Comics : Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #637

Staff Only
Edit Review
Edit Title

This story is part of an Arc: "The Grim Hunt"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This review was first published on: Jul 2010.

Background...

The Kravinoff family – mother Sasha, daughter Ana, sons Alyosha and Vladimir – embarked upon a Grim Hunt to capture and ritually murder Spider-Man, an act intended to restore Kraven the Hunter to life. They succeeded to a certain extent: Kraven has returned from death, but because the Kravinoffs mistakenly killed Kaine, Spider-Man’s clone, rather than Peter Parker, Kraven suffers from “unlife,” and cannot die (except at Spider-Man’s hand, or so we learn from the recap page in this issue). Accordingly, Kraven has left Kaine’s corpse for Peter to discover, along with a note that says “Hunt me”.

In Detail...

"The Grim Hunt"
Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #637 (Story 1)
Sep 2010 : SM Title
Arc: Part 4 of "The Grim Hunt"
Editor In Chief:  Joe Quesada
Editor:  Stephen Wacker
Writer:  Joe Kelly
Artist:  Marco Checchetto, Matt Southworth, Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano
Lettering:  Joe Caramagna
Add. Art:  Brian Thies
Colorist:  Matt Hollingsworth
Staff Only
Issue
Review
Articles: Arana, Chameleon, Kaine, Kraven The Hunter, Kravinoff, Ana, Kravinoff, Sasha

Let me begin by saying I don’t appreciate it when readers learn new and vital information about the story at hand from the recap page. If Kraven can only die at Peter’s hand, shouldn’t that be established in-story?

We open with a quick intro in City Hall, where Mayor Jameson is dropping the exposition bomb: animals are roaming the streets of New York, raising havoc. Indeed, a crowd of spiders has even found its way into the press room, menacing Jameson with their overall ickiness.

Meanwhile, at Castle Kraven, Peter has found Kaine’s body. He’s not happy about this: about Kaine’s murder in particular, or the Kravinoff family’s shenanigans in general, said shenanigans including the Gauntlet, the murder of Mattie Franklin, and indeed the events of Kraven’s Last Hunt, about which Peter seems to have some unresolved anger. (I would, too.) He’s exercising his rage by destroying Kraven’s possessions, including an oil portrait, a statue, and such.

This sequence immediately made me think of the old Steve Adams Questprobe game. If a player directed Spider-Man to destroy anything, the program fired back the response “SPIDER-MAN is no vandal!” Apparently that’s not true.

Kraven has conveniently left behind a black Spider-Man costume for Peter to wear. Maybe the same one the Hunter wore while impersonating Peter? Peter dons it gladly, thinking “I’m coming... I’m coming for all of you.” This bit also made me think of something, namely the “Back in Black” arc from ASM #539, in which Peter’s donning of the black costume was “a visible sign to the world that he’s not the man he used to be.” When Peter wears the black, he’s not the jovial wall-crawler who pulls his punches. Team Hunter doesn’t know what it’s unleashed.

Meanwhile, the Kravinoffs have gathered in an upper room of Castle Kraven. Kraven begins by apologizing for his “outburst.” I think he means when he attacked his daughter Ana, forcing her to stab him in the chest. Didn’t he conclude that episode by telling Ana never to apologize? Don’t send mixed messages to your children, Kraven, that’s bad parenting. It’s also bad parenting to beat up your kids, but I digress. Kraven goes on to tell his family that the Spider must be dealt with. “You will receive your instructions shortly. That is all.”

Alyosha and Sergei don’t like being treated so peremptorily, but there you are. Their argument on whether Kraven is sane – Alyosha pro, Sergei con – is interrupted by Ana, who warns them that the “Spyder” is coming, and everyone needs to prepare for his anger.

Lore Sjoberg observed recently that ‘y’ is now considered the most eldritch vowel. So true.

Sasha plays the ‘loving wife’ card in an attempt to get more information out of Kraven, but he warns her to get with the program or he’ll cut off her hands. (What’s with all the domestic abuse? Not cool, Kraven.) Furious, Sasha barges in on Cassandra “Madame Web” Webb, whom she’s holding prisoner, along with Julia “Arachne” Carpenter and Anya “Arana” Corazon, in the furnace room. Sasha demands to know what has gone wrong, as the man who has returned from death isn’t the Kraven she knew. Madame Web reminds her that, actually, Kraven was always like this, but Sasha chose to pretend otherwise. “It’s like that with old married couples... sometimes you forget.”

Sasha further demands to know what she should do next, but Madame Web gloats that with Kraven’s resuscitation, Sasha has broken “the web of life,” and now Madame Web’s powers are gone.

“Then you are useless to me,” Sasha snaps, and cuts Web’s throat with her hunting knife. She then turns to Vladimir and tells him that “the other two are yours... do as you—”

Oops, the lights have gone out. I guess Peter has arrived and taken out the generators. In another room, Sergei, Alyosha, and Ana fumble in the darkness, searching for Spider-Man. He announces himself presently, by shooting his webbing right through the window and grabbing the Chameleon. With a yank, Sergei flies out the window. Alyosha blasts his shotgun through the gap, but fruitlessly. Spider-Man isn’t outside anymore, he’s inside, and he’s found his way to the furnace room. The prisoners aren’t in evidence, though there’s enough of Cassandra’s blood on the floor to tell Peter what he needs to know. Then Vladimir attacks.

They wrestle and hit each other, the battle taking them out the window and into the grounds. Madame Web, who hasn’t expired yet and can still make with the expository captions, observes that Peter’s rage make him “almost unrecognizable from the pure soul I know as Spider-Man... he is the Spyder, devoid of mercy, pain, humanity.” And he’s using his unfettered power to lay the smackdown on Vladimir, beating the lion-headed monster to unconsciousness with a big chunk of stone. The “Spyder” is about to deliver the coup de grace when Alyosha distracts him with a sniper’s bullet... which he dodges.

Alyosha is taken aback. “A bullet moves at 4,000 feet per second. And I don’t miss. He dodged it... he’s not supposed to be that fast.”

He’s fast enough to get behind Alyosha without him noticing, and using his web to pull him into the darkness. We don’t see what the Spyder does to Aly, but the sound effects are ominous: “krnchhh” and “skltchhh.” Ana is a hardcase, but this is too much, and she runs screaming for her mother.

Sasha has taken Julia, Anya, and the dying Cassandra to the parlour, for some reason, where she’s threatening them with a rifle. Kraven enters and mocks her. “Is that how you led the ‘great Kravinoffs’ in my absence?” Kraven is disgusted that his family, as he sees it, has fallen apart in his absence, and abhors Sasha as the party responsible. Kraven then slips away as the Spyder enters. He easily disarms Sasha, and then pursues her into the next room, pausing only briefly to free his friends.

Cassandra has lasted amazingly long for an old woman with a slit throat, but she has time to do two final things: firstly, to tell Anya to go prevent Peter from making “a terrible mistake,” and secondly, to transfer her gift of second sight to Julia.

Sasha flees through dark hallways, calling for her husband. The Spyder finds her first. “...my brother wanted to give you this,” he remarks. What happens next would only be obvious to someone familiar with Kaine’s power-set. Kaine could leave the ‘mark of Kaine’ on people by touching their faces and using his wall-crawling ability to adhere his hand to their skin. Pulling his hand away quickly, he could disfigure them... which is exactly what Peter does to Sasha. “Schriiiip”, “Aiiie!” and Sasha’s face is a red ruin.

Did I mention that the Grim Hunt was grim? Spider-Man intentionally maiming people, that’s pretty grim. Enter the Heroic Age!

Ahem. Ana jumps in to save her mother, but Anya also jumps in to fend Ana off. Peter tells Ana to beat it. “Are you really going to kill that lady?” Anya asks. “Then I’m not going anywhere.”

Kraven finally makes his entrance, looking more barbarian than hunter, given his stone axe, African buckler, and Conan-style skull-motif kneepads. He purports to explain that he himself orchestrated the entire Gauntlet, as well as subsequent events, “to harden you, Spider-Man, to forge you into something worthy of battling Kraven the Hunter... Have you suffered enough, Spyder? Or do I need to kill someone closer to you?”

It’s on: Kraven battles the Spyder, Anya battles Ana and Sasha. Team Hunter definitely fares worse: Anya headbutts Sasha into submission and puts Anya into a headlock. And from above, Alyosha and Sergei watch helplessly from a giant mass of webbing as the Spyder breaks Kraven’s sternum and knocks him to the ground. He takes Kraven’s spear (yes, Kraven found a spear somewhere) and prepares to impale the Hunter with it. Enter Julia, who uses her newfound psychic powers to show Peter what the future holds for him should he kill Kraven. He’d never be able to forgive himself; he’d lash out at his friends, both in the Avengers and in civilian life, and they would abandon him; he’d end up a Punisher-style murderer, killing his enemies, becoming “something ugly and terrible.” And she’s not talking about his Kaine-style hairdo. In Spider-Man’s world, it seems, only badass men have the prerogative of wearing their hair long.

Peter pauses, and Kraven overplays his hand, demanding that Peter strike and end the Hunter`s life. “It has to be you... if you do not kill me, I cannot die!!” [sic]. And to die is what he wants. “It was perfect,” he moans, referring to his last hunt. “It was a masterpiece. You [Sasha] took that masterpiece away from me.” He turns back to Peter. “Please?”

Peter tosses the spear aside. “You got a second shot, Kraven. Go be a dentist or something... we’re done here.” Kraven screams “No!” and then, with a panel-sized “Pwhooomp!” some flashpots go off, and the entire Kravinoff clan is gone. In about five seconds. Yes, even the ones trapped in the web ball.

Huh.

Epilogue time! Apparently the animal outbreak has resolved itself, so New York is safe. Mayor Jameson is being a blowhard, blaming Spider-Man for the spider-bites he suffered and the animal attack in general.

In the Potter’s Field, Peter, Julia, and Anya are standing over the graves of Kaine and Cassandra. All three are in costume: Peter is back in his traditional red-and-blues, Julia is wearing a red trenchcoat and red sunglasses as befits the new Madame Web, and Anya is in a variant of Julia’s old “Arachne” costume, black with a white spider motif. Julia is telling Peter that he did the right thing by refusing to kill Kraven, despite the Kravinoff provocations. As a result, the web is safe and whole, which is a good thing, apparently. Peter also observes to himself that the whole experience has drilled home, once again, the maxim that with great power comes great responsibility. Julia warns Peter and Anya that the Kravinoffs are gone, but only for now. They’ll be back, she says, some of them anyway. And with that she fades away, to Peter’s discomfiture. “I liked it when she was just hot. Hot and mysterious is going to be trouble.”

So where did the Kravinoffs go? All the way to the Savage Land! I’d love to know how they pulled off that trick. What, did they rent a Quinjet? Kraven explains that his family has grown weak, and the purpose of the trip is to make them strong. He will hunt them, and those who survive will be worthy of the Kravinoff name. Sasha objects. Given all she’s done to this point, she feels she’s earned that name already.

Kraven responds by snapping her neck. Bye, Sasha.

Vladimir attacks his father, but Kraven stabs him in the throat. “I’m sorry, Vladimir. You did not deserve this.” Kraven then shoots him in the head. Bye, Vladimir.

Alyosha has had it. He curses his father and storms off. Ana, though... Ana is impressed. “I have waited a long time, father. I want to learn.”

“You or your brother,” Kraven says. “Whomever returns alive will help me build a new family.”

“You see?” Ana says. “I told you you would find something to live for.” She scampers off. “Oh Alyyyyyy... come back! I just want to talk!” Her knives are out. “We’re family!”

A creepy enough epilogue, but the second epilogue is even creepier. In the dark, yet another Parker is digging his way out of a grave. This time, though, it’s Kaine. “One hunter cheats death and now walks the earth... so another must rise to meet him. Rise... Tarantula.”

In General...

It was indeed a Grim Hunt. Five deaths, at least four of which look to be permanent, plus Peter seriously acting out: smashing things because he’s angry; brutally disfiguring Sasha; and coming within a hair’s breadth of committing murder, twice. Or three times if you count tossing Alyosha off a building back in ASM #634, which I certainly do.

As I said in reviews of earlier issues in this arc, grimness isn’t to my taste at all, but I don’t begrudge the Spider-books catering to other people’s taste. What I do begrudge is lousy writing, and we have a fair bit of that here. Start with the pointlessness of the animal attacks throughout New York. I subscribe to the Chekhov’s Gun thesis that you shouldn’t introduce a story element without using it: if you don’t use it, you shouldn’t introduce it in the first place. So what purpose did the animal attacks serve? Spidey never runs into these animals, and they never threaten anyone he cares about. The animal attacks do show that Teams Spider and Hunter are playing for larger stakes than just Peter’s life or death, I suppose. But the question of Peter’s life and death should be large enough for readers buying a book called Amazing Spider-Man, I’d say. So all the animal business serves to do is to pad the book length out from three issues to four. Boo, hiss.

And do I really need to belabour the point about how lazy it is for Kraven and his brood to magically teleport to the Savage Land, just because that’s what the editors want to have happen? Spider-Man is motivated to see the Kravinoffs face justice, and at the end of the story, he’s got the means to make that happen. Having that desire thwarted – wanting the crimes and the suffering, but not the real-world consequences – that’s not grim and gritty, that’s just lazy writing, in both the moral and the intellectual sense.

Which brings me to Mattie Franklin’s death. Marvel is within its rights to do some editorial housekeeping, and there were certainly too many Spider-people running around: pruning away Mattie and Julia still leaves a Spider-Woman and a Spider-Girl in 616 continuity, and another Spider-Girl currently active in the M2 continuity. But if you’re going to kill her off, at least show the consequences of that act. When Bendis wrote a Mattie-in-peril story in Alias, he made a point of showing just how much Mattie’s life mattered to important characters in the Marvel Universe, including some characters who appear in Spider-books: Spider-Woman (i.e., Jessica Drew) and Jessica Jones, both of whom we see in the Avengers books, as well as Mattie’s foster father Jonah Jameson. JJJ appears in this arc, but only as comic relief. It’s only fair to see how he reacts to learning his daughter has been murdered in such a horrible way. I’m guessing we won’t have time for that, given that the “O.M.I.T.” arc starts next month and the Spider-books have new territory to explore. So Mattie’s death becomes an afterthought... she doesn’t even get her own grave, for goodness’ sake! So much for the grimness of this hunt. Grimness without consequences isn’t tragic, it’s just squalid.

I promised in an earlier review I’d comment on the fact that Kraven was coming back for good. But why vex you with my thoughts, when noted Internet sage Mighty God King says it so much better? Take it away, MGK:

“Firstly, there really isn’t any reason to bring Kraven back from the dead. His death story is a classic, so it’s not like bringing him back avenges a sin against comics. (Whatever that is.) Kraven, more than most villains, is a really dated concept to boot. [Remember: he’s a big game hunter turned baddie. A big game hunter. Do they even exist any more?] His heirs fulfill the functional purpose for his existence; you don’t need Kraven when Kraven’s Son or Kraven’s Wife or Kraven’s Daughter can do everything he can do anyway. And Kraven isn’t someone who should come back, frankly, even considering that comics characters do it all the time, because let’s not forget the reason he’s dead is that he committed suicide. The Chameleon points out in the story itself that resurrecting a character who killed himself is kind of a stupid idea, and as always, when characters in the story are pointing out that the premise of the story is stupid, you’re not in a great place.

“Secondly, if you’re going to resurrect somebody with magic, you shouldn’t be doing it in Amazing Spider-Man, because Spider-Man’s world isn’t one where people magically come back to life (stupid deals with the devil aside); he’s not that sort of high adventure superhero comic. Spidey is street-level superheroics, even when he gets a little mystical. Spider-Man’s world is one where when you die, you’re dead: see Captain Stacy, Gwen Stacy, Jean DeWolff, the Tarantula, et cetera. If somebody gets killed in a Spider-Man comic and you want to bring them back, you need to establish that they were never really killed in the first place: see Norman Osborn, Aunt May or MJ, all of whom were thought dead at one point or another, but who were after-the-fact revealed to be not dead and Spidey just tricked.

“However, there’s no way to use that method to bring back Kraven, since there is no way to write it so that Kraven didn’t really blow his head off. So instead, there’s another boring story about magic in a comic where it doesn’t really belong, and the resolution is that Kraven goes to the Savage Land until some other writer thinks of something to do with him... why would you go to all the trouble of resurrecting somebody like this if you don’t have a plan to do something with him?”

[Taken from http://mightygodking.com/index.php/2010/07/16/then-theres-a-twist-except-its-the-same-one-as-last-time/ ]

Overall Rating...

Sure, there’s lots of action, to make up for the stately pace of last issue. But the action is unpleasant. I, for one, don’t read this book to watch Spider-Man deliberately disfigure people. And the writing wants to revel in that unpleasantness but not take responsibility for a story that makes sense, or that treats the characters as people rather than pieces to be moved around a board. Two webs, for both the issue and the arc.