Some background, courtesy of Kerry Wilkinson:
Back during the Secret Wars, Spider-Man got himself what he thought was a new costume. It turned out to be an alien symbiote that wanted to possess his body. Spidey rejected it, however and it was left holed up in a church tower.
Shortly afterwards, Eddie Brock, a journalist with the Daily Globe lost his job after his Sin-Eater identity story was proved to be fake by Spider-Man. Wanting to end it all, he first went via a church to say his last goodbyes. His hatred of Spider-Man was picked up by the symbiote however and the two bonded to form Venom - a crazed killer who wanted nothing more than to kill Spider-Man.
In their many battles, Spider-Man triumphed consistently - even though his Spider-Sense doesn't pick up on Venom's presence. One time when Brock was in prison, however, the symbiote gave birth to another version of itself. This new symbiote bonded with Cletus Kasady - Brock's psychotic cellmate - and together the two became another crazed killer, Carnage.
When Carnage first escaped, Spidey teamed up with Venom and the Fantastic Four to save the city and re-incarcerate Kasady. Since then, Venom has re-escaped too and, after Spidey helped save Brock's ex-wife, formed an understanding with Spider-Man that he won't cause anymore trouble and that the two of them will stay out of each other's way. Most recently of all, in one of the best Spider-Man books of all - Spectacular 200 - JM DeMatteis scripted the death of Harry Osborn. He had gone crazy as the Green Goblin, wanting to blow up most of the city's leaders. After MJ and little Norman entered the building he was fighting Spider-Man in, however, he came to his senses, even saving Peter from the explosion, before he died in front of them.
|Writer:||Mike W. Barr, Terry Kavanagh, Tom DeFalco|
|Pencils:||Jerry Bingham, Mark Bagley, Ron Lim|
|Inker:||Jerry Bingham, Jim Sanders, III, Tom Palmer|
|Cover Art:||Ron Lim|
|Part Reprint In:||Acclaim Promo (Maximum Carnage)|
|Reprinted In:||Maximum Carnage (TPB)|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man: With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility #6|
The first issue of "Spider-Man Unlimited" and first part of the "Maximum Carnage" saga begins with several armed guards escorting a bound Cletus Kasady down the halls of Ravencroft, their purpose is to discover what the strange anamoly in Kasady's blood is. Despite warnings from Kasady that are dismissed as insane rantings, the doctor accidentally lets loose the "monster living within" Kasady's blood. This, of course, is the Carnage symbiote, and soon Kasady has freed himself and killed all the guards and doctors in the room, promising to slay the other inmates of Ravencroft as well.
Meanwhile, across town, Peter Parker and his wife, Mary Jane, are attending the funeral of the late Harry Osborn. Many tears are shed, especially by Harry's widow, Liz Allen. After this brief interlude, we return to Ravencroft where Carnage is fulfilling his promise to the late doctor. While gleefully murdering the guards, Carnage stops suddenly when he hears someone actually cheering for him. One smashed door later and Carnage discovers Shriek, and soon the two decide to become a twisted couple.
Speaking of couples, Peter and Mary Jane have returned to their apartment. After a brief spat, Peter agrees to take a short break from being Spider-Man. However, this break is doomed to be quite short, as Carnage and Shriek have come to New York City in search of Spider-Man and Venom. The search seemingly ends when the pair see Spider-Man swing into an alley. However, it's not Spider-Man, but his doppelganger from the Infinity War. Shriek demands to be able to keep the Doppelganger as a pet, and Carnage reluctantly agrees, then swings off on some "personal business".
Peter discovers that Kasady and his symbiote have been re-united while picking-up some Chinese food, and immediately breaks his promise to give the super-heroics a break to go search for the serial killer. Before Spider-Man finds Carnage, however, Shriek and the Doppelganger finds him. During the battle, Mary Jane sees a news report that Cletus Kasady has escaped, and she knows that Peter has broken his promise. Elsewhere, the battle rages on. After Spider-Man learns that Shriek and Carnage are a team, he makes an effort to end the battle quickly. In a way, he succeeds: the Doppelganger kicks him off a roof and Spider-Man faints. This would have made Jonah Jameson's day, except Carnage has shown up at the Daily Bugle demanding that Jameson help him in his search for Venom...
A decent, if not stellar, start. While some argue that starting the arc directly after Harry Osborn's death was a mistake, I feel that it makes the story stronger. Not only is Spider-Man driven to stop a serial killer he, in a way, helped create, but all the time he's being reminded of the recent death of a close friend and dangerous enemy. This helps set up plenty of pathos for Spider-Man and Mary Jane.
The art, on the whole, is decent, and nothing good or bad can said of it. My main complaint about the writing is that in indulges in several of the early nineties comic book clichés, namely the heroes and villains thinking along about what they're doing.
As said above, a decent, if not stellar, start to a series, so it gets three webs. However, half a web is taken away for a myriad of reasons, not least of which is Peter's hairstyle and several dated references.