Comics : Spider-Man: Get Kraven #1

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This review was first published on: 2004.

Background...

Ron Zimmerman. Smart, sharp, irreverent. Pushing boundaries, breaking ground. Networked, in with the bad (in a safe, network sanctioned sort of way) boy crowd of the U.S. satire scene. How could a guy with so much going for him write a bad comic?

Let's see, shall we?

In Detail...

Spider-Man: Get Kraven #1 (Story 1)
Aug 2002 : SM Title
Summary: Compiles entire "You Can Call Me Al" backup story previously printed in parts.
Editor:  Axel Alonso
Writer:  Ron Zimmerman
Pencils:  Al Rio, John McCrea
Inker:  James Hodgkins, Sandu Florea
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Review
Articles: Alyosha Kravinoff

Wanna know what's more annoying than paying $2.99 plus air-freight for a comic? Paying $2.99 plus air-freight for half a comic. The back half of "Get Kraven #1", I already paid for. It's a compilation of the three- or four-part story "You Can Call Me Al" that got split (a couple of months back) over various issues of Spider-Man and related comics.

So, assuming you didn't already read it in serial form, please allow me to re-cap the basic details.

First off, "Kraven" is at the bar - in a casual jacket. A weird kind of bar, full of bad guys like Scorpion, Doc Ock, Vulture, Electro, Grizzly, Stilt-Man, Mr. Hyde, etc. Huh? All those guys, just sitting in a bar - drinking? But some of them are dead! Others are tied up in major plots, and some just don't do the pub thing!

Correct - but here's lesson number one. Zimmerman doesn't give a sun-dried cowpat for continuity, or consistent character behaviour. He's strictly in this for the in-jokes and one liners, so let's just move on, alright?

And as for Kraven... this is Aloysha Kraven... son of Kraven. Yep, the psychopath who turned up with Calypso (wasn't she dead?) in Spectacular Spider-Man #248. Yep, that guy. But now he's not a psychopathic hunter, 'cos Zimmerman needs to change him. He's an urbane intelligent tough guy with a super-healing factor (yes, I know that's not original). He has a cute girlfriend who wants to be an actress.

Aloysha is actually (apparently) a nice guy. He's intelligent and well- meaning. Well, he can be brutally violent as well, when people annoy him for trivial reasons. Hey, that makes him sound like a fairly complex and interesting character! Actually, no. Any sense of complexity is completely overruled by a dangerously jarring and overbearing lack of integrity in his overall depiction. Never mind.

Seems that Aloysha and Spider-Man both got an anonymous call to visit this "Villains' Bar". Spider-Man turns up. Naturally, all the villains attack him simultaneously. He fights... He wins!

Hang on? Spider-Man goes into a bar full of villains without thinking twice? He beats all these guys that could individually give him a major headache? Then he sits down for a beer, while all the villains sit around and hold their aching heads? Hey, look, I just read the stuff - alright? This is fantasy. Let's just move on.

So, Spider-Man and Aloysha (call me Al) sit around having a beer, and Kraven The Hunter (Senior) turns up. They fight. Kraven (senior) issues a challenge and then scoots.

But is it really Kraven? Isn't he dead? Maybe it's Chameleon? But wait, Chameleon is dead! No, Zimmerman needs him alive. Whatever.

So Spidey and Al go to the looney bin where Chameleon lives. No, he's still there. So they go to the zoo (site of aforementioned challenge). Kraven turns up. Yep, it is Chameleon. Seems there's a secret tunnel in the floor of Chameleon's cell. How convenient. They all fight. Eventually, the good guys win. Peter and Al (who know's Peter's identity) are now the best of friends. Puke.

Well, that's the recap of the multi-part reprinted teaser story. As it turns out, that was the easy part. Now let's move on to the second half of this issue (which is the first half of the comic), which is the original material.

We start in Hollywood. National Studios. A scriptwriter is giving a presentation to a couple of Studio Executives. A couple of big, fat, gross execs. This guy has a ton of integrity, but the execs are brutal. They yank his chain about buying his script and then threatening to re-write it. They ruin his rep, and his career, and then kick him out.

So, the scriptwriter heads out into the night. Meanwhile, Aloysha Kraven and his chick are getting it on. But Al ain't in the mood. He's a deeply sensitive guy, and he wants to do something more with his life, and his powers. He starts dropping names about guys he admires... "Stern, Maher, O'Reilly...". Why can't he make a difference like they do? He has money, looks, love, powers, education. But it's just not enough. Boo hoo!

Given that we know he's the kind of guy who's happy to hold a knife to the throat of a guy who won't give his girlfriend an acting job, it's really hard to develop any sympathy for this two-dimensional asshole. But I digress.

So, Kraven heads out into Central Park for a run. He runs into Spider-Man and Mr. Hyde. They fight.

Afterwards, Kraven, Jr. whines about how tough his life is. He went to the movies that night, and saw a bad film. Apparently, bad movies are symbolic of human failure, of his own failure, of Zimmerman's pet peeves. That's giving Zimmerman (oops, I mean Al) a mid-life crisis. So he decides to go to Hollywood and make a film, for the sake of humanity.

Huh?

In General...

It's a fatal flaw, in some writers, that they inject their characters with the attributes they themselves most wish to possess. The result is a sort of zombie character, acting out the writer's fantasies. The true role of the protaganist is abandoned, and the work just crumbles.

This sadly is a classic case. Zimmerman and Kraven, Jr. are just all tangled up. In real life, Zimmerman does a bit of TV work, and is clearly buddy-buddy (or would like to be) with all of the "big-name" guys who pop up in his stories. Now he gets the chance to create a comic book character who is all that and more!

Hey, I can sympathise. Wouldn't every middle-aged comic fan really love to be a bad-ass loose-cannon super-mutant, with a ton of cash, a super-smart dog, a babelicious girlfriend, a massive education. I sure would! But I wouldn't go putting it in a comic book and then expect people to give me a big pat on the back.

Ron seems to keep expecting us to admire him for being on the inside of the real-world movie scene - and by extension, to admire Aloysha for the same. Well, guess what... I'm not impressed one teeny-tiny bit! I don't care whose pool parties Zimmerman gets invited to, it doesn't change the quality of the comic one little bit. Comics are about stories, characters, dialog, philosophy, action, structure, continuity and a ton of other stuff you won't find in Get Kraven.

So, other than being massively self-indulgent, is this book guilty of anything else?

First, the name dropping really hits a nerve. It stands out a mile in this book. Sure, it's not as offensive as building a whole story around Jay Leno (did Zimmerman lose a bet to Leno, do you think?) But it's still an out-of-context piece of facile bullshit that really winds me up.

What's more, the character development is pretty poor stuff. It works, in the same way that selling Pokemon toys to children works. The characters don't go challenging any boundaries, except those of good taste.

Spidey's appearance is best quickly forgotten, as are those of any other well-known Marvel characters. The plot is negligible. Most of the one-liners actually fall pretty flat. So in terms of writing merit, all we're really left with is any potential satire.

Well... let's see - let's go digging for some depth. The only time that we head into any sort of meat in this book is in the opening scene, where the two movie execs are mercilessly tormenting the scriptwriter with their threats to buy his script and then get Kevin Smith (more name-dropping) to re-write it from scratch.

That particular aspect is vaguely reminiscent of Barton Fink (a wonderful film by the Coen Brothers), but it falls short by going too far - if you know what I mean. It lacks the edginess of really good satire. It's just plain heavy-handed and self-conscious - rather like the entire story, sadly.

Overall Rating...

Let's face it - entertainment industry in-jokes just do not seem to form sound material for a Marvel comic book. And they doubly fail to appeal when the story-writer can't seem to get himself out of the frame.

There's the odd joke that works, and some good pace on the dialog. Not much else. 1.5 webs.