When Spider-Man found a black costume in 1984’s Secret Wars event, he had no idea how much trouble it was going to bring him.
At first, Spidey loved a suit that created its own webbing and could transform into other clothing. Then, he discovered the truth: This “costume” was actually an alien symbiote trying to bond with him.
Driven off, the alien discovered Eddie Brock, and from there, Venom was born. Soon one of Spider-Man’s most popular enemies, Venom would beget Carnage.
From there, scores of other symbiotes have joined this complex world.
Venom’s popularity was proven when his 2018 solo film starring Tom Hardy became a box office smash. The sequel, Let There Be Carnage, has Woody Harrelson starring as Venom’s twisted foe.
This leads to a new interest in both characters. There have been scores of tales involving both, some rather rough but others terrific.
To prepare for the movie, these are ten of the best Venom/Carnage stories and showcase how these twisted monsters have become critical not just to Spider-Man but the Marvel Universe.
Honorable mentions: Carnage U.S.A., Separation Anxiety, Venom Beyond.
Enter Venom (Amazing Spider-Man #300)
Todd McFarlane became a star with his artwork in this now-iconic issue with writer David Michelinie.
After weeks of being stalked by a figure that doesn’t activate his Spider-Sense, Peter is thrown when that figure terrorizes Mary Jane.
He soon comes face to face with the alien symbiote. It’s now joined to Eddie Brock, a reporter whose career, and life, was ruined when Spidey revealed his greatest story was a fraud.
While at first a one-off villain, Venom’s fantastic look and popularity established him as an instant fan favorite. This first appearance was the beginning of his now-legendary saga.
Enter Carnage (Amazing Spider-Man #361-363)
With Venom becoming more popular, Marvel needed something even worse to balance him out.
During an escape, the symbiote “gave birth” to a new mutated alien. This suit bonded to sociopathic serial killer Cletus Kasady.
Now the murderous Carnage, Kasady is on a bloody spree. Spider-Man allies with Venom to take him down.
Mark Bagley provides great artwork as Spidey knows he can’t trust Venom. Yet Carnage pushes both to the limit in the first of what would be many brutal stories.
Lethal Protector #1-6
Shifting to an “anti-hero,” Venom agreed to a truce with Spider-Man. Eddie then moved to San Francisco to make a new life for himself.
Before long, Venom becomes the self-proclaimed hero for a group of people living underground. It shows a warmer side even if he still has his madness.
A major turn is the families of Venom’s past victims uniting to hunt him down with armored mercenaries. Spider-Man drops by as they face a new pack of symbiotes.
Besides a good storyline, it also explores Eddie’s past and what shaped a once decent man into becoming this monster.
This 14-part epic spread across five different Spider-Man books is one of the Wall-Crawler’s most famous crossovers.
When Carnage escapes, he joins with the equally mad Shriek. Soon, they’ve created a twisted “family” with Demogoblin, a warped doppelganger of Spider-Man and Carrion.
The group embarks on a bloody tear, massacring hundreds and causing chaos across New York. Spider-Man must join with Venom, Captain America, Firestar, Black Cat, Iron Fist, and other heroes.
It’s a brutal battle with Venom and Spider-Man debating whether to eliminate Carnage once and for all.
The storyline even inspired its own video game for one of the darkest Spider-Man tales ever told.
Planet of the Symbiotes
Told over the course of five specials in 1995, this event finally explores the origins of the symbiotes.
Realizing how the Venom part is pushing him to kill, Eddie tries to get rid of it. This causes the symbiote to summon thousands of its people to Earth.
As innocent people are possessed, Venom, Spider-Man, and the Scarlet Spider have to work together against them. Things get worse when Carnage absorbs symbiotes to become stronger than ever.
The story is excellent, detailing what drives these dark creatures and how, in a twisted way, Brock and his alien suit need each other.
There’s crazy…and then there’s the Joker thinking you’re too crazy.
In this rare DC/Marvel crossover, a doctor claims to have invented a cure for insanity. She tests it to turn Carnage and the Joker into model citizens.
It doesn’t take, and before long, the two madmen are teaming up. This forces Batman and Spider-Man into an uneasy alliance to stop them from causing a disaster.
The Joker dismisses the chaos-loving Carnage as beneath him. The sight of these lunatics battling it out is stunning.
It shows how, as extreme as the Joker is, Carnage’s lunacy is one of a kind.
Venom vs Carnage #1-4
This four-part mini-series introduced another symbiote into the mix.
It begins with police detective Patrick Mulligan trailing Carnage to his hideout. There, Carnage “gives birth” to yet another symbiote that latches onto Mulligan.
The detective transforms into Toxin, a more powerful creature. This forces a rare alliance of Venom and Carnage to eliminate him before he becomes too dangerous.
Naturally, Spider-Man gets dragged into the fight as he attempts to stop the chaos. Meanwhile, Toxin tries to stop his growing darkness.
With Mulligan appearing in the movie, the possibility he becomes Toxin makes this a must-read story.
What’s better than one Venom? An entire multiverse pack of them.
This event is a spin on the “Spider-Verse” storyline as a Venomized-Doctor Strange from an alternate Earth brought Eddie Brock to his world.
A mysterious race calling themselves the Poisons specialize in taking over symbiotes and plans to invade the multiverse. To fight them, the Venoms of alternate worlds join forces.
The joy of the storyline is watching Venom versions of Spider-Man, Captain America, Daredevil, and other heroes. There’s even a Venom Rocket Raccoon!
It puts Venom in a rare leadership role while showing how this symbiote can twist any hero into a darker monster.
This 2019 event may be the ultimate Carnage storyline.
After they separate from their symbiotes, Eddie and Cletus are back as Venom and Carnage. Carnage is worse than ever as he begins a plot to take on the power of everyone who’s ever held a symbiote.
This sprawling epic involves scores of heroes while also delving into the history of the alien creatures and why they’re so drawn to Earth.
There’s also the sight of characters from old Spidey foes to even J. Jonah Jameson turned into Carnage clones.
It’s a brutal end yet shows why Carnage is so feared in the Marvel Universe.
King In Black
This latest event is the sequel to Absolute Carnage and has Venom be the hero for once.
The ancient cosmic god Knull comes to Earth with a plot to conquer the planet using symbiotes. The first assault strips Venom from Eddie. Soon, darker symbiote creatures attach to the Avengers and other heroes.
The war is so epic that the heroes have to turn to the likes of Dracula and Doctor Doom for help. It’s a cosmic battle, yet in the end, it’s Venom who has to save the day.
The fallout of this tale is ongoing. Yet it also makes Venom more powerful than ever, which should be a huge worry for a certain Wall-Crawler.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage premieres in theaters September 24.More: Spider-Man, Venom: Let There Be Carnage