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Is Venom Or Carnage The Stronger Symbiote?

Debating the strengths and weaknesses of comic book characters is arguably a normal part of fan culture. It is not uncommon to stumble upon debates of who could beat who, or which character is stronger than the other — and one of the most celebrated rivalries in comics was finally brought to life action in 2021's "Venom: Let There Be Carnage."

Who comes out on top? In one corner, there is Venom, whose most famous host — Spider-Man aside — is reporter Eddie Brock, as depicted in the 2018 film by Tom Hardy. In the second corner, there is Carnage, the spawn of Venom, who is usually depicted as being bonded to serial killer Cletus Kasady (Woody Harrelson), though has also attached itself to characters as powerful as the Silver Surfer (per Marvel Database). Venom and Carnage have faced off many times over the course of comic history, with their first battle occurring in "The Amazing Spider-Man" #363, where Venom and Spider-Man actually have to team up to take down the murderous red symbiote (per Comic Vine). 

Venom and Carnage are both symbiotes which take on traits and characteristics of their hosts, so they operate on a similar playing field. In the end, though, which symbiote is stronger? 

How does Venom fare against Carnage?

Venom has a long, winding backstory, with both the symbiote and Brock having spent many years obsessed with murdering Spider-Man — these days, though, Venom is on the side of heroes (usually). Through the black symbiote's various experiences across the universe, it has accumulated quite the set of abilities — including camouflaging, wall-crawling, superhuman strength, and genetic memory. Its weaknesses include a sensitivity to sonic and heat-related attacks, and a susceptibility to the feelings and thoughts of whichever sentient lifeform is hosting it at a given time. 

Now, how do these capabilities fare against Carnage? Since both are symbiotes, they each share some overlapping powers. Furthermore, since Carnage is an offspring of Venom, the red symbiote also shares abilities that Venom snagged from Spider-Man. On the other hand, the Carnage symbiote is incredibly young and inexperienced compared to its parent, which traversed galaxies before winding up on Earth.

So, at first glance, they are relatively equal. However, Carnage has an unexpected advantage in having bonded with such an unstable — but driven — host, as Cletus Kasady's murderous rage drives it to extremes that a sensible Earthling/symbiote duo would never dare. In the comics — and the 2021 movie — it's pretty clearly established that on a baseline level, Carnage is indisputably more powerful than Venom. Carnage has also become even stronger over the years through bonding with hosts like the Green Goblin and developing pyrokinesis, as well as joining directly with Kasady's bloodstream. That doesn't necessarily mean that Carnage wins every battle, but it does mean that Venom is fighting the odds as soon as he steps into the ring.

Carnage is the stronger symbiote

After looking over the histories of both symbiotes, and analyzing both their strengths and weaknesses, it is clear that Carnage is the stronger symbiote. That point is hard to argue, and frankly, it's central to the dynamic between both characters. That doesn't mean Venom is a slouch, in comparison, but in a battle of sheer, raw power, Carnage should come out on top, every time. 

That said, when you analyze the overall ability of each symbiote, and their unique skills, Venom can potentially beat Carnage — in the right playing field, with the right strategy — as is seen in "Venom: Let There Be Carnage." As previously mentioned, Carnage's uniquely horrific powers are the product of it bonding with a serial killer. As a result, Carnage — like Cletus — is full of rage, hatred, as well as chaotic and impulsive tendencies that can put the deadly supervillain at a disadvantage against the more calculated Venom: Carnage lives in a state of hyper-fixated aggression which does not leave room for much clarity and clear thinking. When in battle, sometimes it is better to be strategic rather than rely on being blunt and forceful. So, while Carnage is the ultimate victor in terms of strength, he's not unbeatable, either.