Of all the villains that Spider-Man has crossed over the years, none are as gleefully murderous as Carnage. After debuting in David Michelinie and Erik Larsen’s The Amazing Spider-Man #344, deranged serial killer Cletus Kasady bonded with the symbiote offspring of Venom to become most of the feared foes in the entire Marvel Universe, with Larsen designing Kasady and Mark Bagley designing his symbiote-powered alter ego in 1992.
A year after Kasady became a full-fledged supervillain, the Marvel Comics crossover event Maximum Carnage saw the antagonist resurface with a vengeance, as Spider-Man and Venom formed a desperate alliance to stop him. Now, we’re taking a look back at the classic 1993 Spider-Man storyline, including the lead-up to the event, its fall out in the Marvel Universe and how it may influence next year’s Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
While the Venom symbiote and Eddie Brock had first bonded — literally — over their mutual hatred of Spider-Man and Peter Parker, the powerful antagonist would gradually become a more conflicted, sympathetic antihero in the years following his debut. This was most visible with his concerns for innocents as he began to patrol the streets of New York City as its lethal enforcer, who was also still committed to destroying Spider-Man. While incarcerated after his latest scuffle with the friendly neighborhood web-slinger, Brock shared a cell with Kasady, who was jailed for his numerous murders. The Venom symbiote unexpectedly spawned, with Kasady bonding to it and referring to himself as Carnage.
Between its deep, intrinsic bond with Kasady and the killer’s homicidal imagination, Carnage was much more powerful than Venom. Unable to beat Carnage alone, an increasingly desperate Spider-Man teamed up with Venom for the first time to take the new villain down, with Venom feeling somewhat responsible for his existence due to his own paternal link to the evil symbiote. The Carnage symbiote was apparently destroyed by sonic weaponry and Kasady was jailed once more, but the start of “Maximum Carnage” revealed the symbiote had secretly survived within Kasady’s bloodstream.
The most important issues to revisit as a sort of prologue directly setting up “Maximum Carnage” are in The Amazing Spider-Man #361-363, which features Kasady’s introduction as Carnage and the first alliance between Spider-Man and Venom to take him down; a dynamic that would be echoed and expanded upon throughout Maximum Carnage, influencing the antagonistic relationship between the two characters for years to follow.
“Maximum Carnage” ran for 14 issues across all the Spider-Man series at the time, beginning in the inaugural issue of the then-recently launched quarterly series Spider-Man Unlimited, with the storyline concluding in Spider-Man Unlimited‘s second issue. The crossover ran through Web of Spider-Man #101-103, The Amazing Spider-Man #378-380, Spider-Man #35-37 and The Spectacular Spider-Man #201-203, with each of the series respective creative teams at the time passing the narrative torch, and readers had to follow from each of the corresponding chapters instead of each series occurring as a standalone perspective on the event. While each part of the crossover is clearly labeled on the covers of the issues it takes place in, the easiest way to read the crossover today is through collected editions that contain every part of the crossover in the correct reading order.
The most visible fallout from Maximum Carnage was both the concept that the Carnage symbiote truly remained inextricably linked to Cletus Kasady while also introducing the possibility of peace between Spider-Man and Venom after years of mutual antagonism. Carnage’s own offspring and murderous followers would continue to menace the Marvel Universe long after the event itself was finished, either together with their twisted leader or own their own.
Carnage himself would go many renewed killing sprees whenever he broke loose from incarceration, from miniseries like Web of Carnage through Carnage, USA. The recent comic book crossover Absolute Carnage repositioned the villain as a threat for the entire Marvel Universe once again, with the resurrected Kasady serving Knull, the extraterrestrial god of symbiotes who had been steadily haunting Venom. Stronger than ever and leading a zealously murderous cult, Carnage hunted down everyone that possessed traces of symbiotes within their spine to further empower himself and awaken his dark, new master, resulting in a final confrontation against Venom leading the heroes of the Marvel Universe.
And, after making a brief appearance in the post-credits scene to 2018’s Venom, next year’s sequel Venom: Let There Be Carnage will feature the return of Woody Harrelson as Cletus Kasady in a much more prominent role. Kasady is expected to transform into Carnage — as obviously evidenced by the title — while Naomie Harris will appear as Shriek, a prominent villain in Maximum Carnage that served Kasady as them and their followers cut a bloody path through Manhattan. And with constant rumors of Tom Holland’s Spider-Man appearing in the upcoming film, the threat of Carnage and clear inspiration from the classic 1993 storyline would make a team-up between Eddie Brock and Peter Parker the logical way to stop the murderous villain from adding to his considerable body count.
One of the biggest Spider-Man stories ever is Maximum Carnage. Here's everything you need to know about the iconic crossover event.