Here at Comic Booked, we pride ourselves on bringing our readers the latest news in the comic book world, as well as honest reviews of current books and movies. But sometimes, certain books and stories slip by under the radar or are lost in the annals of comic history. Growing up, I was strictly a Marvel fan, specifically Spider-Man and X-Men. So, I missed out on truly epic stories such as Kingdom Come, The Long Halloween, and Watchmen, to name a few. I have corrected those mistakes, and hopefully we can help shed some light on stories that you may have overlooked as well. For our first Graphic Novel Recommendation, I chose a hero who has always been there for me, Spider-Man, specifically, the Maximum Carnage trade paperback.
The story starts out with a massacre as Cletus “Carnage” Cassidy reunites with his better half and escapes Ravencroft. Joined by a young psychopath named Shriek, they start on a path of bloody lunacy. Peter Parker has not heard the news as he is busy attending the wake of his best friend and deadliest enemy, Harry Osborne, the second Green Goblin. News travels very fast, and, while getting some late dinner, Parker learns of the breakout at the hospital. He quickly heads to the crime scene and finds Carnage and Shriek murdering at will. Joining them now is a deadly Spider Doppleganger. The trio outmatches Spidey, and he barely escapes. But Spidey is not without allies, as he is soon joined by Cloak and Dagger. The news spreads to the other end of the country, and San Fransisco’s own lethal protector, Venom, learns of the escape and heads back to the Big Apple!
Venom attacks the trio on his own but they prove to be too much, especially with Shriek’s ability to manipulate sound waves. He reluctantly teams up with Spider-Man to stop the madness, which has only just begun. As Spidey finds a new ally, Carnage finds more villains hellbent on killing as many people as possible. Even more super-powered psychos join Carnage: the self-righteous Demogoblin and the walking plague Carrion. They form what can only be considered the Patridge Family from hell! But fear not, Spider-Man is not without his allies. His team is rounded out by Deathlock, Spidey favorite Black Cat, Iron Fist, the living vampire Morbius, Firestar, Moonknight and the living legend himself, Captain America! With this many heroes teamed together, outnumbering the villains, you would think they would squash this evil madness quickly, but fate doesn’t work that way. As the heroic team begins to gain footing in their fight against Carnage’s family, New York City starts eating itself from within. People begin losing their minds as the madness spreads. Riots break out, citizens turn on each other, and the heroes have to contend with saving the masses from themselves, as well as the villainous horde.
If that wasn’t enough to put Spider-Man over the edge, his parents have finally returned after 20 years in a P.O.W. camp, and his father has words that chill Parker to the bone. Having suffered abuse at the hands of monsters for the later part of his life, Richard Parker tells his son the only way to beat them is to become a monster yourself. . When one of your teammates is Venom, you aren’t too far from becoming a monster as it is. Spider-Man struggles with his morals and that doesn’t sit well with Venom, who doesn’t see the point in holding onto weak thinking. These two are the only ones who clash within the group, and these aren’t your typical squabbles either: epic battles break out between the pair. But the villains aren’t immune to the in-fighting either: Carnage, obsessed with only murder and mayhem, leaves the others wondering what direction their family will take. And the sins of the wicked demand to be punished, or at least that’s how Demogoblin feels. With each faction fighting amongst themselves, how will they fair when they square off against each other again? And what will become of the city, a sitting powder keg waiting to explode?
This 14-part series is an amazing read for any Spider-Man fan, no, any comic book fan for that matter. The internal struggle Spider-Man endures is brilliantly crafted: he must confront his own inner demons and try to figure out how to stop a monster without becoming one yourself. The battles are epic in scale and quite frequent. Issue #6 is a stand-out issue, as it is pretty much one giant battle from start to finish. Each hero stands out in this series, getting a good dose of focus and character development. The villains don’t get shunned either. For example, we learn some of the inner workings that go on within the mind of Carnage. This series pulls no punches and makes no excuses either. Carnage is cold blooded and deadly. He kills without restraint or mercy. The artwork is brillaintly done as well. Each scene jumps off the page. Between the amazing story and vibrant pictures, you will find yourself deeply engrossed.
The series actually made an impact in pop culture as well. A video game, featuring a soundtrack composed by rock band Green Jelly, was made for both the SNES and SEGA Genesis consoles. A line of action figures dedicated to the series, which I proudly possess, was also released. I can’t speak highly enough of this series, and, if you’ve never read it before, or even if you haven’t read it in a few years, go out and pick it up, you won’t regret it.