Spidey swings to help Mary Jane move into their new place when he's suddenly ambushed by Kraven the Hunter. Using a dart tipped with a drug, Spidey is helpless as Kraven catches him. In the real world, Kraven buries Spider-Man alive as he dons his costume in order to make his victory complete, leading into the story called Kraven's Last Hunt where ultimately Kraven committed suicide. But in this reality, as soon as the spider is within his grasp, Kraven kills him. Which leads us to the story...
Kraven dances around happily as his attendants lay Spidey to rest on his estate. However, killing Spider-Man was merely the first step in making his victory complete. In order to absorb the essence of his foe, Kraven immerses himself in a room full of spiders and begins to eat them by the handful. Next comes the final phase of his victory; showing that he is greater than his foe by replacing him. Kraven, driven by madness, becomes Spider-Man and sets out around the city.
Meanwhile, Peter Parker is very late and his new bride, Mary Jane, is getting more worried by the second. She decides sitting around isn't helping and sets out to find him. However, she ends up harassed by a couple of goons but fortunately, Spider-Kraven shows up. Mary Jane instantly recognizes that this man is not her husband by the way he brutally dispatches the offenders and sets out to find out who the imposter is and what happened to the real one.
Failing to find a lead through Peter's friends, MJ goes to try Spidey's...namely the Human Torch. Torch checks up on her claims of an imposter and finds that no way could the man he know put over two dozen men in the hospital, criminals or no. He calls in help from Captain America and Daredevil and they set out to try and find "Spider-Man".
J. Jonah Jameson, however, is enjoying Spidey's sudden personality shift and using it to advance his crusade against so-called costumed heroes. At the same time, each of the three heroes manages to catch up to Spidey by themselves. After a quick fight, they all realize that with all certainty that MJ's claim was on the money and they have an imposter on their hands. With this revelation comes a need for more information, and thus MJ reveals to the heroes her husband's identity.
Sometime later, JJJ tries to hail a taxi in the wrong spot as he's assaulted by Vermin. Vermin had been dragging people into the sewer for some time to a grisly fate, getting him dubbed the "Cannibal Killer", and it looks like it's Jolly Jonah's turn. Except Spider-Kraven intervenes and engages Vermin just as Cap, Torch and DD happen by. The heroes drive Kraven off. Leaving DD to take Jonah to a hospital, Torch and Cap trail him back to his estate where they take him down finally and find Spidey's corpse.
Kraven incarcerated, the heroes converge on the Parkers' apartment to tell MJ the bad news. She takes it as well as can be expected. Feeling as though it was owed her, MJ decides to tell May everything, including Peter's secret. May, of course, refuses to believe her and casts MJ out. At Peter's funeral, MJ decides the best gift for her husband would be to tell the world he was Spider-Man and get him the credit he denied himself for so long.
Having the Torch set up a press conference, MJ begins her announcement only to be interrupted by Jonah, bandaged up with crutches. He claims her statements are false, her being brainwashed by the three heroes with her as part of a cover-up of their true natures. Jonah attacks Torch with a crutch and gets hurt in the process, and the media spins it as if he attacked Jonah. This only fuels his anti-costume campaign and eventually forces the government to disband all super groups until an investigation is conducted. Now, the world is without heroes, heroes blame Spidey's death for their downfall, and MJ is given a new purpose; to clear Spider-Man's name as well as the rest of the superhero community.
This was a very good story. It was well written with good artwork that definitely left you believing that this is what could have happened.
Mary Jane was a strong character. Many writers in the regular Spidey comics choose to push her to the background and not use her to her full potential. But, since the weight of the book fell on her with Spidey dead, it was truly a shining moment for the character and a testament to the strength she's always showed over the years.
My only problem with it really was that between the three heroes, Kraven shouldn't have given them as much of a hard time when they all fought together. Granted, the earlier solo fights are plausible because they didn't want to potentially hurt their friend until they were sure and Kraven has been undergoing rituals to make him stronger. But together, especially with master strategist Captain America, Kraven should never have made it back to his estate. But I guess they had to have a reason to discover Spidey's body and bring closure to the tale.
Also, Mr. Fantastic seemed unduly harsh despite their situation. As a logical man of science, blaming Spidey's death for the end of the age of heroes just seems a little out of character.
The backup short, "What If...the Living Recorder Had To Work On Earth?", and joke panel, "What If...Daredevil Had a Dishonest Tailor?!", at the end of the book were funny additions. If you ever wanted to see DD in plaid, this book's for you!
Four webs. Lost a web for those minor gripes, but otherwise a good addition to your collection. If anything, What If? should have been longer to allow the stories to flow more smoothly and not feel rushed at times. There were a lot of good moments that could have only benefited from being expanded.