Doctor Curt Connors has a bad track record when it comes to genetic experiments. His attempt to regrow his arm using reptilian DNA resulted in his transformation into a giant Lizard. His collaboration on the Venom Project with Eddie Brock ended in tragedy when Eddie seemingly died using the project to exact his revenge on Peter Parker, Spider-Man
And now, his latest experiment, which seemingly grew out of a sample of Peter's blood, has a nightmarish life of its own. This experiment has gone on to kill several times, and its latest victim was Gwen Stacy, friend and houseguest of the Parkers.
I repeat: Gwen is dead.
Aunt May returns home late to find the shriveled-up body of Gwen Stacy behind her house.
At the Daily Bugle, Peter is ecstatic that his newspaper employer, J. Jonah Jameson, made good on his promise to portray Spider-Man in a more positive light. Before Peter can celebrate "Spider-Man" Christmas, he gets a phone call from Aunt May that sends him webslinging across town, out of costume, to find his home once again surrounded by police, reporters and onlookers.
The police are grilling Aunt May when she notices Peter. The detective questioning her turns his inquiries to Peter, thinly veiling his suspicion that Peter had something to do with this. Captain Jeanne De Wolfe is on site, within earshot of Peter. Our hero hears that there have been a few similar deaths reported: possibly a mutant, a virus, or a vampire. Meanwhile, May fights the cops tooth and nail against their interrogations and their refusal to let Peter in his house.
Downstairs and alone, Peter rips open his bookbag with the Spider-Man costume in it, fuming.
At Mary Jane's house next door, May lashes out at the non-cooperative person at the number she has for Gwen's mother. MJ's mom offers their home (recently free of MJ's dirtbag father) for as long as they need it. In the den, MJ goes to talk to Peter alone. MJ mentions the moment her and Gwen shared at the mall. Peter wonders if he was a good friend to Gwen, if his costumed adventures are really doing any good, then chokes up and loses it.
In the middle of the night, Peter runs what he heard from the cops through his head, looking through the gamut of his rogues' gallery, until he remembers they mentioned a death at Empire State. Sure enough, when he looks out his window, he finds Doctor Conners. Peter goes out and attacks Connors, who he finds responsible.
Connors manages to talk Peter down and explain what happened. Apparently "Carnage" was a rejuvenating organism using Peter's DNA, Connors DNA, and work stolen from Peter's late father, who was an expert in cellular reconstruction. Peter expresses his utter disgust for Connors, only to find Carnage waiting for them both!
An emotionally charged issue, to say the least.
We all knew no good would come from the experiment. Every cover (save this one) featured Carnage prominently enough to tell us that. But the roller-coaster ride from the joy of Spider-Man Christmas to the panic to get to the house, to the quiet scene in the den with MJ where it finally sinks in that Gwen is gone, not to mention the rage and contempt that Peter turns to Connors. Bendis has Peter's voice down pat, and it comes through loud and clear.
Bagley is great at drawing emotionally expressive faces, which adds to the impact of the issue overall.
We have a compelling reason to care about Carnage and clones. That in and of itself is quite an achievement.