Credits: Written by J.M. DeMatteis, pencils by Mark Bagley, inks by Larry Mahlstedt and Sam de la Rosa and edited by Danny Fingeroth.
Cast: (Deep breath) Peter ‘Spider-Man’ Parker, Ben Reilly (posing as Peter), Kaine, Mary Jane Watson-Parker, Mr Locker, DA Blake Tower, Judge Franklin, ‘Stunner’, Cletus ‘Carnage’ Kassady, Doctor. Ashley Kafka, John Jameson, Malcom ‘Carrion’ McBride, Edward ‘Vermin’ Whelan, Shriek, Mr Nacht, Judas Traveller and the Chameleon. Wow, that’s a lot.
Plot: The Trial of Peter Parker part2 Judgment at Bedlam follows on from the out of left field cliff-hanger to the last issue Spider-Man finds himself restrained and in a makeshift courtroom. In the centre acting as judge is Judas Traveller, on one side is Carnage and the other is Kaine and what would either be the gallery or jury. Inside this area is Dr Ashley Kafka, John Jameson and Edward Whelan who are staff at the Ravenscroft Institute and several patients/inmates at Ravenscroft including Shriek, the Chameleon, Malcolm McBride and several others. Traveller states that Spider-Man is on trial here. Kaine is tasked with defending him on the charge on being a tool of evil. Traveller asks if Spider-Man has had a hand in creating these villains, thus creating more problems or is he one of the only things that prevents the evil that the inmates are capable of being unleashed on an unprepared society. Kaine violently objects, but Traveller puts him in his place, showing how ineffectual his ‘mark of Kaine’ is on him. Kaine relents, but he will not stop trying to defend Peter and save his life.
Back to the trial and Mary Jane is on the witness stand and is demolished by DA Tower. The problem is that when the murders occurred, Peter was missing. Now readers know this was during Kraven’s Last Hunt, so Peter as Spider-Man was buried alive. Mary Jane can’t account for that, unless she admits Peter’s secret identity. So sits back down and feels that she’s torpedoed Peter’s defense.
At Spider-Man’s trial, the prosecution (Carnage) calls it’s first witness (Carnage) who points out that the symbiote part of Carnage only exists because of the symbiote’s progenitor which Spider-Man brought to Earth. Kaine crosses the witness pointing out that Kassaday was a convicted serial killer and was a creature of evil before becoming Carnage. Things become heated between Carnage and Kaine and Traveller has to seperate them to bring order to the proceedings. Carnage then calls Malcolm McBride who became the villain Carrion through experimenting with the Jackal’s research. This was due to jealousy of another student, Peter Parker. Carnage then unmasks Spider-Man, showing Peter’s face to the ‘court’.
Enraged, Peter finds the strength to free himself and rages against Traveller’s attempts to break him, declaring that he can break him, but not before he is able to clear his name and save Ben. Traveller then asks the jury to relay the verdict. With the jury being composed of villains, now bolstered by Malcolm McBride and Edward Whelan being changed back into Carrion and Vermin respectively all cry guilty. Whilst elsewhere Stunner rails against Spider-Man and Kaine’s disappearance, before disappearing herself. At Ravencroft, Spider-Man is now at the mercy of Carnage and the jury who are ready to execute him. Kaine leaps into the fray, ready to sacrifice himself for Peter who he has placed on top of pedestal. He is ready to die for this man, who represents all he could ever hope to be. Peter stands ready to help but then it’s over.
All of the inmates are back in their cells and Kaine yet lives. Traveller judges that Peter is innocent and for now his investigations into Spider-Man are done. With a flash of light, Spider-Man and Kaine are back in the alley and Kaine is immediately grabbed by the throat, courtesy of Stunner.
Back at Ravencroft., Traveller takes the memories of Peter’s identity from Carnage in a very painful looking manner and tells him that all those who witnessed the trial will lose that information too and we’re left with Carnage screaming.
Notes: Well now this is a bit more like it. DeMatteis thrives in the psychological corners of Spider-Man’s universe and he gets to run wild in it. He gets to raise questions about the harm that Spider-Man does, opposed to the lives he saves and the crimes he stops/prevents. Is Peter responsible for Carnage in some way? Cletus Kassaday was a serial killer sure, but before the symbiote, he was an imprisoned serial killer and afterwards he was a monster who went on to kill so many more. The reason that he had the symbiote was that it’s progenitor was brought to Earth by Spider-Man. It’s that ambiguity that fuels the question posed by Judas Traveller. It’s one of those interesting philosophical questions that the existence of super heroes would pose.
Whilst we get this psycho-drama, we also get the actual trial and that isn’t going well. The prosecutor completely demolishes Mary Jane on the stand since the answer to Peter’s whereabouts will expose that he’s Spider-Man. Rather than show that everyone knows that Peter is innocent, we’re shown the cracks in this dual life and how that looks like lies and doubt.
The Spider-Man side of the trial is less legal (I’m sure no one here had passed the bar) and a lot more melodramatic as Kaine and Carnage come to blows and the end of the trial descends into a brawl where Kaine tries to sacrifice himself for Peter and that turns the tide with Traveller who drops him off with Kaine so that he can try and save Ben and his name. He’s then attacked by Stunner who at one point in the story vanishes and promises to come back. So at the end of this issue we are back where we started, but we’ve had a better story in the meantime.
Verdict: Writing 4 out of 5 – Sharper characterisation, well spaced story-telling and interesting psychological themes it is a big step up from part 1 and makes it a more satisfying reading experience. Plot is moved forward, character expanded upon and we get a little bit of mystery to keep us going along.
Art: 4 out of 5 – Bagley is always good value and the inking team of Mahlstedt and De la Rosa are relatively seamless and showcase the characters well, making the character designs iconic and the action scenes visually exciting. I am always glad when I get to a Bagley Amazing issue and he never disappoints.
Overall: 8 out of 10 – After a slow start, we get into the meat of the story and it looks like we are barrelling towards a great finale to the trial.
Next Time: Back to the Age of Apocalypse with Weapon-X