What’s black and white and red all over? – LEGO Marvel 76199 Carnage [Review]

Building on the success of their Star Wars helmets, LEGO has been producing more mini-busts based on other pop culture licenses. In 2020 an Iron Man helmet joined the ranks, and in 2021 we’re getting even more comic-book related heads. First out of the gate is Marvel 76199 Carnage, a Target retailer exclusive that can also be obtained directly from LEGO for US $59.99 | CAN $79.99 | UK £54.99 starting April 11th in the US and Canada, and in the UK on May 1st. This 546 piece set depicts the Spider-Man arch-foe with plenty of creepy detail, but does it have larger appeal beyond a villainous dust catcher? Read on and see!

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

The box and contents

For those needing some context, Carnage is a major villain from the Spider-Man corner of the Marvel universe. He’s mostly a Venom spin-off character, a more evil version introduced when Venom drifted from “bad guy” towards “anti-hero” status. His first appearance in the comics was a cameo in February 1992’s The Amazing Spider-Man #359, with a full appearance following in April’s issue #361. (A year off from being able to label this a 20th-anniversary set, which I’m sure greatly annoyed the marketing folks.)

This set’s packaging matches the styling we’ve seen in the other helmet kits. The 18+ theming does make for an attractive design, with Carnage looking suitably sinister against the minimalist black background. Instead of a direct “this is a Spider-Man set” call-out, though, we get a more oblique “Assembled from the Spider-Man universe” subtitle. Maybe this is an attempt to tie this set more directly to the upcoming Venom: Let There Be Carnage film, which is likely to only be Spider-Man adjacent.

The back of the box is also very subdued, with another product shot and three inset graphics. The middle one calls out the height of the bust (19 cm/ 7 inches) and is flanked by two images of Carnage. The one on the left is a heavily-cropped pose from the Mark Bagley variant cover for 2019’s Absolute Carnage #1. To the right is a more cinematic shot; closely cropped and slightly modified from Venom/Carnage poster art that Marvel has been licensing out for a while now.

Inside the thumb-punch box are six numbered parts bags, a loose sticker sheet, and an 88 page, perfect-bound instruction manual. Note the lack of text on the cover; normally you’d expect to at least see some logos. Interestingly, there is no hint of Carnage’s ties to Spider-Man. In fact, the name Spider-Man (and related logos) doesn’t appear anywhere in the manual, with Carnage instead being described as “Venom’s deadly nemesis.” True, but not really the whole story.

The manual starts off with a two-page spread featuring photos and text from LEGO creative lead, Jesper C. Nielsen. As you’d probably expect, the photos of Jesper interacting with the set are obviously staged, as they don’t match up with the building order at all. Still, that first photo makes for a good “Alas poor Yorick” moment.

The parts

This set doesn’t have any new part molds, but it does offer some new and rare colors for existing elements. In particular, there are a number of parts appearing for the first time in bright pink, as well as a 1×2 clip plate in dark pink. These curved panels haven’t been seen in red since 2008’s 8157 Ferrari F1 1:9.

Also new is a single copy of the pentagonal clip-flag in black, and four copies of the newish 2×2 triangle tile in red. The only printed element in this set is the 4×6 plate with the Marvel logos and Carnage name. Shockingly, that print is unique to this set.

The build

The build starts out very similar to the Star Wars helmet sets, with a sturdy base with internal support provided by Technic beams.

Carnage’s head is built directly on top of the stand. It has a hollow core, with plenty of SNOT connections available on the front and sides. It’s a symmetrical build, and not particularly complex. Nothing that would justify the “18+” age suggestion on the box, anyway.

After adding a few rear-facing connection bricks, the back of the head gets attached. There’s a good mix of curved panels and slope brick to create an organic curve to things. You might be tempted to hide some sort of Easter egg inside. Maybe write a note for some future disassembler to find. Life is short. Go for it.

Next in the build is adding the top of Carnage’s head. This section is a little more blocky, but the exposed studs do add a nice level of “this is a LEGO model” to the final product. The upper jaw is next, along with an array of pointy teeth. The new black clip-flag is attached to start forming the lower jaw. Sadly, it gets a pink sticker applied to it. (Maybe it’s just me, but it sure feels like LEGO loves to put stickers on the rare parts.)

There is a bit of clever SNOT building above the jaw. Two hinge bricks provide an anchor point for Carnage’s eyes.

The eyes are the only part of the build that isn’t mirrored. There’s a slightly different build to each one, which does add a welcome bit of variation. Personally, I think they could have gone a bit further with the non-symmetry, maybe breaking up the strong horizontal line along the bottom edge.

Carnage’s forehead is next on the building list. One word of caution here: While the black squiggly patterns on the stickers appear pretty random, they do in fact link up into a unified design. You’ll want to pay close attention to the instructions to make sure you’re putting them on the right way up. Ask me how I know.

The sides of the head use the last of the stickers to add some visual interest to Carnage’s profile.

Mixel ball joints are put to good use to allow for a non-standard curve to the jawline. The comic-accurate mix of pink, red, and black elements really does look creepy, too. It’s a subtle (but nice) touch that LEGO also used some transparent red elements here, too.

Each side of the jaw attaches to the exposed studs on the side of the head, wrapping around to clip together in the middle.

The finished model

As mentioned before, there’s very little to do with this set once you’ve finished the build; it’s a display piece, not a plaything. Luckily the completed Carnage head looks good from just about every angle. The profile view is probably the weakest, but you can see that at least some effort was made to pep it up as well. The back of the head is also not great, but that’s not going to be the highlight of most displays anyway.

The mouth full of teeth is genuinely scary looking, and the stickers add a good level of visual interest. The jutting lower jaw may be a little over-the-top, but it is accurate to his comic book appearance.

Conclusion and recommendation

It’s probably unfair to compare this set to the wider range of LEGO offerings. This is a conversation starter, not a toy. (But here we go anyway.) At $60 US for 546 pieces, the set comes in at nearly 11 cents per, which is kinda steep. The retailer-exclusive nature should help with longer-term collectability, as will the upcoming film tie-in. There are some parts in new colors and a decent range of elements in useful quantities, but this isn’t a great deal if you’re looking for a parts pack. It does work pretty well as a display piece, though. It’s comic-accurate, a quick and engaging build, and sturdy enough to survive when the cat inevitably knocks it over. If Carnage is the sort of character you want to have sitting nearby always watching you, like a murderous elf-on-the-shelf, then you’ll be pretty happy with this kit.

Marvel 76199 Carnage will be available April 11th in the US and Canada from the LEGO Shop Online for US $59.99 | CAN $79.99 | UK £54.99. It is may also be available via third-party sellers on Amazon and eBay.

The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

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