Not too long ago we discussed The Best Venom Comics Ever Published, so it seems only natural that we should look at the yin to Venom’s yang: Carnage. Created in 1992 as a primary antagonist to Spider-Man and Venom, Carnage has grown into a surprisingly strong character due to his sustained popularity. While never straying too far from the Spider-Man mythos, Carnage has appeared in numerous self-titled series and mini-series.
While the character’s publishing history isn’t restrictively extensive, I have done my best to collect the best Carnage comics ever published. The selection below is based on my own reading and research as well as those from many fans out there.
As always, I have included links to Amazon, but most everything should be available on Marvel Unlimited as well (or even your local library). And with that, go onward, and enjoy the Carnage goodness below.
Carnage Classic – Amazon
Carnage Classic is the perfect place to start for anyone interested in Carnage, new and old fans alike. This recently released collection is pretty amazing, in that Marvel finally put out a consolidated version of Carnage’s origin and follow-up stories.
The collection includes noteworthy stories such as Carnage Unleashed, Mind Bomb, and It’s a Wonderful Life. While it was possible to scrounge these up before, it’s pretty awesome that Marvel finally collected all of these early Carnage tales in one place.
Look, if you want the quintessential Carnage stories, then the aptly named Carnage Classic is the place to look. Lovely art, 90s cheese, and all the backstory you would ever need to enjoy the character. There is no better place to begin reading the best Carnage comics ever published.
Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage – Amazon
I have already said quite a bit about Maximum Carnage, but let’s talk some more. Undoubtedly, this is the definitive Carnage story. A 14-part epic told across five different Spider-Man series, the story is both famous and infamous among fans.
Maximum Carnage is the definition of 90s. You have almost every noteworthy 90s Spider-character making appearances in addition to others like Captain America and Iron Fist. The story is convoluted, sometimes making little sense, but the artwork is gorgeous. When you read it, it’s obvious why the series is polarizing.
If Maximum Carnage is a series you grew up with, I think it is worth a revisit, especially if you are reading a “best Carnage comics” list. If the character is new to you and 90s nostalgia isn’t a powerful force in your life, then later comics in this list may be better suited for you.
Venom Vs. Carnage – Amazon
In many ways, Venom vs. Carnage is both a return to form and the last hurrah of the classic Venom/Carnage stories we know and love. Published a decade after the titles above, the story focuses on the never-ending battle between Venom and Carnage. But this time, Carnage is producing an offspring. Throw in appearances by Spider-Man and Black Cat and it feels like you’re right back in the 90s.
Venom vs. Carnage was released in a transition period for comics and especially for 90s characters like Carnage and Venom. This series finds a great balance between that 90s nostalgic feel and modern storytelling sensibilities. This is a great ending point for the Carnage of the 90s as well as a launching point for the Carnage to come. Undeniably a fan favorite and should not be missed.
Carnage: Family Feud – Amazon
Carnage is back! Unbeknownst to many, the Carnage symbiote was killed in New Avengers giving the character some much needed rest. Now, Zeb Wells resurrects the character for a modern tale.
While featuring appearances from Spider-Man and Iron Man, Family Feud is truly about Carnage and his so-called family. Shriek and the Spider-Doppelganger return for a violent and visceral attack on New York City. But for all of the classic, ahem, carnage, Wells is able to weave a surprisingly deep and emotional narrative.
Carnage: Family Feud is the first true new-era Carnage story. This is Carnage like you’ve never seen him before, yet still remaining faithful to the original character. A perfect way to reintroduce yourself to Carnage or simply enjoy a modern take.
Axis: Carnage and Hobgoblin – Amazon
It’s Carnage as you’ve truly never seen him before, a man motivated to be good! After the events of Axis, Carnage has been “inverted”, creating an unhinged maniac determined to be a hero despite his murderous disposition.
This is a pretty random Carnage tale thrown onto the list, but that’s because this brief mini-series outdid everyone’s expectations. What could have been a throwaway mini-series for a forgettable comic event, Axis: Carnage turned into a delightful tale for a somewhat reformed villain. There are plenty of classic Carnage hijinks (aka violence) as he attempts to be a force for good, but there is a serious undertone to the story as well. It never feels like a throwaway story and honestly examines what would happen to such a crazy character turned hero.
Axis: Carnage is a fun, quality story featuring the titular character in a new light. While many of the events of Axis were quickly forgotten, that doesn’t mean this story should be.
Superior Carnage – Amazon
A new, superior Carnage is on the loose and the only one who can stop him is the Superior Spider-Man. This story, as you can guess, came about somewhat as a companion piece to the popular Superior Spider-Man series. But once again, this Carnage tale goes beyond mere coattail riding and tells a compelling story.
Featuring some popular B-villains, Superior Carnage shows what can happen when we see the Carnage symbiote join with a new, more focused host. Is this new Carnage able to do what Cletus Kasady never could?
Superior Carnage has all the hallmarks of a good Carnage story while providing a different take on the character. This is an excellent read for anyone interested in the overarching story of the Carnage symbiote and fans of the “Superior” era of Spider-Man mythos.
Minimum Carnage – Amazon
Minimum Carnage is an obvious throw back to Maximum Carnage, but as we have seen with other Carnage tales, this story is more than just a gimmick. Carnage has escaped to the Microverse and only Agent Venom and the new Scarlet Spider can stop him.
What’s interesting about this story is the stark contrast with Maximum Carnage. Where the original was unnecessarily flooded with characters, Minimum Carnage is tightly focused on the modern incarnations of Venom, Scarlet Spider, and Carnage. This is a very different story than those Carnage tales of the past, despite the familiar names. And as much as the comic is about another one of Carnage’s reigns of terror, it is also about the mystery and conflict between Venom and Scarlet Spider.
It might be surprising to believe that this apparent Maximum Carnage knockoff is one of the best Carnage comics ever published, but it’s true! Minimum Carnage is a great addition to the Carnage world and a can’t miss for fans of the character.
Carnage by Gerry Conway – Amazon
Noteworthy Spider-Man scribe Gerry Conway pens this new Carnage series with a horror-movie feel.
Toxin (now inhabiting Eddie Brock) and the FBI lure Carnage into an abandoned mine in an attempt to capture him. But as you can imagine, things don’t go as planned. Now the FBI agents find themselves trapped in the mine with Carnage all while Eddie Brock attempts to control the Toxin symbiote.
What I like about this series is that we get yet another unique take on the character, this time as a horror movie villain. It’s so fascinating how writers can use the same characters (Carnage, Eddie Brock) but place them in completely different settings. This is by no means a rehash. For those looking for a frightening tale, Carnage is for you.
Carnage U.S.A. – Amazon
Carnage and Cletus Kasady return to terrorize a Colorado town. Written by Zeb Wells, it is easy to see why this is considered one of the best Carnage comics.
Carnage U.S.A. is a classic Carnage tale, with the character spreading evil and chaos in a tiny American town. This time, the Avengers swoop in to stop him, but even they find themselves outmatched by Carnage. As can sometimes be cliche in these tales, only Spider-Man is left to stop the maniac from destroying the city. But can he do it before the U.S. government intervenes?
Carnage U.S.A. might sound like the same old Carnage story, but Zeb Wells is excellent at infusing it with new twists and lots of fun. This is a great pick for anyone who wants that classic Carnage feel set in the modern comic world.
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