John Harju

“over the top – over the top, right now it’s killing time…
over the top – over the top, the only way out is to die!”

Scream Aim Fire” by Bullet for My Valentine

If I am being honest, this article is difficult for me to write for two reasons.  First of all, if I am being completely honest, Spider-Man is not my jam.  I have tried.  I have force-fed myself comics over the years, but I just can’t get into him.  He goes next to Superman on my list of iconic heroes that I find unrelatable because of how squeaky clean their ideals are.  I prefer my heroes to walk in the gray and be as broken and conflicted as I am.  Maybe I am weird, but I want to see myself in the hero rather than an iron-clad ideal.  In the end, I end up relating more with the anti-heroes or (as is in this case) the villains.

Secondly, when I sat down to read this comic to write this article, I was also in a book that was digging up buried feelings I didn’t know I still had in regards to a history I have of spiritual abuse.  I had started reading this comic with the intention of finding some literary distraction from said book, but instead, I was brought in deeper to face the issues at which I was being forced to look. We’ll get more into that later, though.

The narrative of this book has a lot of twists and turns, so I am reluctant to divulge a lot of the details.  Instead, I will focus on the key points of the book.  Peter has been reunited with his parents, who weren’t actually dead but held in a Soviet prison for 20 years.  Harry Osborne had just been killed, and Mary Jane had coaxed Peter to put down Spiderman for a couple of weeks so they could have a break.  Sound complicated?  Well, that is literally just the starting point of where the story picks up.

The narrative then shifts to Carnage breaking out of prison during a transfer of custody to a criminal psychologist who intended to study why Carnage is the way he is.  I find this to be incredibly interesting in retrospect because, after he murders the prison staff and breaks out, the rest of the story is literally a narrative study into that very thought.

In the process of breaking out, we are introduced to a new villain named Shriek.  In a very weird sense, she becomes Carnage’s “love interest for the rest of the story.  She is an exceptional match for him, though, as she shares Carnage’s bloodlust and view of the meaninglessness of existence.  For the remainder of the book, they continue to pick up more individuals from the morally deprived end of the pool of Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery and make their own demented family as a means to perpetuate the philosophy of chaos and meaninglessness.

The process by which Shriek and Carnage are defeated forces them to look at their own pasts and deal with the trauma and tragedy that defined their formative years.  Both suffered abuse and neglect at the hands of those in which they should have been able to trust and find safety.  Essentially, they had light expose their past and were confronted with the decision of forgiveness and healing, or hatred and neglecting to confront the feelings of the past.  In the end, Shriek chooses forgiveness, and we see her transform, even to the extent of beckoning Carnage to do the same.  I wonder how it would have looked if Carnage had accepted forgiveness and healing as Shriek had begged him to do.  Instead, Carnage chooses intense injury by rejecting forgiveness.

“See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God;
that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble,
and by it many become defiled”

Hebrews 12:15

I was a bit overwhelmed with how much I related to the core villains in this story.  In the church I was saved in, the pastor became progressively more abusive over time.  By the time that had become aware that this was not normal Christianity, the damage had been done.  I kept people at bay.  I was angry with God, angry with Christianity, and just hurting both emotionally and spiritually (not to mention the new anxiety problems that developed after the fact).  My irreverence and anger became my hiding place.  My relationship with my wife suffered, my work suffered, I suffered, but I could not forgive.  Over time, it was a process of slowly giving it to God offense, by offense to where I learned to forgive my old pastor.  In retrospect, I wish I could have done it sooner. But, the pain of hanging onto that bitterness wasn’t worth it.

In the end, of both the comic and my life lesson, we see that hurt people hurt people.  If you are harboring bitterness within you, you are hurting people whether you are aware of it or not.  Most of all, you are hurting yourself.  It has been said that bitterness is the poison that you drink hoping to kill someone else.  This is true.  Bitterness will never effect positive change in your life, and it will never affect the person in whom you are bitter in the way you want it to.  Allow the love and forgiveness of Christ to permeate you and free yourself from your self-imposed bondage.  Life is too short to allow people other than Christ to have that much power over you.

Be loved.

(post script note.  If there is anyone out there who is like me and caught the “buried emotions” comment earlier and also feel that it doesn’t make sense with the message of this article, allow me to qualify that these emotions were that of sadness that it happened and not any sense of bitterness or hatred.  Also, if anyone reading this is suffering abuse at the hands of an individual, please seek help.  There is help out there.  There are people who care for you and want you to be safe and happy.  You deserve a happy life and are worth it. –John)

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