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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

We Build The LEGO Marvel Carnage Head, Which Oozes Symbiotic Terror

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The newest LEGO Carnage set — a buildable, sharp-toothed head model mounted on a stout, black stand — is aimed squarely at grown-ups. More specifically, it's aimed at grown-ups who were children or tweens when Carnage first debuted in 1992, and were terrified by him. It's also a particularly well-timed release: the new Venom: Let There Be Carnage film, co-starring Woody Harrelson as Carnage, debuts this September.In the Marvel universe, Carnage stands out by how irredeemable he is. In Stephen King's novel The Green Mile, there's a prisoner named Will Wharton who is so violent, so bereft of empathy and finer feelings, that the Death Row guards make no attempt to rehabilitate him or even relate to him, for their own safety. "This man," the assistant warden's report reads, "just doesn't care." (NOTE: See the entire build process for this set in the image gallery below.)We Build the LEGO Marvel Carnage HeadThat's the type of villain Carnage is; he derives joy from killing, causing suffering, and being cruel. He is a true sadist. The Marvel Universe is filled with villains who do evil things, but the writers often work overtime to humanize them, so their worst actions can be understood, if not justified. Often, even the worst Marvel villains see themselves as the good guys. They think they're saving the world, rather than destroying it. They're protecting the livelihood of homo superiors, even if it comes at the cost of homo sapiens.

Carnage, on the other hand, has a focus that's terrifying in its simplicity, purity, and lack of compromise. It's why even sworn enemies, like Venom and Spider-Man, unite against him. Their blood feud means little if Carnage is loose, and he destroys everything and everyone worth fighting for.I am continually impressed by LEGO's ability to create curved surfaces out of a medium with right angled-corners and straight edges.

I'm 37 years old, which means that I was nine when Carnage made his comic debut in 1992. And along with the Knightfall arc in Batman (speaking of Batman, you can also view part one our full build process for the LEGO Batmobile in the image gallery below); the Doomsday arc in Superman; and the incident where Magneto tore all the adamantium out of Wolverine's body in X-Men; the "Maximum Carnage" arc in Spider-Man was childhood-defining. In these '90s storylines, cynicism itself was an enemy that needed to be defeated. And in the case of Carnage, the heroes needed to balance Venom's Babylonian justice with Spider-Man's traditional heroism to bring Carnage to heel.LEGO Batmobile (1989) – Part 1I thought about all this as I was building the LEGO Carnage model, which is composed of three steps and six bags of bricks — two per step — for a total of 546 pieces. The set also includes a page of stickers, which you carefully line up on the model to create Carnage's signature symbiotic appearance.

You begin by building the base and stand. One of the more creative, practical aspects of the build, which you would not know unless you built it yourself, is how the stand and the head are one and the same. Despite its appearance, one is not mounted upon the other, which makes it appealingly sturdy.

I am continually impressed by LEGO's ability to create curved surfaces out of a medium with right angled-corners and straight edges. The LEGO designers use a few tricks to accomplish this; when building the Carnage model, you lay down a number of specialized bricks with studs on their sides. Then, you lay the smooth and curved pieces over those studs to create the visual effect.

This technique allows you to build 'around' and 'across,' instead of from bottom-to-top exclusively. Everything you see on the model — the eyes, the forehead, the back of the skull, and the sides of the skull — are independent, smaller builds that are plated onto the structural foundation beneath it.

There's two ways to play with LEGOs–via a planned set with instructions or via a 'sandbox,' in which you free build from your imagination. Ideally, you should do both, because the former informs the latter; you pick up advanced techniques that you then use and incorporate into your own builds. My six-year-old son has observed the plating technique on two recent, planned builds—the Batmobile I built a year-and-a-half ago, and now the Carnage set I just built. I've seen the plating technique crop up in my son's creations over the last several months. I suspect that I'll start seeing it more.

Carnage's signature toothy jaw is attached to the bottom of the skull via a hinge; it's built in two pieces and connected in the middle to form the complete jaw, The teeth in this model are exaggerated and massive, and are individually placed and arranged in the jawline before attaching it. The designers used pink bricks inside the mouth to create the impression of gums and a tongue. This surprised me at first. But by the time I finished the build, I saw that it wasn't distracting; the long teeth casted long shadows, which muted the pink and created a subtle effect.

The LEGO Carnage build is an engaging, colorful experience. Because it is under 800 pieces, you could easily build it in two days (or a single sitting, if you set aside a chunk of time). It is equally fun to build this model as it is to look at it when it's done. This is not always true with the adult LEGO sets, which often contain repetitive elements to create a larger, cumulative effect.This is a display build that exists to sit on a shelf or the desk of a workspace. There are no interactive play elements.

It's important to note that this is a display build that exists to sit on a shelf or the desk of a workspace. There are no interactive play elements; even the jaw, which is filled with those massive teeth, is immobile. Post-build, is this model appealing enough on appearance alone? For this '90s kid, it is. Just one look at it, from any angle, takes me back to my childhood. Your own mileage will depend on what Carnage means to you. To adults of a certain age, who remember when an embodiment of pure evil swept through the Marvel universe and ravaged New York City, he means a lot.

The LEGO Carnage, Set #76199, was created by LEGO designer Jesper Nielsen. It's composed of 546 pieces and retails for $59.99.

Kevin Wong is a contributor to IGN as well as a LEGO superfan. Talk about LEGO with him on Twitter at @KevinJamesWong.

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