles. Both Atrocity and the future Peter Parker are defeated with the time resetting presumably separating Atrocity back into Walker Sloan, Anti-Venom, and Doctor Octopus.
- Two versions of the black suit appear as an optional costume in The Amazing Spider-Man, based on its appearance in the Spider-Man 3 film, and a modified version of Spider-Man's costume from The Amazing Spider-Man film. Backstory for the game also reveals that the game version of the Symbiote is based on a "black goo" recovered from space and that it is bonded with the game's version of the Scorpion. This is an allusion to the comics, where Mac Gargan briefly assumed the role of Venom.
- Symbiote Scientists appear in Lego Marvel Super Heroes.
- The Symbiote family appeared in the Facebook game Marvel: Avengers Alliance, it featured Venom, Agent Venom, Anti-Venom, Scream, and Hybrid.
- Symbiotes "connect together" in a Marvel Puzzle Quest storyline. Besides Mac Gargan and Eddie Brock as Venom and Cletus Kasady's Carnage, there are four new Symbiotes: A green male named Carrier, an orange female named Horror, a teal teethy creature named Demolisher, and a magenta dog-like creature named Mutation.
- Scream appears as one of the villains in Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man ride.
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- Spider-Man/Fantastic Four #2
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- Carnage U.S.A. #2
- Venom vol. 2 #15
- Deadpool vs. Carnage #3
- Deadpool vs. Carnage #4