Comics : Spider-Man/Arana: The Hunter Revealed

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This review was first published on: 2006.

Background...

Three months ago, Arana ended with issue #12. Its cancellation was no loss to the world, but there were a number of loose ends that needed to be tied up. This one-shot seeks to draw a line under the whole Spider Society vs. Sisterhood of the Wasp storyline and send Araña in a new direction. It has a completely different creative team to the comic, so it might be worth a look. Plus, Spider-Man is putting in an appearance to add some much needed gravitas.

In Detail...

Spider-Man/Arana: The Hunter Revealed
May 2006 : SM Title
Editor:  Mark Paniccia
Writer:  Tania Del Rio
Artist:  Jonboy Meyers, Tania Del Rio
Inker:  Jim Royal, Mark Irwin
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Articles: Arana

Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Anya Corazon is disturbed from a sound sleep by a vision of her dead mother. Sophia Corazon urges her daughter to release "it". Anya thinks that her mother is referring to the Hunter, and the young girl is frightened. The Hunter is her uncontrollable dark side. It is too dangerous. But Sophia is insistent. If Anya doesn't release the Hunter then she cannot fulfil her destiny! Anya reaches out to touch her mother's hand, but the dream fades and she awakens. This is not the first time Anya has had this dream, and it continues to disturb her.

Over breakfast, she chides her father for working all weekend, but she is secretly pleased. It gives he the opportunity to sneak out keep her regular appointment with her allies in the Spider Society. Later than night Anya and Miguel are parked outside the headquarters of the Sisterhood of the Wasp, as they have been every night for a week, eavesdropping on goings-on. Anya asks Miguel if he can shed any light on her recurring dreams. He evidently knows something, but chooses not to tell her.

Suddenly, they pick up a conversation between the magus Vincent and a high ranking Sister of the Wasps' inner circle. Vincent is reprimanded for his continual mistakes and inability to defeat the Spider Society. Vincent says that as long as the Spiders have their Chosen One and the Wasps don't, the Wasps will always be at a disadvantage. The Sister agrees. She has plans to revive the Wasps' chosen one, who has been lying in a coma since Anya interrupted the ceremony to create him months ago.

Vincent is alarmed by this. He doesn't have the power to accomplish such a thing. And besides, the time it not right. They should wait a year before trying again. The Sister has other ideas. Vincent will merely act as an administrator, the power will come from somewhere else: a totem. And it is all going to happen the following night!

Miguel is worried. The totem the sister is referring to is a living creature of great power. Miguel has to go and talk to the Webcorps board about this. He drops Anya back at home and speeds off. A little annoyed at this treatment, she needs to clear her head. Returning to her room she finds a blank book that her father gave to her, and starts writing a diary. She goes through all the events in her life since gaining her powers, and finds it all rather depressing.

Meanwhile, Miguel is telling the Webcorps board all about the Wasps' plan. The only way Miguel can see to even the playing field is if they can get a totem of their own. But where to get one at such short notice? Enter Spider-Man.

Coincidentally, Spider-Man (in his new Iron Spidey duds) is sitting on a roof top chatting to Anya. Seems she got tired of her diary and went out for some fresh air. Anya bemoans the fact that Miguel never seems to tell her the whole truth. Spidey suggests that he is probably protecting Anya, but Anya does not want to protected. Spidey suggests a bit of webslinging to clear Anya's head.

The pair come across a mugging in progress. They quickly save the day. Anya is exhilarated by the experience. She feels as though she has actually done some good. She doesn't often get that feeling working for the Webcorps. All they seem to do is fight the Wasps. She wants to do proper hero-work. She likes the feel of Spidey's job.

Meanwhile, Miguel is doing his own brooding. He has having visions of what would have happened if Nina had become the Hunter as she always wanted to. They would have gone up against an unstoppable foe and Nina would have died. It would have meant the end of the Hunter-Mage lineage. This vision is why Miguel never let Nina become the Hunter. He wanted to protect her. Could Miguel have the deeper feelings for Nina that Nina always wished he had?

The following morning, Anya is late for school. In the corridor she runs into Amun. He is clearing his locker. The Wasps have made it known that his services are no longer required. He says that he was set up for a fall and he hates that. When the heat is off, he will make the Wasps pay. He and Anya are no longer enemies. Anya feels that she should apologise to Amun, as he was so disappointed in her when she tried to kill Felix Jade. He doesn't see why she would need to apologise to him, and then he leaves.

At the same time, Spider-Man arrives at Webcorps at the behest of Miguel. Spidey agrees to help and be their totem. He swings off to scope out the Wasp HQ while Miguel speaks to Nina. They argue about Anya. Nina is evidently still jealous of the girl's position.

In the evening, Miguel apologises to Anya for dragging her into the fight against the Wasps, but Anya is her usual cocky self. In private, Miguel confesses to Anya that he is afraid of the coming battle. He also says that he been concealing things from Anya. He says that Nina was the first choice as the Hunter, but that he refused to bond with her because of his vision. This makes Anya feel like a second choice hunter.

Miguel also reveals that the carapace Anya can summon has nothing to do with her being the Hunter. The carapace is something extra. None of the previous hunters have had anything like it. Miguel thinks that it was a gift from the spirit of Anya's mother. Anya is angry and upset. The dreams that she has been getting from her mother to unleash "it" are nothing to do with the Hunter. It is about something else. Miguel says that Anya isn't a true hunter. Anya is tearful and she flees the building.

Spider-Man volunteers to go and look for Anya, and finds her sitting on the same roof top. Spidey persuades her that even if she thinks Webcorps have been using her, even if she feels betrayed by Miguel, she still has to do the right thing. Anya agrees.

Meanwhile Miguel, Nina and Ted are trying to stop the resurrection of the Wasp chosen one, but they are not having much luck. A number of Wasp gun man are holding them at bay with cannons. Vincent is there side-by-side with the Wasp totem, who is the same hooded figure we saw watching Anya at the end of Arana #12. This Wasp totem is raising the Wasp chosen to life, and soon it stands revealed as a massive green-skinned monster. It is the same monster from Miguel's vision. The same monster that is destined to kill him and Nina.

Seeing that there may be no later, Miguel declares his love for Nina. She seems quite pleased by this but reasons that now is not the time to talk about. The monstrous wasp chosen one closes on Nina, Miguel sees it coming and leaps to intercept it. The monster strikes him a mortal blow.

Suddenly Spider-Man and Araña arrive on the scene. Spidey takes on the wasp chosen one and totem while Anya attends to Nina and Miguel. Nina is furious with Anya. She blames her for what happened to Miguel. Miguel is dying. With his last words he tells Anya that even if she is not the hunter she might still be destined for greatness. He blames himself for trying to change her destiny. She must do as her mother asked, and release the Hunter.

Spider-Man takes down Vincent as the mage rushes to bond with his chosen one. But then he is engaged in battle with the totem.

Miguel dies in Anya's arms. Nina is distraught. Anya obeys Miguel's last instructions as releases the Hunter. She lets go of all the power that Miguel gave her, and it is transferred to Nina. With the spirit of her mother watching over her, Anya gives up all the power of the Hunter. She is left with the power that she always had within her. The shock is too much for Nina and she dies. But as Anya throws more power into her she gets up again, she is now the Hunter!

Nina now has a carapace of her own and all the powers that go with it. She despatches the Wasp chosen one with ease and (despite Anya's protests) she kills it. The enigmatic, cloaked totem is being fought to standstill by Spider- Man. In the end he picks up the unconscious Vincent and teleports away.

The battle is over and good-guys have won. Spidey has to intercede to stop Nina attacking Anya. Nina holds Anya in contempt. Anya realises that there is nothing for her at Webcorps any more. She is going to live the life of a superhero like Spider-Man. She says good-bye to Ted and then she gone, swinging away with Spider-Man behind her. She has taken back her mother's pendant from Miguel. It is now a remembrance of both of them. She vows to fully awaken her powers, and to discover the truth behind them.

In General...

Be under no illusion: despite the title, this is not a Spider-Man comic. Spidey's role is entirely peripheral and you could substitute just about any super-hero for him and the story would work equally well. No, this book should be considered for what it is: the last Araña comic. It exists as the finale to Araña's run in her own title and Amazing Fantasy (Vol. 2).

On those terms it is actually quite successful. We blaze through a tremendous amount of plot, that would have undoubtedly taken years to unfold if Araña had remained a monthly title. It must have been a daunting task for Tania Del Rio to take Fiona Avery's characters and hammer a decent story out of them, but she has just about managed it.

However, the title only really works if you see it as the final issue of Araña. If you're looking for a stand-alone special or something that makes sense without the need to have read the previous eighteen issues then this is not for you. You might be able to follow what's happening, but I really can't imagine why you would want to.

This comic puts an end to the whole tedious business between the Spiders and the Wasps. It takes Anya out of her role as a corporate stooge and spins her off in more traditional super-hero direction. I couldn't be happier about this. The whole environment in which Anya operated was a millstone around the characters neck. Only the creative team seemed to consider the rivalry between these two secret societies to be remotely interesting. There is even a nicely self-aware dig at this when Anya is telling Spidey why she is becoming disillusioned with her role: "All (the Spiders) ever do is fight with the Wasps!" Quite.

However, the plot that actually gets us to the end of the issue is more than a little ropey. If no Hunter has ever had a carapace like Anya's before, why didn't someone mention this to her? Why weren't Nina or Ted even surprised the first time they saw it? And why, when Nina becomes the Hunter, does she get a carapace herself. That really makes no sense.

We are led to believe the Tania Del Rio is following through with Avery's old plots and it was always intended that Anya's powers would come from another source, and that the Spider Society would only be a brief part of her life. I don't entirely buy this. I'm more inclined to think that Marvel saw the stories were going nowhere and brainstormed a way to extricate Anya from Webcorps. It feels like a retcon to me.

If it had been done over a number of issues, and if the clues had been sufficiently well laid then this would have been a surprising twist. However, I wouldn't trust Fiona Avery's skill to pull it off and although (on the strength of this comic) I believe Del Rio would have done a better job, it's not a story we will ever get to see.

However, I am willing to forgive the comic a spot of dodgy plotting because by the end of the issue we have Araña in much more attractive position than when we started. Should other writers ever get the chance (or the inclination) to write Araña stories, she no longer comes with all this corporate baggage which is ultimately a good thing.

The art is much better than we saw in the last few issues of the monthly series. Jonboy Meyers must have really been rushed in issues #11 and #12 of Araña because his art looks completely different here. The scene of the sun setting behind the Wasp HQ is particularly well done. However, I do find it odd that they chose to redesign Miguel and Nina so radically. They bear almost no resemblance to their depiction in older issues, which is a little distracting. And Meyers's Spider-Man seems a little too young and skinny for my liking. It's almost as though it's Ultimate Spider-Man under that mask.

Del Rio's turn at the art, during the flashback sequence is pleasant enough to look at, but far too Manga-esque for my liking. I'm not a big fan of the Manga style and I wouldn't want to read an entire comic drawn in that way. But it works for what it is. I do think it's telling that the salient points of the entire Amazing Fantasy and Araña runs can be condensed into just eight pages.

Overall Rating...

A better than expected finale to Araña. Not for new readers and a bit shaky at times, but it leaves Araña in a much stronger position for the future. Three webs.

Footnote...

So what now for Araña? The sales on this title were not spectacular. Even with Spider-Man's name on the cover it only managed to shift 16,216 copies. That may be 5000 more than the last issue of Araña's own series, but it is hardly a glowing endorsement. I think that Anya Corazon will be relegated to guest appearances and the odd team book from now on. I can't see a solo title resurfacing for some considerable time. It's probably for the best.

For those of you keeping track: Araña's next in-continuity appearance is in Ms. Marvel (Vol 2) #6. Shudder with excitement as our heroine is plunged into the Superhero Civil War. We even have a review of it right here on this site. Click over and give a read.