Wednesday, November 19, 2014

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #431 - February 1998




The Carnage Cosmic
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), Joe Bennett (penciler), Bud LaRosa (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters)

The Plot:  The Silver Surfer, fighting off the symbiote’s influence, flies away.  Spider-Man takes a comatose Cletus Kasaday to the hospital and discovers he has stomach cancer.  The symbiote has been keeping Kasaday alive for months.  Eventually, the Silver Surfer regains control of his body and convinces Spider-Man to help him reunite the symbiote with Kasaday.  Spider-Man reluctantly agrees, and soon Carnage is reborn.  The Silver Surfer uses his powers to encase Carnage in an unbreakable shell, then flies away.

The Subplots:  After speaking to Martha, who’s angry that Robbie seems more interested in discerning Carnage’s motives than he does in her, Robbie tenders his resignation to Jonah.  Meanwhile, MJ faints in front of her friends Jill and Shantal after seeing a news report of Spider-Man facing the possessed Silver Surfer.

Web of Continuity:  A flashback within the symbiote’s consciousness reveals that Silver Surfer once lead Galactus to a planet inhabited by beings bonded with the symbiotes’ ancestors.

*See _________ For Details:  Spider-Man calls the Avengers Mansion for help, but only Jarvis is there.  A footnote says we’ll see a new Avengers team in Avengers (vol. 3) #1.  Later, he searches for X-Man in Washington Square Park.  He’s accosted by X-Man’s “pseudo-cult,” with a footnote pointing to X-Man #34.  I remember one of X-Man’s many, many new directions had him as a “messiah” street prophet, but I don’t recall him having a rabidly devoted, violent group of followers.

Review:  Thankfully, it’s over.  I will say that DeFalco does a decent job of contrasting the Silver Surfer’s pacifistic demeanor with the symbiote’s bloodlust during one scene, but there’s really nothing here to change my mind that this entire story is misguided.  Since DeFalco doesn’t seem to have any affection for Carnage, I’m assuming he’s been revived to boost sales (Marvel had to know that the post-Clone Saga books just weren’t working by now), but surely this is not the story Carnage fans wanted.  If you’re just suffering through the Carnage material to check in on the supporting cast, you get an even more intolerable Martha Robertson, and the final, final decision of Robbie to quit the Bugle.  I have no idea why DeFalco has invested so much time into this subplot when it doesn’t seem to have any consequences for the main storylines, nor does he have much of a grasp on either Robbie or Martha.  Neither character has shown much personality in DeFalco’s stories; it’s hard to have any investment in what happens to them either way.  And MJ pops up merely to faint at the sight of the story’s villain, on television, which is probably the second most obvious thing you can do to the hero’s love interest.  The first, of course, is to make her an unlikable shrew.

Crammed in-between the incongruous guest star and the misused villain is a quickie moral dilemma for Peter.  Out of nowhere, (I’m assuming this info hasn’t been revealed earlier) we discover that Cletus Kasaday has terminal stomach cancer, and only the symbiote can keep him alive.  Peter’s left with the dilemma of allowing Kasaday to die, or reuniting him with Carnage and putting innocent lives at risk.  The quandary, and the annoyance he feels after fruitlessly searching for help against the now cosmically powered Carnage, has him deciding yet again that he just can’t be Spider-Man anymore.  This retirement lasts all of one page, which is probably a record, when Peter changes his mind and decides to face Surfer-Carnage.  This exemplifies one of the stranger aspects of DeFalco’s work during this era -- many of these ideas are classic Spidey (so “classic” it’s arguable they should be retired), but the execution is so mangled it’s impossible to care.

The moral dilemma is solved for Peter by the Silver Surfer, who tells him that his only alternative is for Carnage to possess the insanely powerful Silver Surfer instead of a normal human.  This assumes that the Silver Surfer isn’t mentally or physically strong enough to resist the symbiote, which is dubious, but whatever.  The justification gives Spider-Man an out for the story’s ending, and just to tie things up, the Surfer even encases Carnage in an energy shell so that he’ll never bother anyone again.  Never, ever.  It’s all nice and tidy and now let us never speak of it again.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

This being the same Surfer who can withstand the heat of stars, so could burn the symbiote off...

j said...

Didn't Eddie Brock have cancer too? Who thought it was a good idea to give both the major symbiotes the same cancer-but-the-alien-keeps-them-alive gimmick?

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think with Eddie, it was the Symbiote that gave him cancer; something to do with the fact that the symbiote fed off his adrenal glands so much that it gave him cancer there.

G. Kendall said...

I thought the retcon was that Eddie went to the church that night after he learned he had cancer, which lead to him becoming Venom. I never read that specific story, just remember people griping online, so I could be wrong.

Harry Sewalski said...

Pretty sure Kendall is right - the explanation I recall is that one of the things that attracted the symbiote to Eddie was the fact that it could feed off the adrenaline produced by him having cancer...or...something...