With modern comic writers redefining the struggle between heroes and villains, it’s easy to focus on what’s happening in the present. But some stories are timeless and that’s certainly the case with 1993’s Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage arc, written by Tom DeFalco and J.M. DeMatteis. The graphic novel sees the return of Carnage, who’s assembled a group of killers to go on a murdering spree across New York. Spider-Man is pushed to his limits and here is my review.
The story begins with Carnage breaking out of Ravencroft prison with a woman named Shriek. They soon come across a mutated duplicate of Spider-Man called Doppleganger and decide to ‘adopt’ it. The trio start slaughtering innocent people and it attracts the attention of Spider-Man. The web-slinger is overwhelmed and Carnage, Shriek and Doppleganger escape. Spidey gains allies in Cloak and Dagger and they track down Carnage. During the battle, Dagger is badly wounded by Shriek.
Meanwhile, Eddie Brock has discovered Carnage is back and vows to kill his offspring as Venom. Venom is unable to defeat Carnage alone and a wounded Brock ends up on Peter’s doorstep. This leads to an uneasy alliance between Spider-Man and Venom, with Black Cat getting involved as well.
As Carnage welcomes Demogoblin and Carrion into his ‘family’, Spider-Man recruits Firestar, Cloak, Morbius, Deathlok and Captain America to fight the villains. The group becomes divided by Venom’s desire to stop Carnage at all costs and Spider-Man’s refusal to shed any blood. To me, that’s the most entertaining part of the story. Even working together, Spider-Man and Venom are bitter enemies and they can’t agree on how to stop a greater evil.
Shriek uses her powers to turn the people of New York into a bloodthirsty mob, but it doesn’t stop Carnage from turning on his ‘family.’ In the distraction, the heroes get a device from Stark Industries which projects feelings of hope into the villains and it overwhelms them.
Spider-Man, Venom and Carnage engage in a final battle, with Venom beating his spawn to a pulp before tackling him into an electric generator. Carnage is knocked unconscious and taken into custody.
DeFalco and DeMatteis are great storytellers, giving each character a consistent voice. Spider-Man is his moral and righteous self, while Carnage is insane and eager for slaughter. At times, I found myself rooting for both Spidey and Venom because both had valid points. The world would be a safer place if Carnage was dead, but it’s Peter’s story so he would be the one to come out on top.
The art is 90s appropriate, with pulpy pages, hilarious mullets and exaggerated facial expressions. The story stumbles in places, but if you’re a big Spidey fan I would recommend reading Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage.