This is “From a Different Point of View,” a feature where I discuss a comic book series with other people. Ever since the pandemic began, I’ve been doing twice-weekly reader chats about notable comic book crossovers, storylines or miniseries. We started with Secret Wars and then we did Knightfall and now we’re starting with Maximum Carnage!
Each time around, I’ll share a chunk of our discussion.
When last we checked in on Maximum Carnage, we had just begun discussing Spider-Man Unlimited #1, “Carnage Rising,” Maximum Carnage Part 1, by Tom DeFalco, Ron Lim and Jim Sanders III, with letters by Chris Eliopoulos and colors by Nel Yomtov. Edited by Danny Fingeroth, with Rob Tokar as the assistant editor. We talked about how the opening of the crossover was similar to Knightfall, which debuted the same exact month as Maximum Carnage, and both crossovers kicked off with an escape from an insane asylum. In Knightfall, it was Arkham Asylum, while here, it was Carnage escaping from Ravencroft after he revealed that his symbiote was still attached to him within his blood.
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Carnage slaughtered a number of Ravencroft guards and then freed another resident at Ravencroft, the murderous mutant, Shriek, who offered to be Carnage’s partner in slaughter. Peter Parker, meanwhile, was attending the funeral of his closest friend, Harry Osborn, and promising his wife, Mary Jane, that he would take a break from being Spider-Man for a while, as she was worried about his safety (she was also smoking cigarettes like crazy).
Let’s see how long Peter’s promise to take a break from being Spider-Man lasts…
Flavio Sette: Shriek reminds me of Columbia from Rocky Horror.
Flavio Sette: That pale look, plus Shriek’s origin here seems to boil down to “Well I was walking down the street just havin’ a think / When this snake of a guy gave me an evil wink”.
Sean Whitmore: Hey, flashbacks with editor’s notes. Take that, Knightfall
Brian Cronin:: Right, Sean? Those flashbacks were well handled.
Sean Whitmore: Carnage has gotta hold some kind of record for having the most shitty explanations of how he survived and/or regained his powers.
Sean Whitmore: “My symbiote was killed by the thing we know can kill it, but now it’s just my blood, I guess”
Sean Whitmore: ”Then later Venom’s symbiote absorbs my symbiote, but I…still have blood and live, I guess”
Brian Cronin:: Oh man, they really did just come up with some absurd ways to keep Carnage going.
Brian Cronin:: And they always end up just going back to spawn of Venom.
Brian Cronin:: Which, of course, IS the best hook.
Brian Cronin:: It’s like how Dan Didio wanted Barry Allen as Flash.
Brian Cronin:: Because if you’re one-lining a character.
Brian Cronin:: It’s better to be, “Splashed by chemicals and hit by lighting, became fastest man alive.”
Brian Cronin:: Than “Splashed by chemicals and hit by lightning, just like my uncle, who was the fasted man alive, but then it happened to me, too, and then my uncle died and now I’m the fastest man alive.”
Sean Whitmore: Yeah, great going, there, Dan.
Brian Cronin:: I loved Wally, too, but I get the idea.
Brian Cronin:: And it’s similar to Carnage, where people want the simplest take on the character, because simplicity is typically the most powerful idea.
Tom A.: Similar to how Loeb convinced DC that “Superman’s cousin” was a better explanation for Supergirl than “something something alien matrix something something angel”.
Flavio Sette: Kasady is referred to as a serial killer in the flashbacks for the first time so far.
Flavio Sette: Kasady is a lot like Mr. Zsasz in that they’re both serial killers… except not really. They don’t go for a set type of target, they don’t have cooling off periods after their murders… Andersen Gabrych and Pete Woods did have Batman mention during their run on Detective Comics that Zsasz isn’t really a serial killer, but he’s in fact something else entirely. Kasady might be a straight up spree killer.
Tom A.: Yeah, I always thought Zsasz and Carnage were similar. They both want nothing but murder.
Brian Cronin:: It really is amazing that they decided to tie Infinity War into this crossover.
Tom A.: Oh yeah, it’s pretty random.
Brian Cronin:: DeFalco was one of the few writers who really leaned into the Infinity War stuff.
Tom A.: But I guess they thought that Doppleganger looked too cool to waste.
Brian Cronin:: He DOES look cool.
Brian Cronin:: DeFalco also used the Invisible Woman doppelganger as a longrunning plot in Fantastic Four.
Brian Cronin:: I like how Carnage makes fun of the concept of Infinity War. A little slight meta-message there, I imagine.
Tom A.: What I find funny is that Carnage somehow knows about the Infinity War dopplegangers.
Tom A.: I guess he keeps up with the news while in prison.
Brian Cronin:: I would imagine the major events still make their way to the prisons.
Brian Cronin:: Good point, Flavio.
Flavio Sette: I do like that Carnage and Shriek run into the Doppelganger thinking he’s Spider-Man, but the fact that they run into him right after they break out of Ravencroft is a little too convenient.
Flavio Sette: I have to say, the concept of Carnage (basically Venom but more of a homicidal maniac) teaming up with a few other monster characters like Demogoblin (basically Hobgoblin but a monster and more of a homicidal maniac) and Doppelganger (basically Spider-Man but a monster and a homicidal maniac), who, as far as I know, no one was really doing anything with, does have potential. The whole twisted family aspect of it is a little weird, though. And did Carnage really need a girlfriend?
Sean Whitmore: He did because Joker had one, Flavio
Brian Cronin:: Not in the comics yet, though!
Brian Cronin:: So Carnage actually beats the Joker there.
Sean Whitmore: True, not till No Mans Land
Flavio Sette: This is like one year after Harley debuted in the cartoon.
Flavio Sette: So I don’t know how popular she was back then.
Sean Whitmore: Surprisingly long time that took, actually
Flavio Sette: Yep.
Brian Cronin:: Yeah, oddly long.
Sean Whitmore: Pretty popular from the start, I think, Flav
Tom A.: So Peter promised MJ that he’d stop being Spider-Man for a while, yet he was still wearing his suit under his clothes the whole time. He had no intention of keeping his promise.
Brian Cronin:: I love how bad Peter’s outfits were back in the day.
Brian Cronin:: It’s like no one actually knew what people wore in real life.
Tom A.: “I’ll never see the last of any of them”. Funny how Spider-Man quips that his villains keep coming back, but he’s convinced he’ll totally never see Harry again.
Flavio Sette: Yes, Peter, you’ll never ever, ever, ever see Harry Osborn again. He’s dead, kaput, worm food, pushing daisies, and he’s never coming back.
Sean Whitmore: To be fair, he was right for a good, long time
Sean Whitmore: And Norman had been dead longer than some readers had been alive at this point
Brian Cronin:: Yeah.
Flavio Sette: For whatever reason, the red parts in Spidey’s costume and Doppelganger’s… skin, I guess? are colored orange in some panels. I don’t know if this was done on purpose to try and give off a certain effect, but it looks weird.
Tom A.: Peter mentions the Demogoblin before he actually appears in the event.
Flavio Sette: It’s interesting how we’ve just gone from Knightfall-era Batman, which feels in some ways like a modern comic: mostly 1st person narration instead of 3rd person, the dialogue feels more modern, less thought balloons. And here we have 3rd person narration, tons of thought balloons and a ton of expository dialogue and just general “character narrates what’s going on” kinda stuff.
Flavio Sette: Not saying one approach is better or worse, just think it was interesting both storylines came out in ’93, and yet they feel like they were written in different decades.
Sean Whitmore: That’s Defalco for you, I think
Flavio Sette: True.
Sean Whitmore: The Kavanagh and Dematteis issues read quite a bit differently
Flavio Sette: Though Moench had been doing this since before DeFalco broke in, I think.
Flavio Sette: And he still went for that more modern take of 1st person narration for the most part, no thought balloons.
Brian Cronin:: Yeah, DeFalco definitely went for more of a classic approach here.
Sean Whitmore: I think as a kid, I imagined narrative captions as more “serious” than thought balloons
Sean Whitmore: Like Batman, Punisher, and Wolverine had captions
Next time around, Peter meets up with Shriek and Doppelganger while looking for Carnage!
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