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When Tom Hardy’s Venom returns to screens in the sequel to the hit 2018 film, he won’t just be facing off against Cletus Kasady aka Carnage (Woody Harrelson). Last week we learned that Naomie Harris is in talks to join the cast of the Andy Serkis-directed sequel as Carnage’s paramour and murderous partner, Shriek. Although Shriek is not one of Spider-Man’s more famous adversaries, her inclusion in Venom 2 has a greater significance when it comes to laying the groundwork for the future of the Spider-Verse, and a potential adaptation of the famous Spider-Man, Venom and Carnage showdown, Maximum Carnage.
Frances Louise Barrison, who first introduced herself only as Shriek, debuted in Spider-Man Unlimited No. 1 (1993), which kicked off the Maximum Carnage storyline that ran through the various Spider-Man books at the time. Created by the team of Tom DeFalco, Mike W. Barr, Terry Kavanagh, Ron Lim, Jerry Bingham and Mark Bagley, Shriek escaped from the Ravencroft mental institution alongside Kasady at the beginning of the story and eagerly joined him on his crusade of bloodshed and anarchy. Their acts of violence brought them into conflict with Spider-Man and Venom who called a brief truce, alongside other heroes Cloak and Dagger, Iron Fist, Deathlok, Morbius, Black Cat and Captain America.
With her jet-black hair, pale skin and morbid fascinations, Shriek first appeared to be a walking collection of tropes that highlighted an older generation’s aversion to and fear of goth and grunge subculture. As the storyline continued it was revealed that Shriek was more than a grim groupie, but a powerful mutant with powers of flight, sound manipulation and the ability to bring out people’s inner darkness and encourage violent acts. Early on in Maximum Carnage, it’s revealed that Shriek has a past with the superhero Cloak. As a teenager, Frances escaped from her abusive mother and began working as a drug dealer, which brought her into conflict with Cloak, who briefly trapped her within his Darkforce Dimension and drove her mad, while also awakening her latent mutant abilities.
During Shriek and Carnage’s rampage through New York, she becomes driven by the idea of creating her own family unit, with her and Kasady as mother and father, and the Spider-Man villains Doppleganger and Carrion as her children. Though she loves Kasady, Carnage is incapable of love and is often violent and cruel toward her despite her unwavering loyalty. But despite the emotionally and physically abusive power dynamic, Shriek’s sound manipulation powers, which manifest as sonic blasts and sonic fields, weaken symbiotes, making her a real threat to Carnage and Venom.
Shriek is very much a ’90s character, and despite her later appearances in contemporary comics she hasn’t changed much. There’s little doubt that Venom 2 screenwriter, Kelly Marcel, will update the character and give her agency beyond Carnage’s lover and a villainous matron. And with an actor of Harris’ caliber in the role, Shriek is sure to be more than a sidekick and can definitely hold her own against Harrelson onscreen. As awesome as it will be to see Venom and Carnage face off, Shriek adds another power-set to the mix, and creates the potential for the sequel to avoid repeating the symbiote vs. symbiote beats of the first film. With Serkis, who has his share of experience with action as second-unit director on Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, we can expect imaginative battles between the two alien-enhanced characters, but Shriek gives the filmmaker a chance to play with the power of sound in an interesting way, which were ironically the comic book powers of his Black Panther character Ulysses Klaue, which were never fully realized in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
If Shriek’s powers remain the same in the film as her comic book counterpart, then her ability to bring out the worst in people creates a bigger playing field for the sequel, especially as Brock becomes increasingly driven by the distinction between the innocent and the guilty. One of the driving themes of Maximum Carnage is whether or not people can overcome their worst instincts. Carnage and his crew didn’t just create violence of their own, but used Shriek’s powers so that the citizens of New York committed their own heinous acts and bloodshed. Brock having to not only deal with the threats of Carnage, Shriek, the entire city of San Francisco turned against itself, and his own darker impulses seems like the perfect avenue for a bigger and darker sequel.
It seems doubtful that Venom 2 will be a straight adaptation of Maximum Carnage, given the wide cast of characters that event brought together. But next summer’s Morbius, starring Jared Leto, seems likely to feature some mention of Venom, or even a post-credit appearance before the character returns in full in October. And with a Black Cat solo film in the works, the central characters are being put in play. And given Marvel Studios Kevin Feige’s recent comments about Spider-Man’s future in the MCU and outside of it, the crossover potential seems more likely than ever. If we’re lucky, the presence of Shriek is an echo of something much larger in the distance.
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