Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Reader's Diary #1625- Various writers, various artists: Spider-Man Maximum Carnage

In some ways Spider-Man Maximum Carnage reminded me of Sam Raimi's infamous Spider-Man 3. Just as that movie was killed by bloat, so was Maximum Carnage. But just as there were kernels of good stories in Spider-Man 3, there was potential here as well.

For those still unfamiliar with the necessary Spider-Man lore, in the late 80s the world was introduced to one of his now legendary archnemeses: Venom. An alien symbiote that originally bonded with Spider-Man, it later did so with one Eddie Brock. Proving to be a quite popular character, Marvel kept him around and somewhat in the vein of the Punisher, made him an anti-hero. Yes, he went after bad guys, but his brand of justice was cruel and most often outright murder.  A few years later, however, Venom spawned a new symbiote that attached to a serial killer to create the psychotic Carnage. He was no hero, nor anti-hero, but a straight up murderous villain.

Having three characters in one book then should be a great way to explore the lines of vigilantism; where does heroism begin and end? But while this is touched upon in Maximum Carnage, it is sadly underdeveloped. Likewise, attempts at a debate regarding ends justifying the means were woefully inadequate.

Instead, the writers seem to just constantly toss new characters in and and out of the battle between Spider-Man and Carnage, often with little rhyme or reason. Spider-Man allies himself with no less than Black Cat, Cloak and Dagger, Firestar, Morbius, Captain America, the Iron Fist, Deathlok, Nightwatch, and Venom, while Carnage partners up with Shriek, the Spider-Man Doppelganger, Carrion, and Demogoblin.

Now I say the problem is one of bloat, but that's not entirely accurate. I don't think it's impossible to do a good story with an abundance of characters (Captain America: Civil War was pretty great), but quantity needs to be matched by quality for it to work. Sure I liked hearing the names of unfamiliar characters (I hadn't been aware of Carrion, Nightwatch, or Firestar before), but I don't feel that I really got to know them at all. They simply added to the noise.

As for the art, it was the early 90s, so it wasn't spectacular, but not terrible. A couple of exceptions that crossed the line into crap: Black Cat's impossible falling-off suit and this panel:

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