Spider-Man has been replaced by symbiotes as Marvel’s flagship character. Maybe I’m about thirty years too late in that observation, as 1993 featured “Maximum Carnage.” The original “Planet of the Symbiotes” story debuted in 1995. Since then we’ve had “Absolute Carnage” in 2019, “Extreme Carnage” and “King in Black: Planet of the Symbiotes” were in 2021. Norman Osborn bonded to Carnage in 2018 to become the Red Goblin. Now his grandson has bonded to a new Carnage symbiote named Rascal, and is the new Red Goblin. Also, Deadpool is bonded to a sample of Carnage (taken during Absolute Carnage) because his healing factor keeps the alien in check. Meanwhile, the original/main/real Carnage symbiote is crossing the universe, trying to kill gods.
Carnage gets a lot of attention but so does his old man, Venom. The first “Venomverse” crossover was published in 2017 and the sequel, “Extreme Venomverse,” will begin in April. It is the 35th anniversary of Venom’s first appearance, so Marvel is planning a season of symbiote themed stories. It is being blatantly titled “Summer of Symbiotes.” The story will end in “The Death of the Venomverse.”
Recently, Spider-Man’s own crossover event, “Dark Web,” wrapped up. It was sort of a sequel to 1989’s Marvel crossover called “Inferno.” Both stories feature demons arriving in New York to cause mayhem and destruction. “Dark Web” showed the clones of Spider-Man and Jean Grey demanding that the originals give them their memories back. Spidey was taken to Limbo to be forced to surrender to Ben Reilly’s (now called Chasm) orders while dealing with a demonic version of the Sinister Six. He was helped by a bullied demon that came to idolize the webhead. The demon showed its gratitude by changing to look like a big dumb version of Spider-Man, calling himself “Rek-Rap.” Believe it or not, he was powered by a symbiote. Rek-Rap followed Spider-Man and the X-Men back to New York to end the demonic invasion. Venom was also involved.
Meanwhile, Mary Jane and Black Cat were also transported to Limbo. They’ve had an odd sort of partnership lately, mainly because they both know that they love Peter. Somehow Mary Jane acquired super powers but they aren’t permanent. In fact they are completely random, so at one time she may be able to fly and the next time she may have the power of pudding. I’m not kidding, at one point she was given the power of a dessert. I didn’t finish the series but as far as I know, Venom didn’t show up.
“Dark Web” was massively irritating because, in my opinion, the Spidey books had improved dramatically. The Tombstone story was brutal and cleverly written. Spider-Man’s pain and frustration at being beaten to a pulp and then humiliated by the gangster felt classic. The Vulture’s revenge story and the return of the Hobgoblins were also enjoyable.
J. M. Straczynski’s run on Amazing Spider-Man is doubtless one of the most controversial in the character’s history. Still, before Sins Past and One More Day his focus on Peter, Mary Jane and Aunt May as human beings in a world of superhumans was refreshing to read. They were people first and characters to be thrown into over the top stories second. I hope we’ll see a better balance between character and adventure soon.