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Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks

Jabroniville

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Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks
« on: May 31, 2017, 03:21:39 PM »
MAXIMUM CARNAGE:[/u]
-Few comic book storylines of the 1990s draw as much derision as this one days, to the point where there are now many people being very contrary and vocal about it, arguing that it was in fact a great, fun story. I... do not agree with those people.

Maximum Carnage came about because the Spider-Editor wanted a big new "Spider-Crossover" between what was then FOUR different Spider-Man books (Amazing, Spectacular, Web Of and plain-ol' Spider-Man- if you think that sounds excessive, keep in mind there are more Deadpool comics being released each month nowadays), plus a pair of Spider-Man Unlimited issues bookmarking the whole thing. A combination of Tom DeFalco (then Marvel's Editor-In-Chief), David Michelinie, Terry Kavanagh and J.M. DeMatteis wrote the tale- it's centred around the return of Carnage, who'd by then only been in one storyline. 

Carnage, a serial killer given the vast power of a Symbiote, goes on a wanton frenzy, massacring people throughout Manhattan. Along the way, he adds new villainess Shriek, Hobgoblin offshoot Demogoblin, the Spider-Doppelanger from The Infinity War, and the second Carrion to the group. Spider-Man of course brings the fight to them, and is forced to team up with his old arch-nemesis, Venom- who also hates, and is a target of, Carnage. Spidey also adds his old partner The Black Cat, the New Warrior Firestar, Cloak & Dagger, Iron Fist, Deathlok, Morbius the Living Vampire, Nightwatch and Captain America of all people to the heroic side.

The heroes and villains get into numerous brawls over the sprawling, FOURTEEN-PART (!!) Crossover, with most of Spidey's crew being disparate and coming & going depending on the issue (Nightwatch is only there for a single part, for example). Dagger is "killed" at the story's outset by Shriek, sending Cloak into a revenge-obsessed fury, but she returns in the penultimate chapter; Captain America only shows up 3/4 of the way through. Carnage is nearly-beaten several times, but constantly escapes- meanwhile, Shriek has been setting off a low-level mental-effect that's causing all of Manhattan to break out into dangerous riots! The heroes have their hands full, with hundreds of rioters found on every street, and Peter is forced to basically abandon Mary Jane (who didn't want him to risk his life out there) and his family (then including Aunt May and his newly-rediscovered "parents").

The overall "point" of the story is to give the writers' P.O.V. in the "Killing (vs) Non-Killing" debate- we're meant to basically see the worst of '90s excess, come to the brink... and walk away from it, as Peter refuses to compromise his principles and kill someone. J.M. DeMatteis says in the opening of the Trade that he didn't want to DO the storyline, because he was tired of all the murderers and psychopaths running through comics ("and those, heaven help us, were the heroes!"), but was convinced by his Editor (Danny Fingeroth), who wanted that to be the POINT. Essentially, the ultimate indictment of that kind of "Extreme" comic.

The problem? Well, the storyline's problems are numerous. My BIGGEST problem with the whole storyline is that in going for the "Killing is ALWAYS wrong!" concept by giving us the worst-possible villain to fight, they've accidentally PROVEN THAT CONCEPT WRONG.

See, I can get Spidey being anti-killing, since, y'know, his entire origin is based off of someone dying because he screwed up. He KNOWS the pain that death brings. I can buy Spider-Man not wanting to kill anyone or just finding the idea of murder disgusting.

But Carnage is like a Strawman Argument brought up by the opposing side- "oh yeah? Well... well... what if he was like, some MASS MURDERER- the Joker with the powers of a God? And... and you HAD to kill him right that second, or else he would kill hundreds of people right away? And he would never stop, and you couldn't negotiate with him? What THEN?". It's like they went out of their way to make Spidey look incorrect. Yet we're supposed to take the OPPOSITE side- the guy is a freaking SERIAL KILLER given the massive powers of a Symbiote, and strong enough to fight off entire superteams by himself. His entire concept is rampant MASS MURDER, and during the course of the storyline he literally massacres HUNDREDS of people. This is literally the worst example you can possibly give of somebody that heroes should not be trying to kill. Every moment Carnage lives is essentially guaranteed death for dozens of innocent people. And I can still get SPIDEY not wanting to murder him- but at several points other heroes have Carnage dead to rights, and Spider-Man literally jumps in to SAVE the guy! He actually grabs Venom and beats on him to avoid the death-blow reaching Carnage! He pulls Firestar away from another death-shot at the same time. In both of these situations, Carnage immediately escapes while the heroes are fighting each other!

THIS IS IDIOTIC. The lengths he goes to save Carnage's life as good as murders DOZENS OF PEOPLE by the time the story's over. Keep in mind that in real life, any person could murder Carnage while he's helpless and not spend a day in jail- any cop or even a civilian could easily-argue that a living Carnage is too dangerous to be allowed to survive. It's even a plot point in the story that he can't even be DE-POWERED. Every time they try, he just regenerates. And I'm the kind of reader who WANTS certain heroes to refuse to kill. I want to see guys try to find better options, or at least not to be so damn GRITTY and ULTRA-VIOLENT all the time- having lived through the '90s in comics, I know how awful things can get when the writers indulge their most violent fantasies. And I'M telling you they did this in completely the wrong way. There's something seriously wrong when I find the entire concept of the story ("killing is wrong, no matter what!") the biggest ethical problem WITH it! This isn't just "Batman refusing to kill the Joker results in the deaths of dozens"- it's "Spider-Man actively murders hundreds of people because he refuses to see Carnage killed". It's 100 times worse, because at least the Joker's spree-killing is vague and all theoretical, because he's easy to stop (he's just a normal guy). Carnage was an ACTIVE spree-killer! His very freedom guaranteed the deaths of hundreds!

And that's just my MAIN problem with the storyline- turning the heroes into murderers because they won't make the tough choice (Venom's even used as the "Strawman" meant to get us to side with Spidey). There are others:

* It's way too freaking long. Seriously, it's FOURTEEN PARTS. They spend more issues on riots and super-fights than The Crisis on Infinite Earths got. 

* The length, and number of writers on various titles, means that it repeats itself a lot. Half of the issues are just "the villains murder people, and the heroes run in and fight them. Then the villains escape." One at least two or three occasions, Carnage is as good as beaten, and then the heroes F something up (Spider-Man & Venom start brawling because Spidey prevented Firestar from killing Carnage), and the villains escape. You actually see the exact same issue concept more than once. There's even a moment where Carnage is thought-dead and beaten, but arrives at the very end to fight for one MORE chapter- this damn storyline had more endings that The Return of the King! The number of writers also produces the odd situation of one not listening to another, as Carrion is mute at first, then begins talking in a later issue out of nowhere.

* Some of the art is just hideous. Sal Buscema was NOT good at this point in time- ugly, blocky-looking people making hideous faces. Ron Lim's art really doesn't stand the test of time, either- I loved his work in the '90s, but this has some of his worst traits (all the characters have identical faces and musculature- the men have pronounced underbites). At least we had Mark Bagley (who must have been on a tight deadline, because some of the people have INSANELY big heads in a few shots- Demogoblin in particular looks funny).

* One of the core concepts doesn't hold up- it's a major plot point that Shriek is causing flashmob-style riots throughout all of Manhattan. And yet, only EIGHT SUPERHEROES are available to stop things? In NEW YORK CITY? Where is everyone else!? Captain America and Firestar are there, but don't bring a single member of their respective teams?

* Too many powers yanked out of asses. Iron Fist pulls off some weird "meditation trick" by calming down an entire crowd, something he's never done before or since (a classic Hero Point-playing Power Stunt). Shriek suddenly exhibits Mind Control powers. Dagger starts flowing "love" out of herself. Carnage suddenly goes "oh the Symbiote's not a separate thing anymore- now it just lives IN MY BLOODSTREAM!" after being de-powered on at least two separate occasions. And the heroes end the fight with the Care Bear Stare. No, I'm not even kidding, they all funnel good feelings into Deathlok wearing a random one-off device that fires "Goodness" out of his chest like the frickin' Care Bear Stare. Anyone ONE of these instances I could have dealt with (it's not over-the-top to expect Danny Rand to be able to do something weird like that, especially as it didn't even WORK for more than a couple of rounds), but all of it?

* The heroes appear too randomly, and fail to stick around, making them look like idiots. Nightwatch & Morbius are only in a couple issues each, and everyone else kind of stumbles in over the issues (Cap doesn't join till later).

* The heroes don't even really get to BEAT the villains for the most part- they're ineffectual as all hell. They can't contain the riots, Carnage kills Doppelganger for turning on him, Demogoblin runs off in disgust, etc.- the heroes don't even matter. Carnage is as good as done several times, but always comes back- they think they've KILLED him in the thirteenth part with their "Good Bomb" and pack everyone away, but NOPE- he's back for one last issue of fighting!

* Despite being an indictment of '90s excess, it really just ends up being a huge example of it- dozens are murdered on-panel, all of the villains are super-extreme, and the heroes include a vampire, a killer cyborg and VENOM.

* The mindless slugfests aren't even that GOOD! I've read some very fun comics where it was just "guys fighting" (The X-Cutioner's Song, a mega-storyline from around the same time period, had two GREAT issues that were just X-Men versus X-Force, and X-Men/Force versus The Mutant Liberation Front), but the fights here were just boring. Never-ending sequences of Carnage being beaten on, then coming back.

There were a COUPLE of positives: Mary Jane telling Richard Parker off for being such a cynic. Richard & May each giving Peter their thoughts on reality (Richard, a political prisoner for decades, thinks all people are essentially rotten; May thinks the opposite). The Black Cat's uber-fanservicey outfit. But overall? This was drek. The writers were some of the worst to work on Spidey, and the whole storyline was a failure. Of course, it's not even close to the WORST Spider-Man storyline from that era.

NeoGreenLantern

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Re: Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks
« Reply #1 on: May 31, 2017, 04:03:16 PM »
I'm not gonna read that just give one counterpoint

It spawned the Maximum Carnage video game.

Not BAMF

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Re: Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks
« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2017, 04:05:49 PM »
God, I hated that game worse than the crossover. It was retardedly hard.

MaxCar WAS better than all the god awful "i am the spider" shit that followed it, though.

NeoGreenLantern

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Re: Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks
« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2017, 04:42:25 PM »
sounds like you need to git goud, kid.

Toilet Bunny

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Re: Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks
« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2017, 07:48:02 PM »
Yeah, I was never a fan of Maximum Carnage.

I had the game too.

HalloweenJack

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Re: Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2017, 08:24:35 PM »
I liked it when I was a kid. I need to re-read it. I'm sure it hasn't aged well.

ProjectCornDog

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Re: Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks
« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2017, 08:58:12 PM »
I liked it when I was a kid. I need to re-read it. I'm sure it hasn't aged well.

The Shuruku Demon

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Re: Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks
« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2017, 08:35:20 AM »
I enjoyed aspects of this storyline as a kid, Venom being one of my favourite villains at that time, and Carnage being an exciting new prospect. That said, it was obvious that it was poorly handled, messy and bloated even back then. This story practically screamed "lazy cash-in" from the rooftops.

Another thing I didn't like about it, which wasn't mentioned in the review, was the fact that Mary Jane was set in opposition to Peter's exploits as Spider-Man. Granted, he broke his ribs early on in the arc, and it makes sense that she'd be concerned for his safety under the circumstances, but she knew Peter was Spider-Man before they even met face to face, and having had years to get to know him prior to their marriage, she had to know how overwhelming his sense of resposibility was. I couldn't see any positive resolution to this type of friction going forward, and in hindsight, it seems like those were the early signs that the marriage wasn't going to last.

scourge

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Re: Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks
« Reply #8 on: June 01, 2017, 09:28:45 AM »
Fuck all this noise.

I LOVED Maximum Carnage as a kid, both the comic, the first ever "big event" I collected, and the video game, which I owned... though sadly never beat. I made it to Carnage, but couldn't take him after he resurrects.

Anytime things get a little tense out on the streets of NY, a friend and I both describe it as Maximum Carnage, to connote everyone being in a shit mood. For that alone I love it.

It may have it's flaws from a technical standpoint, and obv will never be one of the greats of the medium as an art form, but it was good fun for what it was, especially for a kid just getting into comics--if nothing else, a great example of something a young adolescent can really sink his teeth into.

Toilet Bunny

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Re: Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks
« Reply #9 on: June 01, 2017, 10:03:05 AM »
^^^agree. That story relied on a lot of out of character moments.
Good review.

EDIT
i enjoyed this

https://comicvine.gamespot.com/round-robin/4045-55811/

Way more than Macimum Carnage. No one ever tslks about it though.

Round Robin was actually good too.  Spider had a lot of "get a bunch of heroes together for a big story" arcs in the 90's for some reason.  Revenge of the Sinister Six was another one and it was also pretty damn good.
« Last Edit: June 01, 2017, 10:06:32 AM by AP »

Ditto

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Re: Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks
« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2017, 10:05:10 AM »
I still own the game and it hasn't aged well.

The Shuruku Demon

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Re: Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks
« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2017, 12:30:43 PM »
^^^agree. That story relied on a lot of out of character moments.
Good review.

EDIT
i enjoyed this

https://comicvine.gamespot.com/round-robin/4045-55811/

Way more than Macimum Carnage. No one ever tslks about it though.

Yeah, that was definitely better than Maximum Carnage, as was the Sinister Six arc AP mentioned, as was the "Cosmic Spider-Man" arc, as was every standalone Venom or Carnage arc prior to that point. I also prefer much of the Clone Saga to MC. To find stuff from the '90s that was actually worse than MC, you have to go to the godawful period between the Clone Saga and J. Michael Straczynski's run, when nearly everything established during the Clone Saga was suddenly, screechingly retconned back to the status quo, most of the better writers had left the titles, and the sole core writer remaining, Howard Mackie (with some peripheral input from John Byrne), was clearly struggling with where to go with the character from there. That was the absolute worst period ever for the Spidey books in my view.

scourge

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Re: Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks
« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2017, 12:52:10 PM »
I still own the game and it hasn't aged well.

This is very easy to believe.

ProjectCornDog

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Re: Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2017, 03:30:03 PM »
Another thing I didn't like about it, which wasn't mentioned in the review, was the fact that Mary Jane was set in opposition to Peter's exploits as Spider-Man. Granted, he broke his ribs early on in the arc, and it makes sense that she'd be concerned for his safety under the circumstances, but she knew Peter was Spider-Man before they even met face to face, and having had years to get to know him prior to their marriage, she had to know how overwhelming his sense of resposibility was. I couldn't see any positive resolution to this type of friction going forward, and in hindsight, it seems like those were the early signs that the marriage wasn't going to last.

Are you saying women don't change their moment and dont have moments of randomness and shitting on you? lol

Thanos6

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Re: Hot Take: Maximum Carnage still sucks
« Reply #14 on: June 02, 2017, 04:35:15 PM »
I enjoyed it as a kid, and I think it holds up relatively well today as just an all-out action extravaganza.

That said, when the Amazing Spider-Man annual that came out right afterwards was about Carnage breaking out of the imprisonment he was put in at the end of this story, and Spidey has to beat him again, basically being Maximum Carnage part 15...

...well, that was the first time I became familiar with the concept of overexposure. :D

BTW, has anyone read the "Carnage In New York" novel?  It's quite well-done and makes Carnage genuinely terrifying.
Truten forever!