Title: The Hatred, The Horror and The Hero!
Publication Date: August, 1993
Artists: Mark Bagley and Sam DeLaRosa
Heroes: Spider-Man, the Black Cat, Mobius, Sleepwalker and Venom (in a manner of speaking)
This issue ends the multi-title crossover event Maximum Carnage, where the villain Carnage escapes and demonstrates his absurdist, violent worldview by lighting New York, New York on fire. Of course, a group of heroes band together to stop him, and the villain Venom joined them. This was also the second issue of "Spider-Man Unlimited", with the unlimited line being a way for Marvel to tell longer, better stories in each issue. For the times, the quality is good, but the title loses the point of the longer format by including a (somewhat boring) back up story.
In the story, Spider-Man and Venom set off on the final hunt for Carnage, who has been separated from the various hangers on he has collected in his rampage. The issue mostly consists of Spider-Man and Venom fighting Carnage, while having a verbal and physical confrontation because Venom wants to kill Carnage, and Spider-Man doesn't believe in that level of vigilantism. There is also the requisite amount of panels of Peter Parker being introspective, followed by Mary Jane kissing him. The fight scenes are really quite good, if you like early-90s bulging muscles, leaping and primary colors, which not many people do because Rob Liefeld ruined them more than they were already ruined. All in all, it was a pretty good effort for the era.
But, because I have a special agenda when it comes to comic books, I am going to analyze this issue through several tropes and cliches that I have written about lately, to wit:
- Super Hero Time Budgeting: is not really dealt with, or misrepresented in this issue, because it takes place during an emergency situation where Spider-Man can substitute his normal life as Peter Parker. When Peter Parker's family asks him where he has been, he answers that he was "covering the riots for the Daily Bugle". One question that is brought up in this issue is how long in the following comics does Spider-Man suffer the seriously broken ribs he sustained in this story arc? Does he have to take time out to heal?
- Green Arrow Firing Arrows at a Cosmic Shield: Since this comic takes place mostly at the street level, this isn't a problem. However, what is a problem is the inverse: Carnage's rampage is seen as a pretty serious crisis for New York, even without his cosmic powers. However, any cosmic super-hero could have dealt with him pretty quickly. I am sure the story comes up with some explanation of why Thor doesn't come down and blast him with lightning, but the actual reason is because that would be a pretty lame story arc. Although the Avengers do show up, Deus ex Machina, to cart the defeated Carnage away at the end of the story.
- Which brings us to the matter of apocalypse fatigue. The events in this story line are played up as a gigantic crisis for Spider-Man and as a traumatic event for the city of New York. But of course, since Spider-Man had a few years previously seen Thanos kill half of existence in Infinity Gauntlet, and the city of New York had been invaded by demons in Inferno, how seriously can some fires and rioting be? The story tries to raise some apocalyptic frenzy, but Marvel readers are already exhausted.
- Super Heroes and the Michael Dukakis moment: this comic book is what first inspired me to write this, so this is very much present. Spider-Man believes that Carnage must be brought to justice, not killed, and he is willing to fight Venom for it. And just as I said, his pleas for justice come across as somewhat stale and unbelievable. That he is against Carnage being killed is believable. That he is going to risk his life to fight Venom so that Carnage can escape them both and kill more seems to be a bit of tortured story telling. And to hear him say "how about we leave that for the authorities to decide?" as he kicks Venom away from Carnage is just tedious.
So this story has all of these cliches and more, but blaming an early-90s comic for being full of cliches is like blaming a rabbit for hopping. Just enjoy the explosions!