Back for more, huh? Just couldn’t turn down another taste of that sweet 90’s Spider-Man goodness that tastes great going down and then gives you horrible heartburn and you wonder why you keep eating it and then you do it again anyway, could you?
We rejoin our heroes and anti-heroes at a low point. Spider-Man has split from Venom and the Black Cat (who are joined by Cloak, who is still grieving the loss of his partner, Dagger) in their quest to stop Carnage and his maniacs, who seem stronger than ever. They are no closer to stopping them than they were when they started and the casualties are piling up. We’ll cover parts 6-9 here, which is the second rotation through the main Spider-Man titles.
Part 6: “Sinking Fast”- Web of Spider-Man #102
“Since I’m on Venom’s side now– it’s time to start acting like it!”
The issue opens with New York in chaos. The streets are full of dead bodies, mayhem, overturned vehicles, fire, broken glass… it’s hell on earth. Carrion floats around surveying the scene, where he spies Morbius, the living vampire, making quick work of some more 90’s generic street gang members. His feeding is interrupted by clapping, which is revealed to be Venom, accompanied by the Black Cat and Cloak. They recruit Morbius to join their crusade against Carnage.
At home, Peter is rewrapping his broken ribs, which are obviously giving him problems. He’s thinking to himself that he’s going to give as good as he gets from now on, and that Mary Jane might have been able to convince him this approach wasn’t a good idea but he still doesn’t know where she is after she stormed out a few issues ago (he doesn’t seem that worried that she’s in NY during all this craziness).
We check in with Mary Jane blowing off steam at ‘New York’s newest celebrity-owned Midtown nightclub’, the Deep. It’s a big premier, full of paparazzi, spotlights, limos, etc (do NONE of these people know what’s going on???). Naturally it’s like bait for Carnage and his pals, which works pretty well since they show up almost immediately and start killing everyone in sight. They burst into the club and keep killing everyone, which is being broadcast on TV and is quickly picked up and broadcast around the country. Mary Jane wonders where Peter is during all of this.
Spidey is busy trying to help everyone he can, despite his condition. He has no idea how to find Carnage. Venom and company are searching in their own way when Morbius smells the freshly spilled blood and leads towards the Deep.
Cloak teleports Black Cat in and they begin attacking. They look to be outnumbered when Venom and Morbius arrive, evening the odds. Carnage threatens an innocent bystander, which happens to be MJ, who is in turn saved by Venom, of all people.
They mayhem is being broadcast on some of the screens on buildings in the city (maybe it’s supposed to be Times Square, but the art doesn’t show that), where Spider-Man sees Carnage and recognizes where they are. He heads to join the fight.
Spider-Man arrives to the fight, knocking a wall of the Deep down and allowing bystanders to flee en masse. The fight continues, full of cheesy one-liners that have GOT to have been added after the art was completed, because you get a lot of exchanges like:
SPIDEY: Join me, Cat?
BLACK CAT: Anytime, Spider-Stud!
(They are attacking Carnage, the most dangerous dude around, during this exchange)
Everyone is just yelling and punching and yelling. Carnage orders Demogoblin to ‘purge the place’. Demo tosses pumpkin bombs everywhere, allowing for the villains to make an escape. Spidey notices MJ and saves her from burning wreckage. He stops Venom and co from chasing after Carnage so they can help all of the hurt and dying and trapped people. Once everyone is safe Spider-Man tells Venom he’s with him all the way on this now. He worries what kind of person he’d be if he allowed something like this to happen again (it’s happened like NINE TIMES now. Geez).
Thoughts: A pattern starts to take form here. It seems like each issue is becoming ‘Venom and friends chase around after Carnage and pals, Carnage and pals kill dozens or more people, Venom and friends show up and fight, bad guys escape, everyone debates killing’. I feel like it might have been more effective to have Carnage and pals win these fights outright rather than ‘it’s a stalemate, let’s beat it’ every time. Alex Saviuk does a nice job on the pencils, although a couple of panels have some questionable faces. The opening page of Carrion viewing the destruction is really cool. The addition of Morbius makes sense so as he acts like a bloodhound and can lead them to Carnage, but they really should have drawn the line here with adding characters every issue or two. It starts to get a little much.
Part 7: “The Gathering Storm”- Amazing Spider-Man #379
“How many people do you think Carnage butchered while you stopped to play traffic cop?”
Spidey, Venom, the Black Cat and Cloak are gathered in the children’s home Carnage was raised in. Spidey thought it might give them some clues. The place is abandoned and a wreck, but it’s still weird that they took the time to make a fire, and really weird that the fire is built directly on the floor.
Venom reminds them that Reed Richards’ sonic gun is not super fun for symbiotes, to which Black Cat adds they also have the Human Torch who would be an awesome symbiote buster, but Spidey notes that the FF and Avengers are ‘out of town’. He adds that Firestar from the New Warriors would be a good substitute. Cloak teleports away to find her. Spidey notes that Cloak normally needs Dagger to help him teleport but she’s dead… right?
Meanwhile, Morbius has been sent to the Ravencroft Institute to find info on Shriek they can use. He finds something they can apparently use, but the sun is rising and it will have to wait.
At the New York Metropolitan Museum, Carnage and his gang are continuing their killing spree. Again, Demogoblin and Carnage argue, with Demo stating that the destruction they cause has no meaning and Carnage stating that’s the entire point. It’s like the third time they’ve had this argument at this point.
A police tactical unit arrives, but before they can do anything Carrion shows up and starts touching dudes, immediately killing them. He’s obviously welcomed into Carnage’s club pretty much immediately.
Carrion’s got one of the more confusing histories in Spidey lore, with multiple versions of the character and multiple origins. This is addressed pretty humorously, I thought, when Shriek says, “Hey, I just remembered– didn’t Carrion die in an explosion a while back?” to which Carnage replies “Who knows– an’ who cares?”
We then join in with Deathlok who is using the computer side of the brain to keep tabs on the destruction. He determines he needs to stop it.
Spidey, Venom and Black Cat make their way to FF headquarters to try to get a sonic gun. Spidey sees a car jacking and stops to take care of it. Because everyone is going nuts, instead of thanking him people start trying to kill him. Black Cat jumps in to help, then scolds him for stopping to play traffic cop while people are being slaughtered. For the first time, Spidey wonders if there is something more than a mere mob mentality causing people to go nuts like they have.
Carnage and his gang are wholesale murdering people on the street in broad daylight when Deathlok shows up and attacks them. Carrion’s decaying touch does nothing to him, as his body is already dead. He takes out Carrion and Demogoblin, but when he hits Doppelganger Shriek blasts him through an electric advertisement which overloads his systems.
Spider-Man and team are successful in ‘borrowing’ a sonic rifle from the Fantastic Four headquarters. They regroup with Cloak, now with Firestar in tow. She was conveniently the only member of the New Warriors that was home, and somehow was totally unaware that an alien serial killer and a bunch of freaks had killed hundreds or thousands of New Yorkers and were still at large. With Firestar now on the team and with the sonic cannon, they finally have a hope of winning. Spidey, ever the scientist, brags about how with science on their side Carnage and his animals are ‘as good as whipped’. These captions are shown atop a messed up Deathlok, who has been strung up and is still being electrocuted, apparently.
Thoughts: Always nice to see Bagley artwork, and his Carnage is still the best, in my opinion. The addition of Deathlok is a bit much. While I really dig the character, particularly this version, his inclusion in this story is totally unnecessary and only serves to add to what is already a too-large cast, which will only grow, unfortunately. It’s pretty crazy to see all of these scenes of Carnage and his cronies just wholesale murdering entire streets full of people- in New York City, no less- and there not be more of an intense response. If this story were told today the Avengers or SHIELD would have showed up by part 4 at the LATEST. I like the idea of keeping the cast ‘smaller’, but it does strain credibility a little bit that he’s still only trying to evade Spider-Man and Venom. I would love to see a ‘Marvels’-style story that touches on what this story was like for the average person in New York. It would be utterly terrifying; if you didn’t go mad with rage yourself and join the mobs you would be their victim. Or someone/thing else’s. For like a street cop or a hot dog vendor or a cab driver this shit would be NUTS.
Part 8: “Hate is in the Air”- Spider-Man #36
“I suppose I do have a civic duty to help you all slaughter each other.”
-J. Jonah Jameson
We open in the Daily Bugle, where J. Jonah Jameson is confronted in his office by Spider-Man and his allies. They want Jameson to help them set a trap for Carnage. We then see a bystander on the street reading a paper (GET INSIDE, YOU IDIOTS!!!) when Carnage stabs him in the heart and takes the paper. The headline reads: CARNAGE COME HOME.
We next see our merry band of murderous lunatics at the abandoned orphanage Carnage grew up in. He starts giving them the ‘tour’, which is really just a ham-fisted attempt to show he is a product of abuse and torture from a young age. The dude has spent the last seven issues murdering everything in sight; might be a little bit late to add background to establish him as a victim.
Back in the city, an electrician(?) is attempting to free Deathlok, but it’s very dangerous for him due to ‘sporadic electrical arcs’ and the ‘continuous feedback loop between (Deathlok)’s energy circuits and the neon sign’. Then, out of nowhere, Iron Fist shows up, punches the sign out, and carries Deathlok away (huh???).
Back at the orphanage, the fight is going well for Spidey and co. We get a very brief interlude scene of Morbius waking up, then back to the fight. Venom is using the sonic gun on Carnage but to almost no effect. Firestar’s microwave blasts, however, are very effective against him and nearly kill the symbiote, leaving Carnage as plain old Cletus Kassady.
Morbius rejoins the fight, helping turn the tide. Venom is about to kill a powerless Kassady but is yanked away by Spider-Man’s webs, who says ‘there have to be limits’. Shriek scratches Kassady’s face open, letting Carnage back out, as strong as ever.
Toughts: This issue is a little all over the place. Their trap for Carnage is to tell him to go home, which he does, and then attack. Brilliant. It’s a nice touch that the sonic gun now does sweet fuck-all to Carnage, since that’s essentially how he was beaten last time. Spider-Man pulling Venom off of Carnage is a bit much. I am all for the ‘nobody dies’ Spider-Man, but this dude is a rabid dog. No good can come of him, and with him having a terribly powerful alien symbiote living in his friggin blood stream you would think even Spidey would recognize that he needs to die. This won’t be the last time Spidey stops someone from killing Carnage. At some point the bodies are on you, Pete. The scene with the ‘heroes’ confronting Jonah is great. Adding Iron Fist to aid Deathlok is ridiculous. Neither of them have any business in this story. They don’t add anything to it at all and are little more than window dressing.
Part 9: “The Turning Point!”- Spectacular Spider-Man #202
“Another way?! That’s all we’ve been hearing from you! ‘There’s got to be another way!’ THERE IS NO OTHER WAY! Take a look around! The blood of innocents is everywhere! The only way this is going to end– is with Carnage’s DEATH!”
-Venom (to Spider-Man)
We open with our heroes’ horrified reaction to a rejuvenated Carnage, who is bragging about how, now that his symbiote has mutated and is part of his blood, he is unkillable. While Venom, Cloak and Morbius attack, Firestar and Spider-Man hem and haw about methodology. Black Cat has a nice wake up call for them when she tells them to take a look around, and while the rest of them are putting their lives on the line they can take their time, ‘debate the issue for an our or two, but be sure to do a body count when you’re done’.
Shriek and Cloak fight while she taunts him about how she really went truly mad when she was just a junkie and he pulled her into the Darkforce dimension in his cloak, so it’s kind of his fault she is the way she is, so it’s his fault Dagger died. She amplifies his feelings of anger, guilt and shame and throws it back at him, causing Cloak to flee. And now we are finally given an explanation for how Shriek works. She somehow can fire ‘sonic blasts’ from her hands, but more importantly she is like a negative emotion transmitter. I’ll let her explain.
In case you can’t see the dialogue, she says:
“Y’see, the dark dimension… changed me. Made me into a kind of… psychic channel! I can take all the little bedbugs crawling around inside my head– and transmit them out to anyone who’s close to me– like these charming citizens! Normally it just shakes ’em up a little– but since I’ve been hanging with Carnage and soaking up HIS sick vibes (I mean let’s face it… next to him I’m Dr. Joyce Brothers) I’ve been able to really pump up the volume! Carnage is the battery… I’m the radio… and together– we can make anybody as crazy as we are!”
Black Cat is taken out by one of the newly arrived rioters after she stops Morbius from killing one of them. Morbius is distracted by concern for her when he is nailed by some pumpkin bombs from Demogoblin and is taken out. Spider-Man is trying to fight Carnage to keep him from killing any of the rioting civilians, and is bailed out when Firestar attacks him, as well. Her attack sends Carnage running, which is noticed by Spidey and Venom. Venom points out that Firestar is their ace in the hole; their weapon that Carnage can’t fight against and she has to keep at him until he’s dead this time. It’s the only way to be sure. Firestar says she won’t do it and Spidey says there’s gotta be a better way, which sets Venom off.
Reluctantly, Spidey agrees that Venom is right and tells Firestar to attack Carnage. She starts firing at Carnage, who is screaming and begging her to stop. Venom is loving the display, while Spidey is sickened by it. He yells at Firestar, who clearly is not enjoying this, to stop. She relents, leaving Carange a dripping, incoherent mess. Venom is furious with her, and grabs her by the hair, threatening her. Spidey attacks him.
Venom, madder than ever, swats him away and is confronted by Shriek and a recovering Carnage. He charges at Shriek, whose sonic power he’s weak against. Right before he reaches her the symbiote… passes out? It’s had enough and is just leaking off of Eddie Brock, who promptly gets stomped out by the villains. Shriek is really getting into it; beating Brock to within an inch of his life. Carnage stops her because ‘it’s a lot more fun t’bleed the life out of him– drop by agonizing drop!’
As they swing away with the unconscious Venom, Spider-Man drags himself along the ground, trying to get his head together, desperate for any kind of hope. Then he hears a voice offering a helping hand and looks up to see the guy the other heroes look up to as their hero, Captain America, and things are suddenly taking a turn for the better, at least for everyone not named Eddie Brock.
Thoughts: The level of bickering about methodology at this point is absurd. I get Firestar not wanting to kill someone, and I get Peter’s whole hang-up, but at this point the only thing that makes any sense is to fry Carnage; at least until the symbiote can be rendered inert or whatever and someone like SHIELD can come clean things up. But being so concerned about the well-being of someone like Carnage, who has killed so many (according to Black Cat in this issue it’s ‘dozens’, but c’mon, it’s gotta be way higher than that), just rings false.
The ending is one of the most iconic Marvel moments of my childhood, and probably the most famous moment from this story. Probably the one time it doesn’t feel like ‘oh, great, ANOTHER character’, even though he doesn’t show up until the last page of part freaking NINE.
Will Venom survive Carnage’s captivity? Will the sort of timely arrival of Captain America make a difference? Will the heroes ever stop worrying and fighting about methodology? Will we keep getting random heroes thrown in for no real reason? Will the inclusion of Deathlok and Iron Fist amount to anything? Tune in to part 3 to find out! (Yes, sort of, no, yes, not really)