Carnage has escaped from the Ravencroft institute with the ability to regenerate his symbiote from his mutated bloodstream. Along the way he has acquired several followers: Shriek, Doppelganger, Demogoblin, and Carrion II. They began a massive killing spree that has left New York in absolute terror.
Spider-Man has recruited his own army to combat the chaos: Cloak and Dagger, Firestar, Captain America, Iron Fist, and Deathlok. They have finally cleared the streets of all civilians, leaving only them to face the psychopaths.
As of the previous chapter, Dagger - previously dead at the hands of Shriek - emerges from within Cloak
Both heroes and villains are surprised to see Dagger alive again. She explains that Shriek's attack caused her light powers to feed back into themselves and caused her to explode, dispersing her essence. She instinctively found her way into the dark dimension of Cloak's cape, which provided her an opportunity to pull herself together. She states that the love they have for each other (platonic? romantic? not stated) kept her sane long enough to do this.
Shriek doesn't believe any of this – specifically the "love keeping you sane" part - and attacks her again. Dagger responds with equal force, but without malice. Carnage and Cloak keeps their respective sides from entering the battle for a completely different set of reasons.
Dagger weakens Shriek. Instead of killing her in retaliation, she users her light powers to bring out the repressed portions of her mind in an effort to help her regain her sanity. This works for a few moments until her anger returns and she tries to obliterate Dagger again. She is saved by Spider-man.
Carnage approaches Shriek and begins to question her. He was concerned that she was going to switch sides. She assures him that she doesn't really believe any of that "love" stuff and doesn't trust any of the heroes. Pleased that they're back together again, Carnage turns around to discover that the heroes are gone. Well almost all of them. Spider-Man stands alone in the middle of the street and challenges all four of them to a final confrontation. Spider-Man holds his own against the four of them for a while, but eventually is overwhelmed by sheer numbers.
As they prepare to finally kill him, Spider-Man's allies return. This show was a distraction to allow them the time to cobble together a special device. It channels Iron Fist and Dagger's combined powers through Deathlok into a bio-feedback device that amplifies the human brain's calming alpha waves. They focus the device on Shriek, whose power unconsciously transfers a powerful calming wave over her allies.
Carrion is the first to completely succumb to the effects of the device and reverts to Malcolm McBride. Demogoblin tries to escape, but is stopped by Spider-Man. In his weakened state, the goblin passes out before he can retaliate. Shriek is experiencing a state of complete euphoria and encourages Carnage to not fight the wave. Carnage refuses to give in, writing in pain from being forced to confront long-forgotten memories of abuse. After all this time, hope and healing are concepts that are beyond his comprehension. The feedback eventually overloads the device, causing it to explode.
When the smoke clears, they collect Shriek and Demogoblin preparing to take them back to the Vault. McBride will go a physician to ensure that the carrion virus has been purged from his system. Iron Fist discovers that Carnage died as a result of the feedback.
Later, Spider-Man sits alone in Central Park trying to process what just happened. Yes the right side one, but he didn't want Carnage dead. At this point Venom appears behind him, angry over the death of Carnage; he wanted to be the one to kill him.
Emerging from the nearby pond, Carnage announces to his most hated adversaries that he's alive and well. Venom is overjoyed at this turn of events; Spider-Man is not.
The fact that Carnage is still alive shouldn't surprise anyone. We still have one more chapter to go. That aside, the story was executed fairly well.
The "happy machine" that the heroes cobbled together is about as believable as any other deus ex machina that could have been used to stop Shriek, Carrion, and Demogoblin without killing them. It was established that Iron Fist could project a wave of calm to a group of people, and Dagger's power was shown in this issue to have a similar effect. That doesn't make it less wacky. It makes about as much sense as it doesn't.
Also how did this device revert Carrion back to Malcolm McBride? The virus has hate as a catalyst or something?
2.5 webs. The happy machine and the preachy dialog about love conquering all bothered me. I understand and respect what they're saying. I prefer something more subtle instead of being hit over the head with this concept the entire issue.
For some reason, the ending of this chapter made me think of the Genesis album ...And Then There Were Three.... The three that everyone wants to watch fight for a whole issue. Well, guess what sports fans, the next chapter is exactly that.
Malcolm McBride was infected with the Carrion virus in Spectacular Spider-Man #149