Characters Appearing: Captain America, Carnage Symbiote, Carrion II, Cletus Kasady (Carnage), Cloak, Dagger, Deathlok (Michael Collins), Demogoblin, Eddie Brock (Venom), Firestar, Iron Fist, Shriek, Spider-Man, Venom Symbiote
Spectacular Spider-Man #203
Issue(s): Spectacular Spider-Man #203
Dagger has returned. She says that Shriek's attack on her caused her light powers to feed back and transform her into light, so she flew into Cloak's Dark Dimension to recover.
Shriek doesn't like the implications of Dagger having survived the Dark Dimension with her sanity intact. This results in a confrontation between Dagger and Shriek, with the other characters all standing on the sidelines. It ends with Dagger trying to heal and forgive Shriek, but it doesn't take.
I suggested earlier that Shriek was originally intended as a Cloak & Dagger villain, and i think it's noteworthy that a few pages are devoted to this confrontation. No other guest heroes or villains get nearly as much spotlight (except Venom, who i'm not really counting as a guest), and there are no other specific grudge matches between heroes and villains.
After the attempt to 'cure' Shriek fails, Spider-Man says "it's time". The other heroes withdraw, with Carnage thinking that they've run away. And Spider-Man confronts all of the villains on his own.
And it turns out that Spider-Man has a way to beat the darkness of the 90s: love.
In fact, the other heroes return with a love gun (aka a "good bomb") built by Iron Fist's Rand Corporation.
Seems like this sort of gun should be miniaturized and handed out to the police or something. As far as i understand there's nothing specific about these villains that makes them more susceptible to a love gun than any other super-villain. The gun works on everyone except Carnage, who resists its effects.
Carnage's resistance causes an explosion, and so even he is seemingly defeated, and thought to be dead.
But later, Spider-Man is resting in Central Park. Venom, still injured from when Carnage captured and tortured him, shows up to complain that Spider-Man defeated Carnage without him. And then Carnage resurfaces.
I knew there was one more part to this story, and i was still going "Nooooooooooooo!" when i saw Carnage come back. Not out of fear, mind you. Out of tedium.
One positive thing about the Spider-books at this time is that they had quality artists. Mark Bagley is great on Amazing, and Sal Buscema and Alex Saviuk are both looking great on Spectacular and Amazing. Ron Lim and Bagley are on the Unlimited issues. Tom Lyle's art on adjectiveless has been occasionally wonky but for the most part pretty good, and with a more classically oriented style of storytelling different from a lot of the worst of the 90s artists, which makes him consistent with the other artists here. So while in some ways Maximum Carnage exemplifies the excesses of the 90s, that's not so true of the art, or at least the storytelling aspects of the art (the fact that the story requires Carnage to engage in lots of kewl violence is another matter).
Storywise, though... This thing has been going on for so long that we get the first letters about it in this issue. And the feedback is not positive:
I've got a recipe for you.
Here's the other one (a third letter is not about this storyline):
I have been a faithful reader of all the Spider-titles for 15 years and have never had a reason to write before. Re: Maximum Carnage. Please don't try something this big again unless you bring some realism to it. First off, if Carnage did kill as many people as you have shown, the president would have declared martial law in New York [etc.. Instead,] A few reject heroes from the seventies joined Spidey and Venom to fight him. This could have happened in two issues. After eight issues, this concept gets boring.
And these people hadn't even seen the 'kill them with kindness' ending.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is part thirteen of Maximum Carnage. The fourteenth and final part is in Spider-Man Unlimited #2.
Crossover: Maximum Carnage
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
"Maximum Carnage" is such a crap crossover. I find it ridiculous that for a dozen chapters a group of super-powered psychopaths are rampaging through New York City, murdering innocent people left & right, and all the while Spider-Man is wringing his hands and protesting "Heroes don't kill! There must be a way to stop the bad guys without resorting to lethal force!" Okay, sure, while you're busy figuring out a method of defeating Carnage without compromising your morals, the bodies are piling up.
So we finally get to this, the penultimate chapter, and at long last the heroes figure out a way to stop the villains without killing them... except it's utterly ridiculous! It's a cheat, a blatant deus ex machina! As fnord so accurately describes it, the bad guys are defeated with a "good bomb" i.e. some technobabble that the heroes pulled out of their you-know-what.
If the only way for the writers have heroes like Spider-Man win an argument surrounding the morally complex issue of the use of lethal force is to cheat by dragging in some sort of New Age sci-fi gizmo to zap the bad guys with "happy rays" then, sorry, you've actually lost the argument.
Looking back, it's not surprising that "Maximum Carnage" was the point at which I pretty much stopped reading the Spider-Man titles on a regular basis.
Posted by: Ben Herman | October 26, 2016 1:20 PM
The sappy moralizing in the Spectacular issues is pure DeMatteis. The "super-heroes never kill" morality was fine grist for the story mill when I was a kid, but makes little sense now.
Super-heroes kind of only work when you suspend disbelief about all of them being lawless, violent vigilantes when 90% of them could just become cops.
Posted by: Red Comet | October 26, 2016 3:28 PM
@Red Comet: Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of J.M. Dematteis' writing. I really enjoyed his work on Spectacular Spider-Man over the previous two years. I think it is very unfortunate that his otherwise-excellent run had to conclude with three chapters of this awful crossover.
Posted by: Ben Herman | October 26, 2016 6:55 PM
I don't particularly agree with the criticism, but this sort of ending is indeed pure DeMatteis. He used remarkably similar endings in, for instance, his Doctor Fate run.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | October 26, 2016 8:50 PM
DeMatteis is one of those writers who actually benefit from the strong editorial restraint that comes with writing superhero comics. If you read his non-superhero works, where he's free to do whatever he wants, they're all filled with New Age Hippie plot turns like the love gun solution in this issue, plus loads and loads of sub-Alan Moore purple prose.
Posted by: Tuomas | October 27, 2016 3:09 AM
There was one cool part in this issue: Spider-Man standing up to all the super villains to buy time. I was like 'FINALLY it feels like Spider-Man!'
Posted by: davidbanes | October 27, 2016 3:23 AM
There's something almost funny about a villain with a face like a Kiss member being defeated by a Love Gun.
Posted by: Mortificator | October 29, 2016 3:43 AM
Superheroes stop working once every villain is an unrepentant and successful mass murderer, and once writers and fans become too self-aware to sell the idea that the villain going to jail or seemingly perishing at the end of the story will take them out of circulation for a while (in real world time, at least).
More broadly, "Maximum Carnage" has the central problem that even if the heroes *had* just killed Carnage a few issues in, they would still have failed to stop a whole lot of murders. If all a superhero can do is kill a mass murderer after they start their sprees, then what good are they? And if they kill them *before* they start their sprees, they're just murderers themselves.
Ultimately, this is a story about the failure of the superheroes to aggressively work to capture, actually secure, and keep track of a whole slew of villains, from Carnage to Demogoblin on down the list. Carnage's rampage only comes together because a) Reed Richards or Curt Connors ow whoever couldn't be bothered to thoroughly scan Cletus Kasady after his initial defeat and b) loads of superhuman psychopaths are roaming around free already because nobody's using Vibranium holding cells, psychic blockers, and magical wards on captured villains.
We laugh at Silver Age stuff like tossing the villains into Limbo dimensions and so forth, but they'd actually be more effective than the whole "superhuman holding facility/poorly secured asylum" thing that's become the norm in the genre.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 29, 2016 7:24 AM
Damn. If I had one of those love guns when I was single, me and Hypno-Hustler would have gone out and cleaned house.
Posted by: Mquinn1976 | November 1, 2016 1:41 PM
Omar, I believe you will like this - Negative Zone Prison Alpha
Posted by: clyde | November 1, 2016 2:28 PM
I am a huge Sal Buscema fan but his Shriek always bugged me in this crossover. He draws her like he's draw the pissed off Hulk or something. It never looked right compared to the other artists.
Posted by: Bonez | March 23, 2017 1:09 AM
@Mquinn1976: Nah, Hypno-Hustler would be more interested in a Bop Gun (or is it a Devil Gun?)
Posted by: Ataru320 | June 6, 2017 10:31 PM
@Mortificator: I wil never ever look at this issue the same way again. Brilliant!
@davidbanes: My feelings exactly. After thirteen issues we finally get Spider-Man being Spider-Man. Of course, this'll be gone by Part Fourteen.
I've always been a fan of DeMatteis's psychology-driven stories, but his resolution is so haphazardly squeezed in the overall slugfest vibe of Maximum Carnage that it tanks even for a deus ex machina. It would've been less embarrassing if there had been at least a few hints of Spidey connecting the dots, and some detailing as to how the whole MacGuffin actually works. Two of the things that make Spider-Man one of the greatest straight-out super-brawlers in the Marvel Universe are: 1) his scientific genius, and 2) his gifts as a punch-'em-up strategist. If you're gonna subdue super-assholes in a non-lethal manner, and if you're willing to interrupt the skull-bashing in order to shield innocents from harm, you truly need to be a good strategist. Specially if the whole point is to show trigger-happy Punisher types that there approach is unnecessary, if not counterproductive. The whole "Good Bomb" trump card is so contrived that it kind of cheapens these Spider-virtues.
Posted by: The Transparent Fox | April 3, 2018 1:53 PM
Well, duh. The 90s are like this. The best things to come out of the 90s are all stories out of continuity or one-shots/novels. All the core books are utterly awful. Comic books won't get good again until the early 2000s.
Posted by: ramon | July 2, 2018 12:14 AM
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