Ultimate Spider-Man #60-65: "Carnage" (Spoilers)


Well-Known Member
Aug 13, 2004
The OTHER Vancouver
Ultimate Spider-Man #60-65: "Carnage"

Here we are at the 11th Volume of Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley's hit series Ultimate Spider-Man, following a somewhat "different" 10th volume dealing with the Ultimate Spidey movie. After an unnoticeable art change from Thibert to Hanna, it seems like the only significant events of the "Hollywood" arc were Gwen Stacy's discovery of Peter's identity as Spider-Man, and (presumably,) the destruction of Doc Ock's metal arms.

Seeing the preview summaries for the Carnage storyline got me really excited. It mentioned that the storyline would have Punisher, Doc Conners, and even (this really shocked me) Ultimate Ben Reilly. I thought, Holy $#%&, here it is; this is going to be Bendis's masterpiece storyline in the series. And previous letters Bendis replied to gave hint of Venom returning to this storyline (heck, Doc Ock comes back all the time, so why can't we see what's going on with Eddie Brock, who still might be alive?) But I was definitely afraid that he wouldn't be able to fit so much new story into one 5-part storyline (not counting the "is it or is it not part of the arc?" Detention issue.)

As expected, exactly like the Ultimate Venom saga, Carnage didn't actually appear in the first issue, leading a line of misleading covers that featured him. The first issue didn't have a lot going on; Peter fights random villain, followed by a talk with Curt Conners. Whoopie. Okay, I thought, Bendis has four issues left to create the greatest arc ever made in Ultimate Spider-Man.

Next came the second issue, which in my opinion, wasn't too different from the first. It introduced Ultimate Ben Reilly, and revealed that he wasn't in fact the clone that we were already familiar with in the Amazing and Spectacular Spider-Man titles. Having it turn out that Reilly was just a random scientist was a great joke on Bendis's part, and quite a relief to those who don't want too many characters flooding the new storyline (which is in fact, somewhat disappointing for me.) Here, Conners gets Peter's permission to conduct an experiment using his DNA that could "change the world." The conversation ends with a "2 Months Later" narration, and since the Hollywood storyline also had a "few months later" flash-forward; this leaves plenty of room for a mini-series to take place in those months. (SHOW US MORE GWEN, BENDIS!!!) Err...anyway, back to the issue. Just like the last issue, Peter gets involved in a fight (this time with the much more recognizable Punisher, who's shown as a bad guy in the series.) Once again, he goes to the aid of Dr. Conners, followed by Conners meeting with Ben Reilly, where we get our first look at Carnage, who is the result experiment of Peter's DNA, and is a baby for now. The issue flowed too much like the previous one, and my hopes for the series were dropping.

Then came the controversial Issue #62. I was really surprised to find an issue without Peter in it during an arc that seemed as important as this. The issue started off with the Carnage's escape from the Empire Statue University labs (never saw that one coming,) and the issue basically shows how he kills his victims and what he gains from it. There was a great little part between Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane that shows how excellent Bendis truly is at showing us character development. The issue ends with a powerful scene showing Carnage killing Gwen Stacy. Gwen's death seemed unnecessary and was looked down upon by fans, but seeing Gwen die (with Peter's face being the last thing she saw) was probably one of the most dramatic events Ultimate Spider-Man has seen since Uncle Ben's death. Showing that Carnage had Peter's face was also important, as it revealed that this arc also did have some resemblance to the original Clone Saga storylines in the 616 titles. I thought Bendis did a great job fusing Carnage, clones, and even a little bit of The Lizard all into one arc.

As unnecessary as Gwen Stacy's death may have seemed, it was still a huge event, and the next issue basically showed everybody's reaction to it. The highlight of it was Peter's confrontation with Curt Conners, where Bendis made it perfectly clear just how pissed off Peter was upon learning that Conners was the one who created the "mutant freak" that was running loose in New York's streets sucking the life out of people. The issue ends with Carnage entering the scene, ready for battle, creating one of the most unoriginal cliffhangers of...anything.

Not a lot to say about the concluding issue of the arc. It was your traditional "fight scene" issue, with the final part of the battle being shown through flashbacks after Peter meets up with Conners again later on. The last few pages were what made the issue significant. First, we see more of "P.O.'ed Peter" yelling at Conners, followed by Conners confessing the creation of the "mutant freak" and turning himself over to the authorities. Then we see Peter talking to Mary Jane and making the "I am Spider-Man No More," decision, which coincides with the release of Spider-Man 2 in the same summer. The final two pages were probably the best, as it shows "Ben Reilly" returning to the lab, which is now being searched by the police. He requests to clear his stuff out of the lab, and the last page shows him taking a vial marked "Parker Sample #2." In my opinion, this was the perfect way of ending the storyline and also leaving a thread going at the same time. Ben Reilly may or may not be seen again in the series for many years, and the ending gets you excited and relieved that its over at the same time.

Last issue wasn't actually marked "Carnage Pt. #" in the title, but it obviously shares important connections to the arc, since there is still room for the reaction of Gwen's death, now that the Carnage hysteria was over. I was expecting something that resembled the "Issue #13" character development masterpiece. Wasn't really anything like "The Breakfast Club" at all. The only significances of this issue were Flash revealing his attraction to Gwen Stacy, a secret he tried to reveal twice to Peter back in the Geldoff arc. Getting it out in the open was nice, but not a really earth-shattering event, like one might hope for. The issue ends with Peter confirming for us that he dreads the idea of being Spider-Man again.

Overall, the Carnage arc was a solid read. Basically, it's a perfect example of what to expect out of the Ultimate Spider-Man series. The problem with it was that it was the freakin' Carnage arc! I, for one, expected it to be totally incredible, with several earthquake-level revelations. What was it? Um…Gwen Stacy died (BOO!) and Flash reveals that he liked her (So what?) Ben Reilly is a random scientist (Hehe…) and he now has access to what is most likely a second Carnage (Oooh…the plot thickens…right as it ends.)

Next up, Wolverine. If it's anything like the first two issues of Ultimate X-Men's "Blockbuster" arc, this is going to be sweet.

Story: 3.5/5
Art: 4/5
With Gwen Stacy's death, I think Bendis succeeded in what he had in mind, and was to make people feel Parker's pain, and probably make Carnage a lot more memorable here then he ever was in the 616 Universe.

Gwen just knew about Parker being Spidey, and their friendship even blossoms more because of that. There is a lot of build-up to see how nice and likable Gwen is, and then abruptly kills her off, ironically with something that resembles Spider-Man who she believed before was the murderer of her dad. The major letdown and fan outrage obviously proved how good and well-loved Bendis made Ultimate Gwen Stacy was, and was probably the best way in my opinion, to off her.

I also noticed several parallels Bendis did here to the Venom arc. He makes it plain obvious that the Venom suit was made from Parker's dad's DNA by making Carnage a broken clone of his father. Carnage v.1 is destroyed falling into a smokestack, just like how Parker threw the Venom sample into the smokestack too. Also, Parker thinks that everything's over when he does that, but we all know it wasn't. Lastly, Spidey fights Carnage without his costume, like when he fought Venom.

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