Greetings, fans of the Unspoken! It’s your pal, the Symbifan, back at it again with an article on one of my most favorite Marvel story lines called (You guessed it!) Maximum Carnage! Now, ever since I was a young comic fan, the Marvel symbiotes have fascinated me (Can’t tell by my moniker, can you?!), and in the 90’s, there was definitely no shortage of symbiote-related stories to read. But, in my mind, one has always stood out. That’s right! The “big daddy” of all alien parasite tales. A story so epic, that it had to be told in 14 parts! Well then, without further ado, let us begin.
The story begins as the serial killer, Cletus Kassidy AKA Carnage, is being transferred from the Vault to Ravencroft for psychiatric treatment. Now, these yahoos at Ravencroft actually believe that Cletus is just your average psychopath in need of some meds and maybe a little therapy. They also believe his supposed “living costume” was merely part of a fantasy he created for himself. Wrong! Cletus, merely biding his time, cuts his wrist with his cuffs, and blam-o….instant symbiote! Kassidy becomes Carnage once again and begins slaughtering everyone he can get his creepy tendrils on! Meanwhile, Spider-Man, in his civilian identity of Peter Parker, has no idea any of this is going on as he attends the funeral for his friend and sometime enemy, Harry Osborn. In fact, he doesn’t catch wind of any of it until he overhears a radio broadcast while picking up Chinese food. (Ah, saved by a craving for General Tao’s chicken!)
Carnage, on the other hand, has stopped disemboweling guards long enough to meet a new partner in crime in the fellow lunatic Shriek. Shriek talks Carnage into letting her in on the massacre he is soon to unleash upon New York. As they escape together, they swing throughout the city and seemingly locate the object of Carnage’s revenge….the Amazing Spider-Man!
But upon closer examination, they find it to be none other than Spidey’s “evil double” Doppelganger! After a brief skirmish, Shriek decides she likes the little monster and they decide to form one heck of a dysfunctional family! Carnage leaves the two on a rooftop to await his return as he attends other matters. Later, Spider-Man, in search of Carnage, swings by and is immediately attacked by the evil duo. The fight goes back and forth until Spidey, finally unable to face the two alone, gets hit hard in the ribs, presumably shattering them. He falls from the rooftop and loses consciousness in an alleyway. The first part ends with Carnage revealed perched within J. Jonah Jameson’s window at the Daily Bugle. (Ready for a good old-fashioned kidnapping anyone?!)
At least, that’s what I thought. Turns out Carnage just wanted Jameson to tell his “pals,” Spider-Man and Venom, that he wanted to have a little….chat! Meanwhile, Spidey’s ribs are killing him! So of course it’s a perfect time for some street punks to try and make a name for themselves by murdering our favorite arachnid!
There’s only one problem with that little plan….three words: Cloak and Dagger! That’s right, the super-duo has entered the scene. And boy, are they not taking any prisoners. They easily dispatch the gang and use their powers to teleport Spidey to an abandoned church. While there, Shriek and Doppelganger decide it’s time to bring down the house (or church) around them! All five of them then square off, and the battle begins. For the most part, it seems as if the good guys might have this one in the bag until Carnage arrives! This definitely turns the odds in favor of Team Carnage. So much in fact, that Spidey’s ribs are reinjured and Dagger is seemingly killed!
The big baddies then get into a squabble about who’s going to finish off Spider-Man until they decide upon a temporary retreat. But their exit does not go unnoticed. The Demogoblin watches from a nearby rooftop. (Hmmm. I wonder which side he’ll choose? Stupid question!) Anyway, this issue ends with our favorite symbiotic anti-hero, Venom, catching wind of the massacre on the news from his new city. (Methinks things just got more awesome!)
The next part of our tale leads us to New York’s Laguardia Airport, where a very strange passenger has just completed a long flight from San Francisco and appears to be talking to himself. (Hey, who doesn’t now and then?) The truth of the matter is that he’s talking to his “other,” and by “other,” I of course mean his symbiotic other half! Together they are known as Venom! It turns out that the stranger is no other than Eddie Brock, and as he gets more agitated he suddenly “Venoms out” in the middle of the terminal! Wasting little time (no kidding, right?!), he swings off in search of Carnage!
Meanwhile, Spider-Man tries in vain to calm Cloak’s broken heart about the death of his partner at the hands of Shriek. But alas, nothing can sooth the poor guy, and he teleports away. While this is going on, Team Carnage is on a nearby rooftop, beating the crap out of each other to see just who is “top dog” in this outfit. Carnage of course wins and all is immediately good in the hood. (Warms your heart, doesn’t it? I mean, a family that slays together, stays together!)
While Carnage and his “family” resume their murder spree, Spidey returns home to bandage up. While there, he catches the news and deciding that he can’t just lie around, he heads back out. This, of course, is the perfect time for the poor guy to run into the deranged creature known only as Demogoblin! The two battle a bit until Spider-Man is dropped by a new weapon of Demo’s, a pumpkin bomb containing a type of “living darkness” that seems to make the hero lose all hope! It isn’t until the intervention of a passing priest that Spider-Man finds faith in himself in the nick of time. And by the nick of time, I mean right before an actual pumpkin bomb goes off right next to him and the priest! Demogoblin takes this moment to escape, and Spidey limps back home. At this time, Venom finds our favorite red psychopath in the park and attacks! The only problem? Carnage has back up! Time passes and Spider-Man arrives home. He attempts to unwind with the wife when a tapping is heard on the apartment door. Mary Jane (In her bra and panties with a loose robe just barely thrown over her! I mean, have some class, lady!) answers the door and a very injured Venom drops in (literally)!
As Venom is helped to the Web-Slinger’s couch, Mary Jane leaves in a huff (Women! Am I right, fellas?!) because she’s been on this kick about Peter putting his life on the line as Spider-Man. This leaves Spider-Man to do what any rational man in his situation would do…..seek advice from an old flame?! Wait a minute! What?!
Anyway, this “old flame” just happens to be Felicia Hardy AKA the Black Cat. As Spidey talks about his fears of teaming up with his one time nemesis, Venom, Felicia has some shocking advice to give: do it! But while this has been going on, the Demogoblin has at last found Carnage and Co. and attacks! But Carnage has a few tricks up his symbiotic sleeve. He talks old Gobby into joining them!
Meanwhile, Black Cat takes this moment to have a chat with Venom about “playing nice” with Spider-Man and herself. Spidey backs her up, and Venom agrees. Team Spider-Man is starting to come together! Speaking of Team Spider-Man, Cloak locates Carnage and the other villains in their temporary lair! Seeking justice for Dagger, he lashes out. However, he soon finds himself to be no match for all four of them and begins to falter. Luckily, this is the moment Spider-Man, Venom, and Black Cat come to the rescue! (Yay!) The heroes start to get the upper hand in the fight until Carnage has the roof brought down around them! (They really don’t like roofs, do they?!)
Cloak teleports out but Venom and Black Cat are severely injured. As Carnage escapes, Spider-Man must make a hard decision. Does he help his allies, or does he peruse the villains before more lives are lost?
The next issue reveals that Spider-Man has in fact made up his mind. He has decided to stay back and help out his teammates. The only problem is that they didn’t want to be saved! First Venom cusses him out and even attacks him, stating that his life meant nothing compared to that of the innocents that will now surely perish at the hands of his villainous offspring. No shocker there. Venom and Spidey never see eye to eye. The kicker is when Black Cat agrees! (Ya just can’t please some people!) Anyway, both leave our Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man alone with his thoughts and head back out in pursuit of Carnage and his cohorts. We then look in upon Carnage and his group. It seems as if there’s more dissension in the ranks as Carnage and Demogoblin go at it about how to more effectively maim and kill the poor people of New York. Shriek, being a good “mother/wife” calms the situation and they all head back out on their merry way.
But, what’s this? Someone is actually following these psychos?! At this time, Peter Parker looks for advice in his Aunt May. She basically tells him not to compromise his ideals. That he has to be true to himself. (Sweet, huh?) But, at this time, Peter’s “father” is listening in and, after Peter leaves May, gives his own advice: fight fire with fire. Some people are beyond help and monsters exist inside of everyone. (Great advice coming from a robot! Remember these “suddenly back from the dead” parents were actually Live Model Decoys created by the Chameleon under orders from Harry Osborn?! Ahhh. Comics!)
Back to the action. As Spidey swings around, he decides to take his Aunt’s advice rather then his robo-daddy’s. But, just as he does, it is revealed that the good people of New York have formed violent mobs around the city! Spider-Man witnesses one of these mobs in action and of course tries to help out the victims. But, just like with Venom and Black Cat, most don’t want his help! They actually dog-pile on the Webhead and start wailing on him! It is then, perhaps thinking of his “father’s” words, that Spidey lashes back! He then proclaims, flames and destruction behind him, that he’s done being Mr. Nice Guy! Epic scene really, with tons of emotion. (And the Oscar goes to…..)
The next issue takes us to a scene of ultimate….well….carnage! The city lies devastated and corpses line the street! (Upbeat, huh?) But, as we look on as New York burns, the mysterious figure from earlier looks on as well.
He is called Carrion, and he is on the trail of death! As Charon floats away, we are taken to another scene nearby. We are witness to a woman in terror as a gang of lethal looters attempt to attack her. But a savior gets to them first! He is Morbius the Living Vampire. He’s on the hunt for the blood of an evil-doer, and he finds it here in abundance. After feasting upon their blood, Morbius finds himself being watched by what remains of Team Spider-Man. Venom makes an offer Morbius can’t refuse and….bam….instant new ally!
Meanwhile, Spider-Man, now determined to treat these killers like the the lowly dogs they are, heads out on patrol. What’s Mary Jane doing while her husband throws himself in mortal danger again and again? Dancing at a nightclub called The Deep, of course! Karma has it, though, that Carnage and Co. randomly choose this particular club as a new killing field! Chaos erupts within the club as people are torn to pieces! The madness doesn’t last long, though, as Venom, Cloak, Black Cat, and Morbius intervene with a vengeance! Both groups instantly begin beating the holy hell out of each other as Mary Jane hides in horror! Spider-Man then joins the fray, with his new attitude accompanying him! Carnage is soon forced to call for a tactical retreat. Spider-Man looks to Venom and informs him that, for now on, they’re finishing this at any cost!
The final installment of the first half of the Maximum Carnage storyline begins where the nightmare that is known as Carnage started…..St. Estes Home for Boys. Ol’ Webhead has decided for his team to regroup here and perhaps shed some insights into how to defeat the mass murdering monster. (Carnage fans will of course remember that this is the orphanage where Cletus Kasady AKA Carnage grew up. If not, shame on you!)
While there, the weaknesses of a symbiote are discussed: sonics and fire. The best place to get a sonic blaster is the Fantastic Four headquarters. (They have the most amazing toys! Reed does have a lot of time on his hands to create them, seeing as he spends little to no time with his wife! Did I just go there?! Slam! ) As for fire, how about the mutant known as Firestar?! Cloak teleports out to retrieve her as the others head out to the home of the FF. While this is going on, Carnage and his band of miscreants are at last confronted by a team of elite police officers!
This is the moment that the mysterious Carrion chooses to show his allegiance in this war. He does this by touching the officers, causing them to decay almost instantly! Another recruit for Team Carnage! But, what’s this? At an undisclosed location, the cybernetic hero known as Deathlok is preparing to stop this insanity! Deathlok then strikes with maximum force, but the odds are not in his favor. He is soon defeated. Team Spider-Man is unaware of any of this as they break into the FF HQ. (This kind of occurs with ease! I mean, isn’t Reed Richards supposed to be a genius?! Makes the whole outfit look bad! Oh well. Moving on.)
The sonic blaster is retrieved, and the heroes return to safety. It is there that Cloak arrives with Firestar!
Yep, things seem to be looking up! (That is until the next scene, where Deathlok is shown near-crucified to a building engulfed in flames!) Well, that’s it, loyal fans of the Unspoken! Next month, I will return with the second (and last) installment of my look back on the Maximum Carnage epic! Until then, enjoy your Thanksgiving and remember: Nothing wakes you up better after a turkey feast then rereading an awesome 90’s comic! Ta!