This month’s featured crossover is “Kraven’s Last Hunt.” This story appeared in the pages of Web of Spider-man, Amazing Spider-man, and Spectacular Spider-man. I’m not sure why it didn’t appear in an issue of Stupendous Spider-man. Wait, I might be making that last title up. Although, wouldn’t it be a great title for a Spider-man book? But I digress. Below is brief recap of the story, and some thoughts on it.
Kraven’s Last Hunt
Issues: Web of Spider-man #31-32, Amazing Spider-man #293-294, Spectacular Spider-man #131-132
Writer: J. M. DeMatteis
Artist: Mike Zeck
This is a story about death. Part of it is about dying having known that you have lived a life with no regrets and are dying with honor. Part of it is about being afraid dying, and what will happen to those you leave behind. And part of the story is about being afraid that someone close to you may die, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Kraven the hunter knows that he is nearing the end of his life, but he feels like he has to defeat Spider-man before he goes. He must do this because Spider-man is the one creature that he has not been able to conquer. Defeating Spider-man will bring honor to not only him, but his family name. Honor that was lost when his family was forced to leave Russia with the rise of Communism. Peter Parker is thinking back on how many people that have been in his life that have passed away. He wonders who will be next: Aunt May, Mary Jane, or even himself. Mary Jane fears that one day
her new husband Peter Parker won’t return home from a night of being Spider-man. Also appearing in this story is a creature named Vermin. He doesn’t like the world above the sewers, but really he’s in this story to serve as a way for Kraven to prove himself. More on that later.
So, Kraven prepares himself for his encounter with Spider-man with some hallucinogenic herbs. On the streets, he finds Spider-man and first shoots him with a dart. Kraven traps Spider-man and shoots him. He puts him in a coffin and buries him on his estate. Kraven decides that it is not simply enough to have defeated Spider-man. Instead, he must become Spider-man to prove that he is superior. To do this, he first goes out on patrol stopping common criminals, and even once saving Mary Jane while she was out on the streets looking for Peter. She knows that this “Spider-man” isn’t Peter, because of how brutal this person is becoming. But this isn’t enough for Kraven. He decides to take on Vermin, who has been killing people on the surface, and has been dubbed the “Cannibal Killer.” Vermin was someone that Spider-man could not defeat on his own, and needed the help of Captain America to take him down. Kraven is able to beat up Vermin, and keeps him as his prisoner.
Two weeks have passed, and Spider-man emerges from the buried coffin after going through a drug-induced hallucination. Needless to say, he’s extremely pissed off. He gets Kraven’s location from two of his guards, but first returns to Mary Jane. After doing their thing, he leaves her to chase down Kraven. When Spider-man does find Kraven, Kraven won’t fight back. Having already beaten Spider-man, he feels that he has nothing left to prove. Kraven leads Spider-man to where he is holding Vermin. He sets Vermin free, and Vermin attacks Spider-man. When Spider-man won’t kill Vermin, Vermin gets the upper-hand. However, before Vermin kills Spider-man, Kraven stops him and tells him to leave because he’s proven his point. Kraven helps Spider-man, and tells him that he’s free to go. Spider-man chases after Vermin, and Kraven heads back to his home. Content that he has regained his honor, and has nothing left to do, Kraven kills himself.
Spider-man crawls through the sewers chasing after Vermin. All the while, he’s being reminded of being buried by Kraven, and reminded that he doesn’t want to die. After a long battle in which Spider-man struggles with Vermin and his own mortality, Spider-man is able to defeat him and return home to
his wife Mary Jane.
I highly recommend reading this story. This simple recap doesn’t do this story justice, because its real value lies in the emotions that DeMatteis is able to display in the characters. In Kraven, there is first a great desire, and then a great calmness, so that when he dies, it seems like it is time. In Spider-man, there is such a primal fear, it creates a vulnerability that you don’t often see in super heroes. It humanizes him, which I have always found to be the great thing about Spider-man.
Before I close, I’d also like to point out the high quality of the art. While DeMatteis did an expert job telling what the characters were going though, Zeck was able to convey that emotion within his art. When the art and story enhance each other, you get a well crafted comic.