Make Mine Marvel: Maximum Carnage

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[Welcome to Make Mine Marvel, a bi-weekly series of articles devoted to all the things we’ve loved about Marvel over the past 60 years. From toys to video games, movies to trading cards, Underoos to stamps and more, we embrace it—warts and all. Kick back and enjoy Marvel’s merry past with us.]

Picture this: It’s 1993 and you’re 8 years old. The elementary school cafeteria is abuzz with more than the usual yammerings about Goosebumps books and the awesomeness of Dunk-a-roos. At this particular point in time, all anyone you know can talk about is “Maximum Carnage,” the crazy new Spider-Man saga.

Looking back now—while it’s still a wild, fun story—”MC” kind of feels like an over-hyped mish-mash of mindless violence and gratuitous character appearances spun around the day’s hot characters. But at the time, the 14-part crossover really took kids by storm and provided an arena for Carnage to prove just how deranged he could be. Only a year after making his debut in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #361, Carnage, aka Cletus Kasady, returned to wreak havoc across New York on a much bigger and bloodier scale.

Your average, run-of-the-mill serial killer and all-around psychopath, Kasady transformed into the red and black monster after fusing with Venom’s symbiote offspring. He forged his reputation by being the sickest, most outrageous Spidey villain we had seen—no small feat considering he’s predated by both Venom and the Green Goblin. And unlike so many super-villains, Carnage wasn’t bothered with delusions of grandeur or pinned down by an insatiable need to rule the world. His only goals were bloodshed, dramatically raising the death toll through mass murder and, well, maximum carnage.

Like many comic fans sucked into the “Maximum Carnage” maelstrom, I was driven crazy by the opening scenes of the first part (SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED #1), which show an incarcerated Kasady shedding his shackles, transforming into Carnage and massacring his way out of Ravencroft mental institution. Then he hooks up with Shriek, a vivaciously evil, super-powered inmate who shares his love of senseless violence. And so begins the saga that engulfed the Spider-verse, and its fans, for months.

Spread throughout the several Spider-Man titles of the day (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN, SPIDER-MAN and SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED) “Maximum Carnage” was a blast to collect since nearly every issue was sure to have a new character popping up. When in doubt, the Web-Slinger enlists the help of some of his local allies, such as Cloak and Dagger, Black Cat, Morbius and even Venom, who put aside his issues with Spidey to defeat Carnage. And who could forget the surprising arrival of Captain America in part 9 (SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #202)? It still makes me feel all warm fuzzy inside picturing the image of Cap reaching his hand out to the distressed Wall-Crawler.

With all those heroes fighting Carnage and his motley band of lunatics, which included the likes of Spidey’s evil Doppelganger (a leftover from INFINITY WAR), Demogoblin and the flying plague, Carrion, every page was chock full of action. Dare I say, there was too much going on?

No, of course not, that’d just be stupid. Luckily, the killer team of artists (Mark Bagley, Sal Buscema, Ron Lim, Tom Lyle and Alex Saviuk) helped pull together and polish all the insanity that writers Tom DeFalco, J.M. DeMatteis, Terry Kavanagh and David Michelinie cooked up.

Is “Maximum Carnage” a Spider-opus of epic proportions? No. It may not have the same impact as “Kraven’s Last Hunt” or “Death of Gwen Stacy,” but it isn’t without its own classic Spider-Man moments (As in the penultimate chapter when Spidey stands alone, poised and ready for battle with the city burning behind him against four unrepentant murderers).

Regardless of how it sits within the larger Spider-Man mythos, “Maximum Carnage” set my lunchroom and recess time ablaze with fast-paced ramblings about the hits and misses, cameos and appearances, injuries and knockouts that littered one of my favorite Marvel stories of all time.

What did you think of “Maximum Carnage? Let us know in the forums and join us in two weeks for a look back at the “Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage” video game!

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