Maximum Carnage: A Symbiote Fan Reflects (pt.2)

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Welcome back, fans of the Unspoken! Tis the season to be more loving and giving. So, what better way for me to show you my love and be more giving than to give you my last installment of the Maximum Carnage epic?! What’s that, you say? Get on with it? Well then, let us begin.

02-03This part of the story begins with J. Jonah Jameson actually looking concerned about his hometown and stating how someone needs to do something. When he enters his office, lo and behold, a chance to do just that appears because Spidey and Co. are there and have something they haven’t had in the past seven issues…a plan!  They want ol’ Triple J. to publish an article with an invitation for both teams to finish this at Carnage’s home sweet home, the orphanage he grew up in.

Jonah, being the epic ass he is, immediately begins badmouthing everyone there and saying how he won’t help out in the slightest. (Oh how quickly we change our minds, eh fellow Symbifans?!) This is until Venom’s long, Gene Simmons-like tongue darts from his mouth, making a slurping noise! Jonah has an immediate change of heart.

08 Later, while in the midst of his murderous spree, Carnage spies a newspaper and impales the man reading it. Reading it himself, he of course takes the bait! (Not there the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, is he?!) He immediately heads there. Upon arriving at the rather decrepit old orphanage, Carnage takes his cohorts on a type of trip through memory lane. As he reminiscences about past horrors, he gets too wrapped up in his own thoughts, leaving himself vulnerable as Spider-Man and Co. make their presence known! But before the battle begins, we’re taken back to the place where our “friendly neighborhood cyborg” AKA Deathlok is still pinned to a skyscraper! (Seriously, the dude is STILL there!) But, thanks to the iron fist of….well….Iron Fist, he is broken free and taken to safety.

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We now take you back to our battle already in progress. All hell has broken loose! Heroes and villains alike are being thrashed everywhere you look! Venom takes this time to blast Carnage with the Spidey Gang’s “liberated” sonic blaster but to no effect! The same can’t be said for Firestar’s microwave blasts, though! (She’d be great for gas station burritos! …and now I’m hungry.) Anyway, Carnage falls! He is beaten! Venom moves in for the kill but is stopped by Spider-Man. As this occurs, Shriek takes this moment to kind of “pimp slap” Cletus, clawing his face. This draws blood and Carnage is back to full power!

01-02Yes folks, Carnage is at full strength and boy is he pumped! After teasing the good guys a bit at their failure to put him away (childish, right?!), the battle begins anew! During this, Shriek actually begins monologuing about how her power, amped by the chaos that is Carnage, has actually been driving the day-to-day citizens into crazed mobs! (She actually says this all out loud like a mad scientist in an old comic book! The funny part is that she even catches herself doing this and laughs at how she’s  “talking to herself like some comic book character!” Oh, the irony!) But I digress. Spidey begins to wonder if perhaps this is what is making most of his team act so violent. During the battle, Venom and Spider-Man notice that Carnage shies away from Firestar’s microwave heat blasts.

14_kindlephoto-107253095Venom tells her to pour it on and finish him once and for all. The shocker? Spider-Man agrees! Reluctant, Firestar begins her attack. It starts to work. The threat of Carnage is about to end! That’s when Spidey comes to his senses and makes her stop. This enrages Venom and he knocks Spider-Man flying. He advances on Shriek but the sonics of her blasts prove to be too much for his symbiote. He falls. Shriek and Carnage then beat the holy hell out of Venom and swing off to torture him more at their leisure! Meanwhile, Team Spider-Man lies broken and bleeding. Spidey prays for hope. That’s when hope arrives…in the form of Captain America! (Hold for applause!)

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As Spider-Man, Firestar, and Captain America regroup at the near-empty Avengers HQ (Those Avengers! Never around when you need ’em!), Spider-Man’s ribs are finally put on the mend with the help of some Stark tech. While checking the computer files on Carnage’s “family outing,” Cap realizes that the Avengers computer network is being hacked by an outside source! Pulling the culprits on-screen, they discover it to be Deathlok and Iron Fist! (Now, You mean to tell me that Tony Stark has the technology to heal Spider-Man’s ribs but his computer isn’t somehow protected against hackers?! Gosh, the people of the Marvel Universe should really feel safe! Good one, Tony! Sheesh!)

web-of-spider-man-103-0203Anywho, all involved decide upon an alliance, but first, Spidey decides to check up on his wife. (About time, Mr. Parker!)  As this is transpiring, what’s left of Team Spider-Man are on the hunt for Carnage and Co. plus the captured Venom. The trail, however, turns cold until Carnage’s “family” attacks from the rear!

web-of-spider-man-103-16_kindlephoto-116577682Morbius is nearly destroyed by Carrion’s touch, and Black Cat is beaten down by the combined might of Demogoblin and Doppelganger! Things would have turned deadly real quick if not for the timely intervention of the new hero, Nightwatch! While this is going on, Venom is at the mercy of Carnage and Shriek within the torch of the Statue of Liberty. Sonics are fired on him again and again as he is chained above a roaring fire! (And all of us symbiote fans know just how much symbiotes love loud sound and flame!)

Spider-Man has arrived home to his distraught wife. The loving reunion doesn’t last long, though, as the radio comes to life with a news report about an attempted breakout at the police precinct with hostages caught within! Spidey arrives on scene and does his thing with experienced grace and determination. Meanwhile, the battered superheroes leave to lick their wounds and rethink their methods. How will good triumph over evil with almost all of Team Spider-Man injured?! Easy. Spidey arrives with new back up! Things are starting to look up!

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When we last saw Venom, he was being turned into a living s’more by Carnage and Shriek. Now? He’s just being roasted alive by Carnage alone. (Seriously, this is like the Deathlok thing all over again! Someone, help the poor guy out!) But, while Carnage toasts Venom literally, Morbius and Nightwatch suddenly crash through the Statue of Liberty’s torch! They have Demogoblin and Doppelganger on the run!

amazing-spider-man-380-001anpymgold_kindlephoto-133376001We then cut scene to Spidey and his new crew. They speed through the New York skies, trying to find any sign of Team Carnage. They don’t find all of them, just one of the most dangerous…Shriek! Somehow, this little minx has managed to sneak off on her own and is using her considerable power to create utter chaos in the good citizenry! The heroes strike with precision and force, and, truth be told, it’s almost a stalemate until….Wham! (Not the band. The sound effect. Sorry, Deadpool.) She’s knocked out by a certain iconic shield thrown by Captain America! (Were you expecting someone else?!) Shriek is captured!

We then cut back to the action within Lady Liberty. Nightwatch and Morbius aren’t doing that badly as a team! As Carnage watches on, protecting his hostage, Demo and Doppel are being whupped! That is, until the sun starts to rise outside, and all good vampires (even living ones like Morbius) have to retreat for the day. Nightwatch grabs the blood-drinker quickly and flies away to safety.

amazing-spider-man-380-009anpymgold_kindlephoto-133541005Meanwhile, with Shriek incapacitated, Spidey and Friends begin to calm the angry mobs. Yes, things are finally looking up! That is until Demogoblin and Doppelganger arrive on the scene and free her from capture! But the heroes are ready this time! Having superior teamwork on their side, they begin to triumph! Even the populace, tired of being used, start to get in on the action! They actually throw things at the villains! This enrages Shriek and she turns her powers up to eleven! Even the heroes are having trouble resisting it! But they eventually do, just in time to see themselves surrounded by the same New Yorkers they just freed!

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The next part takes us back to the horrific scene within Lady Liberty. As Venom continues to roast, he finally begs for mercy! (Can this be true? Can the “Lethal Protector” really be a total wussy?!) Cackling with glee, Carnage raises his stolen sonic blaster to cause even more pain. Venom sends tendrils of his symbiotic other down the barrel, causing it to malfunction! He then snaps his manacles, smashes Carnage a good one in the face, and swings to freedom! (We didn’t doubt ya for a minute, V-Man!) At that moment, in a familiar church, the missing Cloak sits vigil, awaiting….what? Even he isn’t sure of the answer.

But back to Spider-Man and the rest of the heroes. Team Spidey is definitely losing this one, folks! For every crazed New Yorker they subdue, ten more rise to take their place! As Shriek watches with her new “family” from the rooftops, she soon decides to join in herself.

07That’s when Carnage himself appears! Angered that the lot of them have been maiming and killing without him, he attacks the ringleader….Shriek! This makes Doppelganger angry and he strikes out at “daddy dearest”! But alas, Carnage is too strong for the little guy and beats him within an inch of his life! (Jerry! Jerry!) To add insult to injury, he then kicks the limp form from the rooftop. It lands on the unforgiving concrete below! (Talk about tough love!)

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Demogoblin then decides he’s sick of this little gang himself and turns to go.  There’s only one problem with that. While this was all going on, Shriek lost mental control of the crowd below! This is also when a blinding light hits the villains. Turning, they see (drum roll please!) Dagger has returned!

22Both sides of this war stand transfixed by the light that is Dagger! No one moves. That is until Shriek…well, shrieks in outrage that the victim of her proudest murder is not deceased after all! ( You know, that’s just gotta suck! I mean, ya try and murder some people…) Shriek files into a frenzy, attacking Dagger with all she has. What does Dagger do? She shows her the light! She actually starts to heal Shriek’s tortured mind! (Hippie!) It starts to work too until, at the last moment, Shriek gets even more crazed and lashes out with a furious blast! Spidey is there to rescue her this time, however, and gets her to safety.

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It takes mere moments for the villains to recover and turn to strike. As they do, they notice that the heroes have fled?! Only Spider-Man stands as the last line of defense! Carnage laughs maniacally as he leads the charge! All of them then take turns beating the hell out of our hero! Spider-Man just keeps pulling himself back to his feet! (Now that, folks, is the very definition of a hero! Sorry. Something in my eyes….sniffle.) That’s when a blast of energy hits Shriek from behind.

14_kindlephoto-179254406Turning, they see Deathlok strapped to a high-tech weapon of some sort! Spider-Man has dubbed it the “Good Bomb.” It releases amplified calming alpha waves from the hero’s minds! Sounds lame, I know, but the effects are fantastic! Carrion is hit so hard that he returns to his human form! Demogoblin sees the error of his ways and turns to flee in terror but collapses instead! Shriek drops to her knees in horror! But Carnage? He resists the power of the machine for so long and so hard that his heart stops! He drops, defeated. Team Carnage is finished at last! The villains are taken to the proper authorities and the heroes disperse, understandably exhausted. Spidey sits in Central Park, lost in thought. That’s when an angered Venom appears! It seems the V-Man is ticked because he was tortured with no help and was robbed of his chance to defeat Carnage himself. Or was he? Carnage pulls himself from a fountain near the two heroes, alive and kicking!

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And now, the finale of Maximum Carnage! As I said, Carnage is alive! How? We don’t know for sure. Spider-Man theorizes that, in a moment of desperation, Carnage created a copy of his symbiote and placed it on a nearby victim. (After 14 parts to this story, let’s just roll with it!) However this happened, he’s back and wastes no time in attacking both Spidey and Venom at the same time!

spider-man-unlimited-02-01It’s mostly between Venom and Carnage with Spider-Man caught in the middle, trying to talk some sense into the both of them! (Yeah, great plan, Spidey! I’m sure they’ll listen to reason, shake hands, and enter police custody after singing a round of White Lion’s “When the Children Cry.” Damn, just dated myself!)  Back to the action! Carnage, still disoriented from the weapon from earlier, takes a real beating at the hands of Venom, so he retreats. Spider-Man then tries to reach out to Venom. Venom then “reaches out” himself…with his fist, shattering both sides of Spidey’s ribs before perusing Carnage! (Ugh! Again with the ribs!)

This time, though, he does the smart thing and goes to the damn hospital. While there, he meets up with his wife and goes home to rest up a bit. While this is going on, Carnage is losing it! I mean, more than usual! He even crashes through the wall of the cell he once shared with Eddie “Venom” Brock, where the nightmare that is Carnage began, to find some solace! He finds none as Venom crashes in after him, beats him down again, and forces yet another retreat!

spider-man-unlimited-02-14_kindlephoto-186982734Meanwhile, more rested, Spider-Man is ready to head back out. MJ then approaches him. Now, you expect another argument but, surprise, surprise, she actually gives him a kiss for good luck! (Kind of late in the game to give your approval here, Mary Jane! I mean, 14 issues!)

Carnage, on the other hand, is in the fetal position within the orphanage he grew up in, surrounded by the ghosts of his past! (Man, that weapon sure messed him up, huh?!)  This doesn’t last, though, as Venom finds him once again! But when the beating becomes near-lethal, Spider-Man interrupts! As Venom and Spidey have words, Carnage retreats for the third time! (Jeez! Someone stop this madman! Am I right, readers?!) This forces yet another uneasy alliance between the two. They swing off in pursuit. Where is ol Carnage this time? Why, digging up the corpse of his mother at a nearby graveyard of course!

spider-man-unlimited-02-30This time he is attacked by both Spider-Man, Venom, and the returned Black Cat! But, even though Spidey gets in the way again and again, Venom hits Carnage so hard, he starts to regain his senses! This is about to take a turn for the very worst! Or is it? Venom, sensing the danger, crashes Carnage and himself through the fence of a nearby power company! The result is a massive explosion! That’s about it. Carnage is defeated at last, Venom lives to fight another day, and Spider-Man, looking to the gravestones near him, decides it’s time to put this whole mess behind him and go home.

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Dedicated to my mom, Pam Bowen-Metz, who has always believed in my writing talent, even when I didn’t. I love you, mom! Thank you for 38 years of continued support!

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Maximum Carnage: A Symbiote Fan Reflects (pt. 1)

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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.
spider-man-unlimited-01-01The 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-and-shriek-meetCarnage, 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!

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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?!)

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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!

web-of-spider-man-101-01There’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!

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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!)

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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!

amazing-spider-man-378-002anpymgold_kindlephoto-9667518Meanwhile, 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!)

amazing-spider-man-378-011anpymgold_kindlephoto-9749695While 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)!

amazing-spider-man-378-023anpymgoldAs 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?!

11_kindlephoto-16288753Anyway, 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!

12Meanwhile, 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?!)

21_kindlephoto-16346926Cloak 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?

01-02The 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.

17_kindlephoto-4562316But, 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…..)

21_kindlephoto-4631113The 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.

web-of-spider-man-102-01He 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!

web-of-spider-man-102-0203Meanwhile, 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!

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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!)

amazing-spider-man-379-001anpymgoldWhile 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!

amazing-spider-man-379-009anpymgold_kindlephoto-33546829This 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.)

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The sonic blaster is retrieved, and the heroes return to safety. It is there that Cloak arrives with Firestar!

amazing-spider-man-379-022anpymgold_kindlephoto-33600261 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!

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Cut to the Chase by Emily Scott

Greetings, Legions of the Unspoken! Emily Scott here with yet another tantalizing round of telling you about a comic that never got to fully explore its potential! Come one, come all and gather ’round to gasp at the abandoned character development! Marvel at the missing resolutions! And if you’re very brave, try your hand at wildly speculating where the unexplored plot points would have eventually lead!

I kid, but as the links demonstrate, a lot of interesting and worthwhile comics never got the chance see how good they could really get, and each one makes me a little sad and wistful, even as I’m simultaneously glad I got to discover them at all. As fans of, say, Firefly or The Clash will tell you (whether you want them to or not), it can be rough to contemplate what might have been with any art that speaks to you, but as the links also demonstrate, good art goes away abruptly all the time, and there’s no use being histrionic or too sentimental about it. Sometimes you read a fun comic, and then there isn’t any more of it, and it’s a bummer. Such is the case here. So without further ado and sans the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, let’s cut right to the Chase. (You knew that was coming. Hell, I made it the title of the article.)

chase #1 pg00
Anyone else really want to know what Martian Manhunter is watching?

Chase, a DC comic published from the beginning to not quite the end of 1998, follows one Cameron Chase, a rookie agent with the Department of Extranormal Operations. (Its name calls to my mind the opposite of what it’s meant to. I picture of bunch of agents in suits investigating, like, really normal things. EXTRA normal things.) Its ten issues, mostly written by Dan Curtis Johnson, drawn by J. H. Williams III, and inked by Mick Gray, paint a character who feels very of her time but also slightly ahead of it.

Chase is cynical but determined, brave and unafraid to take action, but flawed in more than enough believable ways to keep her far away from fulfilling any Strong Female tropes. She might not feel quite as novel a character in a time when even non-comic readers know the name Jessica Jones, but in 1998 there was a dearth of female characters in any medium written complexly enough to wear their strengths and their weaknesses equally well, and there’s still one now. I may have gotten some 90s nostalgia reading Chase, but there’s not much about it that couldn’t have just been written today and still feel pretty fresh.

chase-kicks-ass
Someone getting kneed in the groin never goes out of style as a reliable source of comedy.

There also aren’t a ton of characters who can slot right in to as many different settings as Chase can, but that’s one of the benefits of a perpetually put out character. She feels just as natural rolling her eyes at Batman or scoffing at the Teen Titans as she does sneering at weird mystical creatures or quipping at an Artificial Intelligence. Her scorn makes her feel relatable in unrelatable situations, where you could see why a detachment from her surroundings would make her a top notch investigator. She has a disdain for the superhero (pardon me, metahuman) world in particular, and her choice to inhabit that world anyway and the ways in which she belongs there more than she knows seemed as though they would have been pivotal emotional conflicts had the title continued.

chase-ny
I am retroactively sad for 15-year-old me that Vampires of Angst is not a real band.

Chase’s first mission finds her in Ohio investigating a case that would fit right into today’s world (well, today’s world if people had superpowers). Jerry, a high school kid sick of getting picked on by a chadbro actually named Chad, is set off by the sight of his crush with his tormentor and unleashes a pyrokinetic blast. Chase and her handler, Agent Sandra Barrett, track Jerry down, and Barrett tells him he will be sent to a training facility for “talented” youth, a decision that does not sit well with Chase. (This is another conflict that seems like it also would have been expanded on in further issues had there been more. There are references to a list generated by standardized testing used to identify children who likely have powers, and in a later issue, you see a newspaper with the headline “Govt. kidnapping super kids!”)

Chad ends up dying from his injuries, and the town shows up to Jerry’s cell out for his blood. Jerry escapes with another pyrokinetic blast, and Chase finds him by correctly guessing that he is heading for his crush’s house. Before Jerry can do any more damage with his abilities, something inside Chase reaches out and dampens Jerry’s fire. Chase decides not to tell anyone how she was able to counteract his powers, considering she is still new to the DEO, has already had an ideological disagreement with how they handle metahumans on her first mission, and has wholly negative feelings about those with powers anyway. And, you know, shadowy government agencies, real or fictional, don’t always have the best track record at handling things they don’t understand particularly well. So probably a good call on her part.

Chase’s next mission sends her off to South America to investigate an Artificial Intelligence called the Construct that had taken up residence in a temple and was a day away from taking over the world’s computer network when the Justice League shut it down. Amanda Waller informs Chase that there is still a heat output in the temple and sends her to investigate with, you guessed it, the Suicide Squad!

chase-and-suicide-squad-besties
This panel tells you just about everything you need to know about how well they work together.

The mission goes about as well as you would expect, with the Suicide Squad amusingly annoying the piss out of Chase, then deciding to go with Plan B (escape) when the conflict between some insurgents and the soldiers holed up in the temple prevent them from accomplishing their objectives. Chase attempts to stop them, which leads to her power-dampening powers flaring up on Copperhead, and she falls down a cliff and ends up in the custody of the soldiers. Those soldiers turn out to be form Soviet Intelligence, who are apparently just kind of bored since  the Soviet regime collapsed and scavenging for information in the temple. They stick Chase into the Construct’s interface, since they don’t know what it will do to a human, and she is informed that the Construct has infiltrated the Soviets’ armor with plans to take over the world’s systems next.

Chase does manage to escape with that valuable information after kneeing her captor in the crotch (see above), so it’s not a total wash, but she assumes incorrectly that her next assignment, babysitting the Teen Titans, is a punishment for the previous mission’s failure. Her misconception is corrected by the DEO’s director, Mister Bones, who she discovers is a talking skeleton. (Am I the only one who would read a title that’s nothing but a walking, talking skeleton engaging in mundane bureaucratic tasks to work his way up the ranks?) Bones tells her that a lot of European law and intelligence agencies are suddenly willing to exchange information with the DEO now, and since no good deed goes unpunished, Chase’s reward is to guard just the sort of people she can’t stand!

The real star of this issue, however, is not its titular character, any of the Teen Titans, or even Booster Gold, who shows up seemingly for no other reason than to rag on the Titans for his action figure being better than theirs. No, the real star of this issue for me is the villain, spoiling for a fight, and ready to introduce the world to his new group of henchmen, the Clockwatchers. It’s time (I said it) for the Clock King.

clock-king-use
Could he be wearing any more timepieces?

To be honest, there’s nothing beyond a really cool design that makes me like the Clock King so much, and his team gets handled pretty quickly by the Teen Titans and Chase’s still-hidden power. He and his Clockwatchers are mostly played for comedy, which is all worth it for the scene where they squabble about taking the bus:

clock-king-3
If this were really New York, nobody would be staring at them, no matter how many guys with clocks for faces were on the bus.

Chase is injured in the fight, and while she is laid up in the hospital, we get the chance to hear a story about one of her pre-DEO P.I. exploits, an encounter which Klarion the Witch Boy. This issue also gives us a closer look at the characters who make up Chase‘s supporting cast, her superhero obsessed sister Terry who has been displaced by an earthquake in Gotham, a vagrant named Knob with a penchant for the paranormal, and Chase’s boyfriend Peter.

I enjoy the way her relationship with Peter is handled because it is a prominent part of her life and interferes with and buoys the rest of her life in realistic ways. So often females characters are entirely defined by their romantic relationships or those relationships are presented as impediments to some mythical idea of “having it all,” so it’s always refreshing to see the situation handled with more nuance. When they bicker, it feels lived in, and the shadow of past grievances can be heard in their words. Peter may flirt dangerously with being something of a useless boyfriend cliche who only serves to, like, hold her back, man, but he always seems to be pulled back before he can cross that line. He  may not be crazy about, you know, getting a job, but he proves his worth with some 1337 haxor skills, and when he argues with Chase about her work with the DEO, it feels like the words of someone who truly cares rather than someone trying to keep her down.

chase-disappointment
But for real, look at that guy.  He’d be Mr. November on a calendar of dashed expectations.

Chase’s relationship with her family and the particular nature of her opposition to superheroes is explored in the next issue when she and her sister are stuck on an elevator. Chase is tired of hearing about the stories in her sister’s superhero tabloids and snaps, revealing a tragic past her sister is wholly ignorant of. Their dad, who Terry was lead to believe died in a benign way, was in fact a mask who belonged to a group of do-gooders. He was known as the Acro-Bat, which is both a great and a stupid name. What is just a great name is the moniker of the group of masks he belonged to: The Justice Experience.

chase-justice-experience
Who’s signing the petition with me for a Major Flashback solo title?

It’s kind of hard to blame Chase for being embarrassed by this piece of her family’s past, considering her dad is the only one of his friends who looks like an out-and-out dweeb, amirite? These wannabe heroes got into a fight with a villain group called the House of Pain (You’re hearing Jump Around in your head right now, aren’t you?), and a woman was caught in the crossfire and died. The man who loved her was less than pleased with the Justice Experience, as you might imagine, and he begins to take them out one by one. The comic goes from “Haha, look at these silly vigilantes in their silly costumes,” to, “Oh Jesus Christ, that’s brutal,” real quick when you see the aftermath of his revenge.

chase-jaws
C’mon, bro, you could have just gotten a knife or something. Like are you actually eating him? That’s next level revenge.

The Justice Society of America veterans are eventually enlisted to take care of this threat, sparing anyone else from being maybe sort of eaten, but leaving lasting scars of Chase’s psyche. Terry is understandably indignant that no one told her the truth sooner, but she doesn’t hold it against her sister very long. That’s good news for Chase because she will need all her focus on her next mission, which sends her to Gotham, to properly verbally cut Batman down to size, once of my favorite things in the title.

The gist is there is a new drug mutating its users, who now look demonic. The DEO and the DEA have been experimenting with thyroidal mutagens, which only one corporation in Gotham is licensed to use. Chase sees Batman skulking around the place, and when they return together the next day, they discover the doctor who designed the mutagen went missing with the drug in the days after the earthquake. The doctor had been growing increasingly paranoid that the government wanted to steal his work to create superheroes and supervillains. They find two more kids who’ve been mutated, and Batman turns up to stop them. Chase shoots one of them who is about to get the drop on Batman, and he has, what she will later describe in a way that makes her one of my heroes forever, a Bat-Tantrum.

chase-buzzkill-batman
“You’re….welcome?”

I’ve got to go with Chase on this one. I first read this comic right after seeing the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil, and I was so tired of Matt Murdock’s smug sliding scale of morality, that I was happy to see someone pretty sane just take some decisive action without wringing her hands a whole bunch about it. I understand why the taking of a life is a huge moral dilemma in a lot of comics (and obviously in a plenty of real world scenarios), but it seems like it’s usually someone on the Punisher’s level of not ok that you see characters fall on this side of things. Seriously, though, if you ever see a large demon creature trying to rip me apart, you certainly have my permission to do whatever it takes to stop them without spending a lot of time considering if they might be able to be changed back.

The doctor escapes, and the mutagen is recovered, at which point we find out Chase’s presence has been a cover for her real mission, which is to find out if Batman is a lone nut. Since she had previously met him in her first appearance, in Batman #550, she is able to confirm that it is the same man and not a group of men all using the mantle Batman.

chase-cover-stort
Yep, would still read a comic of nothing but this guy smoking and muttering to himself while he does paperwork.

Chase uses the pretense of trying to find the doctor to stay in Gotham, and Peter continues to be marginally useful with hackzor assistance to try and smoke Batman out. He eludes their attempts, at which point we find out it was actually the Oracle they were tracking all along. She warns Batman, who is already aware the Chase is spying on him, which he probably can’t be too upset about, considering he is already spying on her. Oh, those kooky spooks!

Chase attends a party at Gotham Broadcasting, where she uses all her secret agent and private eye skills to come to the startling conclusion that Batman must be the guy in charge of GBC, since Batman has to be using its satellite. Well, in all fairness the guy was standing next to Bruce Wayne. Ok, seriously, in all fairness, that man is the Sentinel, Alan Scott, so it’s not like she was completely off base on the whole him being a superhero thing.

Chase encounters Batman again, where she learns some less than savory stuff about the agent she was working with on the case, and Batman delivers the world’s most hypocritical advice about revenge not healing the death of a parent. At least, it would be the world’s most hypocritical advice if it were actually Batman and not Alan Scott doing Batman a solid.

chase-batman-dead-father
Even knowing it’s not Batman, I still am getting riled up.

Chase….chases him across the top of some buildings to tell him just how wrong he is, and “Batman” falls through a roof. Chase considers taking his mask off while he’s dazed, but decides not to, saying that her actions haven’t been motivated by hatred but a desire to keep anyone else from going through what she went through. Her proof her intentions are good will be to keep his identify safe. We find out the ol’ switcheroo was Nightwing’s idea to throw Chase off the scent of both Wayne and Scott’s identities, but Batman, of course, has to be the smartest guy in the room, saying that he knew Chase didn’t really want to know but she had to discover it for herself.

And that’s about that for Chase the title, even though Chase the character would make plenty of other appearances in other titles. As I said earlier, I’ll do no bemoaning there’s not more. It was good, I enjoyed it, and you probably would too. Chase has also recently been portrayed on Supergirl by the fantastic Emma Caulfield, so she has been far from forgotten even if her solo title was regrettably short lived. What will hopefully not be short lived is your enthusiasm for the subject of my next article, Valiant’s Magnus, Robot Fighter. How can you not be enthusiastic for something with such a great name? See you then, Legions!

 

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