Written by J.M. DeMatteis
Drawn by Mark Bagley
Inked by Scott Hanna & Mark Farmer
Colored by Electric Crayon
Published by Marvel Comics
This 48-page one-shot was published in 1995, when Marvel and DC were still open to doing crossovers. Marvel published this one and enlisted a stellar creative team. J.M. DeMatteis, who had written Batman as a member of the Justice League for DC and then written Spider-Man’s solo titles at Marvel, was picked to write this and came up with a rather simple storyline (MINOR SPOILERS UP AHEAD). First, like most crossovers back then, this story just presumed that both characters always existed in the same universe, which I always found to be the easiest explanation. And the story involves a psychologist who has devised a special microchip that can be implanted inside the brain of criminally insane people and supposedly rewire their thought-processes to make them more docile. And she’s been authorized by a congressional committee to use the supervillain Carnage (for those who don’t know, he’s like an even crazier version of Venom) as her first test subject.
In the real world I’m sure this would violate a multitude of civil rights laws and would never be allowed. But this is a superhero comic-book, so just go along with it, okay?
To Spidey’s surprise it works perfectly. Carnage, in his regular human form of Cletus Kasady, appears to be totally cured, he’s now harmless and non-violent. Because of this, the good doctor is now authorized to go to Gotham City and use her microchip on The Joker. She brings Cletus with her, as proof that her methods work. And after The Joker is given the same treatment and likewise reformed, she holds a press conference to boast of her success. But then it turns out that Cletus was faking it all along. His symbiot shorted out the microchip in his brain, and he’s just been going along to meet the The Joker. Thankfully both Batman and Spider-Man (who followed the doctor to Gotham to keep tabs on Cletus) are on the scene.
Despite the presence of the two heroes, Carnage manages to escape, taking The Joker (whom the chip really did work on) with him. And when they’re alone, Carnage uses his symbiot to remove the Joker’s microchip (by digging it out through his nose), and the Joker is back to…well, “normal”…
Batman initially rejects Spider-Man’s help, demanding that Spidey leave Gotham and let Batman take care of “his city” in his own way (this was the era of dark, brooding, Batman, so his attitude makes sense), although later Batman comes to realizes that he needs Spider-Man’s expertise, and tracks him down so they can work together, although he’s still slightly reluctant about it.
Can Batman and Spider-Man get to Carnage and The Joker in time before they kill hundreds? And, more importantly, can two deranged psychos like Carnage and The Joker actually work together, or are they even more dangerous when turning against each other? For the answer to those and more questions…READ THE BOOK!
I can’t stress how much I love this book. It’s one of my favorite individual superhero crossovers. DeMatteis has a handle on all the characters, Spider-Man, Batman, Carnage, and The Joker, writing them all as their familiar selves. And Mark Bagely does his usual great work on the art. His Batman is as sleek as his Spider-Man, and Carnage looks suitably terrifying when in action. Like I said, its a simple story, and feels organic, like it just another Spider-Man or Batman adventure, and that’s exactly why it works so well. A great read, for fans of either character or both.
Unfortunately, like all of these old crossovers, it’s out of print, so copies of the original issue can be rather expensive on Amazon and it can also be found with several other DC/Marvel crossovers in The Marvel/DC Collection – Crossover Classics, Vol. 3