Many many moons ago, I stood in front of the comic spinner at the local candy store as my father played his daily (losing) lotto numbers where I spotted a book whose cover instantly caught my attention. Spider-Man #361, the debut of Carnage. Now, at this time, I never was a huge Spider-Man fan, I was more into Ghost Rider, Deathlok, and whatever my father saw fit to bring home. But this cover, of a red and black creature assaulting Spider-Man in such a way, it made me by it. And I bought the next 2 issues that followed, and this story stuck with me. Not only did it introduce me to Carnage, but it was my first taste of Venom as well. I was too late to see the stories of his hatred of Spider-Man, but I caught on fairly quickly with these three issues, and the 30th Anniversary issues that followed in Amazing Spider-Man #373 to #375. All these books, and more, all reprinted here, reprinting some amazing art from Mark Bagely and Eric Larsen. Oddly enough, this book also reprints Spider-Man: Special Edition, the Trial of Venom book you once had to send away through charity, if I recall correctly. Took a lot of convincing to get my mom to do that way back then.
Those books were the main reason I bought these, to be able to enjoy these books again as I did when I was a youth (makes me sad thinking back that far, but that's another story for another time). But, this also fills a hole I have in my trade paperback shelf. See, I already had the lackluster (to me) Birth of Venom, Venom: Lethal Protector and Maximum Carnage (a top 10 story for me since I originally read and owned all 14 books of it near 20 years ago), and this was the one piece I was missing.
I have to say, the art in this book still stands to this day (particularly because both Larsen and Bagely are still active today) and the stories are still solid. You can definitely see how the times were effecting the stories in this book, particularly the Carnage issues, but I feel they still do well to tell a great story, and if you are a fan of Venom or Carnage, this is a must own book for you.
Gave this a 4 out of 5 because, after 20 years, there are some eye-rolling moments in this that stand out now that I'm a grizzled old man.