Around the ninties, everyone's favorite web-spinner veered from his traditional rogue's gallery consisting of 'totemistic' villians, such as the Vulture and the Lizard, and strayed into something a little more sinister and mundane at the same time: Symbiotes. Spawned out of the much-debated 'Spidey-in-space' era of storytelling, the Symbiote was an alien costume that Peter picked up during his non-voluntary enrollment in the Secret Wars.
The costume adapted to his every whim and power, but tried to currupt him. when he got free of the 'alien costume', it joined with others to seek it's revenge, finally settling for reporter Eddie Brock, and jointly becoming Venom.
After a time, the Venom symbiote spawned a 'child', which bonded with serial killer Cleatus Kasady to form Carnage. Considered by many to be a revolution and by others the downfall of the spider-titles, i bring you my opinion on: the Top Ten Ways Carnage has been mis-used:
- Carnage Cosmic: In Amazing Spider-Man #430, Tom DeFalco had the inspired idea to get another alien to help deal with the symbiotic alien problem on the planet Earth. Thus, the obvious choice of the sentinel of the spaceways, the Silver Surfer, was picked. Carnage escapes from Ravencroft thanks to the gross ignorance of a new supervisor, and goes on his regular old killing spree, starting at the Daily Bugle. The Silver Surfer happens to be in town and senses the symbiotic activity, and he and Spider-Man clash with the creature. Apparently, while the surfer was Galactus' herald, he destroyed a planet full of symbiotes. The hatred of the surfer was burned into the 'race memory' of the symbiotes, and the alien detaches from Kasady and bonds with the Surfer, creating the uber-scary Carnage Cosmic. Aside from other story problems that will be discussed later in this list, at the end, the Surfer re-bonds Kasady with the symbiote and then freezes him in an unbreakable shell using the power cosmic. DeFalco had come up with a way to end Carnage, stopping the high abundance of Carnage appearances in the Spider-titles. Or he would have, had other writers not ignored it and kept using Carnage anyway with no explanation. Nice effort though, Tom.
- Venom Devours Carnage: In Carnage's next major appearence, Peter Parker, Spider-Man (Vol 2) #10, Howard Mackie completely ignores what happened in the Surfer arc. Shocking! *Ahem*, anyway, Carnage has mysteriously escaped from his completely unbreakable cosmic prison, and is staying under less security in Ravencroft than he was last time, and has yet not escaped. Venom pays him a visit and reclaims his 'child' symbiote, supposably making himself stronger. Yay. So, Mackie succeeded in ending Carnage in two pages. Too bad it was already done. Magnificent. However, this was followed by something remotely cool; which was Cletus Kasady as a human serial killer. It was actually alright, and raised a lot of fans hope for the character. Unfortunately...
- The Negative Zone: So, one appearence after Carnage reverts, he ends up in the Negative Zone, as all serial killers do. There, he finds a second one-of-a-kind symbiote that re-transforms him into Carnage. Think about that for a second. Each symbiote is completely unique, with no other exactly like it. So... what? Anyway, Carnage is back, after two poorly plotted ways to get rid of him. And, now he has nothing to do with Venom. terrific. Well, i guess this could have worked. however...
- The Pregnancy: That's right, Carnage is pregnant! Now, the idea of this alone is frightening. If Carnage is this much worse than Venom, what will this new kid be like? It promised to be creepy. However, one glitch: The mini-series which spawned this depends heavily on Carnage being Venom's son, seeing as symbiotes apparently have an obligation to raise their grand-children. But Venom isn't this kid's grand father. Venom ate his son, much like a hamster. so... huh?
- Spider-Carnage: If there has ever been a worse 90's plot than Carnage, it would have to be the clone saga. here, we see the two mixed up in one another! Yay! As if both plots weren't convulted enough, now we get to deal with the Carnage symbiote bonding with Spider-Ben. This meant that the 'new' Spider-Man has had the same experience as the old one, symbiote-wise, or at least a comparable parallel. So, the spider-writers created Spider-Ben so that they could drop at least some of Spider-Man's 40 something year long history, then decide to forcfully shove disgusting amounts of that same continuity down poor Ben's throat shovel-fulls at a time. Brilliant. Needless to say, this didn't last, and was easily forgotten by all involved, except the readers, who just lie awake at nights wishing they could forget.
- Planet of the Symbiotes: Do i even need to explain this? really, now? As if there wern't enough symbiotes running around the Marvel Universe, they had to make an entire planet of them? This multi-book annual arc wouldn't even have been so bad if it had just been a Venom/Spider-Man story, but involving Carnage seemed to be just an excuse to use Carnage, as was the pattern since his creation. Carnage is supposed to be a scary, serial-killer villian; not a brain-eating device to turn young readers into future serial killer zombies.
- Maximum Carnage: Seriously, now. having Carnage become to focal point of a 14-part crossover isn't just a bit much. It's a bit disgusting. This wouldn't have been so bad, but the story could have easily been told in three to five issues. There was no need for 14 issues spanning the spider-verse. I can't think of a single person that bought all 14 issues unless they had a subscription, or an obsessive compulsive problem. Plus, Carnage's role in the killing-spree wasn't even keeping with his normal motives, making his history as a serial killer questionable.
- Amazing Spider-Man Annual #28: Carnage escapes, and spends the entire issue questioning whether or not he is still a random-thinker, then tries to kill an old friend of his, only to be stopped by his friend and Spider-Man. I remember when annuals were something to look forward to, not mindless filler. If Carnage wants to start killing off his friends, he should start by killing all his dumb lackeys from the maximum Carnage arc. Then himself, if he really wants to be random.
- The Trial of Peter Parker: Something that could have been one of the most chilling Carnage-chapters, with Carnage playing the prosecution during the trial of Spider-Man, then revealing that he knows Spidey's true identity. This could have been epic and chilling, as shown in the last panels when he is crunched in a corner at Ravencroft, mumbling : 'i know a secret...' Too bad Traveller erased his memory of it, making it one of the best Carnage appearences that never happened. Even when Marvel gets it right, they find away to back-track and make it wrong again.
- Ultimate Spider-Man: The big one. don't get me wrong, I love the ultimate universe. I just think that Carnage himself was changed too much. Though i am glad that he is separate from Venom, making him a glorified clone of Peter Parker seems contrived. Not only that, but this Carnage killed Gwen Stacy... before Gwen and Peter ever had a chance to get together! I know that Gwen and Peter were like brother and sister in the universe, but I don't think that her death will have the proper emotional impact without her having a romantic relationship with Spidey. And now, it has been alluded to that Cletus Kasady is running around the ultimate marvel universe as a regular serial killer. Wasn't that tried in the regular Marvel U (see above)? Then there's the involvement of Ultimate Ben Reilly... it just seems to be going towards repeating past mistakes, is all.
Well, that's my two cents on Carnage, the scary Spider-villian that wasn't.