Not so Maximum.

Disclaimer – I have a huge collection of trade paperbacks / graphic novels / whatever you want to call them. This includes some great, some good, and some very bad. I was recently traveling and there’s no better time to plug your headphones in, pull out a trade and re-read then on a plane. Talk about needing escapism – much needed on any and all flights, at least in my opinion.

The best experience I’ve ever had speaking with a stranger (aka… overly talkative, bored, forgot to buy a magazine and needs to chat) was with a women that a friend and I nicknamed “bucky” (teeth joke, no cap reference here) who was on her way to meet her boyfriend, who lives in New York, and she was thinking about moving there. Oh by the way… this was the first time she was meeting him. Amazing.

Anyways, as much as a stomach punch as it is thinking about internet relationships, the Spider-Man “Maximum Carnage” collection makes it seem like an enjoyable experience. I went into this revisit with no sense of expectation other than “hmm, I don’t remember this storyline at all.” I went in low, and got knocked even lower. Let me give you one full page of dialogue. (Oh yeah, click the link and buy it so we can all read along.)


First issue of the collection, page 3.

CARNAGE:  You test tube jockies are all the same! Can’t accept the truth when it’s spitting in your eye! The monster is far more than a wild pair of long johns! It’s become a living part of me – and we were merely biding our time! Hey Resnick — ! Remember how I said I’d go easy on you?

CARNAGE: I LIED! You should have known better than to trust a raving lunatic ! I am the ultimate insanity! I AM CARNAGE !

DOCTOR: Call Security– ! Get some reinforcements down here!

CARNAGE: Oh, goody! I could use a few more victims! These are all used up! There are just you two doctors left!

— Notice anything weird! I don’t! It seems totally normal — even in a comic book — to use exclamation points all the time! Amiright!

Joking aside, this was astonishing. 16 sentences, 15 exclamations. And the reason I mention this is not because it was the exception; this was the rule. In the first two full pages, 28/29 sentences were exclamations (So a grand total of 34/36 sentences ending in an exclamation point for three pages.) Really. This was not all that unusual in comics, but it certainly was in full display here. I won’t pull the punches, this is really an ugly collection, perhaps Spider-Man at his worst. A not so concise plot (“THAT’S THE POINT!” exclaims Carnage…) that is riddled with poor character development and a bad time for the supporting cast in general, so there’s nowhere to look besides the feature storyline. Here – choose your own adventure out of these gems.

A. Richard and Mary Parker are back from the dead… and cranky!

B. Felicia Hardy and… Flash Thompson!?!

C. Mary Jane Parker takes up smoking – and Peter hates it!

D. Aunt May joins the WNBA at point guard for the New York Liberty!

E. None of the above.

And I only made up one of those. Mix in some good art (Mark Bagley delivers, Sal Buscema does his thing, and Ron Lim is 50/50) some meh art (Ron Lim hit the wall and sometimes draws Mary Jane looking like a fish, Tom Luly?, Alex Suviak?) and a whole lot of “why is this story taking 14 issues?” and “why did Cloak/Dagger/Morbius/Iron Fist/DEATHLOK?/Captain America/Firestar show up?” and we get this pile of crap. What’s worse is that many of the writers behind this particular story have done work that I do really enjoy. Wrong time, wrong place, I guess.

All that said – I’d say just go ahead and buy the video game, it was fun.I always played the Genesis version, but the SNES version was just cooler looking here.

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