Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Gonna take a little trip tonight- memory lane kind of thing…

Early nineties. Superman was dead. Azrael was Batman. And there were so many X-Men comics on the rack you forgot other comics even existed…

Now, I know I am of a certain generation of comic fans. As a child of the eighties and hitting high school in the nineties, inevitably X-Men was THE comic that got me into comic. I suspect most people my relative age had this experience. I mean, I was aware that other comics were out there. And I liked them all. But for some reason, X-Men was just so centerstage under Marvel’s management at this time that everything else just seemed like it wasn’t worth the time.

Sidenote: there were some horrendously out-of-character Fantastic Four stories at this time as well. I can’t explain it, but F.F. was way, WAY off in those days and it wasn’t until the recent relaunch that I really became a fan. I mean, John Byrne in the 80’s was great. But I think in the 90’s the concept that families weren’t so perfect, was kind of in. So F.F. books at this time really kind of depicted the four of them as really unhappy together. Like Susan can’t stand Reed, Ben’s life is even more depressing than usual, etc. It was pretty painful stuff. But it passed. Thankfully.

Okay I digressed. Point is other comic books were off my radar. I liked Batman, Spider-man, whatever; Mr. Morrison’s breakthrough run on JLA intrigued me I have to admit. Now, I think a lot of people aren’t going to be on board with what I’m about to say so brace yourself. I really, really was a big Spider-man: Maximum Carnage fan. Long story short it was the first set of books I collected besides X-Men (and Secret Wars and Secret Wars II) that ever took my interest. So I’ve just got a nostalgic place in my heart for this one.

I’m afraid this story hasn’t aged well with Spider-man fans. People look back, I think, and see it as a sort of wholly un-representative moment in the Spider-man universe. It’s not super funny, the villains are exactly the kind of ridiculous industrial-metal-psychos that you could imagine being on the cover of a Nine Inch Nails album, and it’s really over the top. I mean the fights just keep going, and GOING, and more and more heroes and villains just keep showing UP…

Aahh- but what am I saying? Sure, it has its flaws. Seeing a good soul like Peter Parker come up against villains that were so senseless, so violent seemed out of place. It always breaks my heart, that one scene where he’s up on that rooftop going ‘My father was right!’ about the world being a horrible place. (Peter’s father was alive, at the time. Just another bad move, from the 90’s. There were lots of these, I’m afraid. Punisher got superpowers, they killed Nick Fury. Mistakes were made. Later, Peter’s father turned out to be part of some plot by the Chameleon. Or a clone. Or something. Can’t remember).

But see, at the time I felt like Maximum Carnage was like the Spider-man swan song. The finale. The big show, that you’d been waiting for. I mean- all the major players were there, in some form. Spidey’s allies- Black Cat, Cloak, Dagger (I’m a big Cloak and Dagger fan if only because that comic was just SO DIFFERENT. I keep hoping for a one-shot or limited series or something. Read the original run- it screams 80’s like a Joan Jett concert)...

And hey let it never be said that the Infinity War was for naught. I mean, I like Adam Warlock, Thanos, and Magus more than most comic fans- and yes, this strange followup to Infinity Gauntlet was needlessly complicated and hard to follow (try reading Infinity Crusade. Now that’s somethin’.). But it gave us a freaky, demented, six armed Spider-man doppelganger. GOD, that thing freaked me the &*%$ out! It was the eyes, I think, that just took it over the edge, although the barbed wire for webs was a nice touch. I thought it was cool that they decided to tuck this thing in here. It was a cool design for an evil Spider-man. Why waste it?

I loved that Shriek was kind of the anti-Dagger. And how insane was it when she just wastes Tandy in the first two issues or something? Cloak and Dagger didn’t have their own series at this point- I really thought that maybe they were just being written off. So I was dorking out during the big showdown near the end.

And Carnage was like nothing I’d seen before! Now, to be fair I also think profiling and serial killers were sort of household topics, around the 90’s. So Cassidy had a fitting, over-the-top disturbing childhood to justify what a psychopath he was. Seeing just how dangerous a symbiote, in the wrong hands, could be, really drove home just what Parker and Brock had been playing around with.

And, of course, Venom.

Brock who you had always thought of as the anti-Spider-man. The ultimate Spidey villain. And now here you had it. Venom and Spidey working together. I always kind of loved that ABOUT Venom really. See yeah, Venom is a big, drooling, crazy monster-man. I can’t deny this. But I think the thing with Venom in the old days was that Venom sort of like thought he (they?) WAS/WERE Spider-man. It was like the symbiote had this lingering memory of being with Peter and wanted to recreate it.

So, Venom might stop to grab a mugger or knock off an occasional supervillian. He might EAT that mugger, sure, but HE thought that HE was the good guy. Venom’s beef with Spider-man had to do with him wanting to BE Spider-man. To replace the original with the newer, better, model. I love it when villains have more complicated motives than just "I’m a big monster that rages at the world" (although, occasionally, that has its place, when done well. The relentless killing machine that was Doomsday taking down the Man of Steel WAS pretty disturbing). So I loved seeing this whole saga with the three Spider-men -Spidey, Venom, and Carnage- kind of brewing to a head.

I loved the stress Spidey was under here, too. I mean, so many stories involve Peter’s personal and superhero life coming to some kind of serendipitous cross-roads, but to see Peter HAVE to be Spider-man full time to manage what was going on- to not be able to take a break, because things are just THAT out of control- you really got that sense of climax, to the story.

Anyway. Maximum Carnage is a mixed bag, I suppose. It exudes nineties-ness, and you can take that for what it’s worth. But I think I’ll always look back on this one and love that James Cameron Terminator 2 epicness it ASPIRED to, you know? You can’t fault it for that!


  1. Tedd,

    I'm an X-child too so I know where you're coming from here. I did recognize how messed up the Spidey-verse was at the time so I stayed away from it.


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