Best Spider-Man Stories # 2: Kraven's Last Hunt

Posted by SMReviews Team 12 July 2012

At this point, there probably wasn't any suspense about which stories will make the list. The only question was which story was at the top, and which was merely second-best.

2. Kraven's Last Hunt (Web of Spider-Man #31-32, Amazing Spider-Man #39-40, Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132)

Creative Team: JM Dematteis (Writer), Mike Zeck (Artist)

What Happened: Feeling complacent about his life, long time Spider-man villain, Sergei Kravinoff devises a scheme to prove himself superior to Spider-Man once and for all and regain his pride. Through his psychological machinations, he convinces himself in order to do this he must become the Spider. After a battle with his adversary, Kraven tranquilizes Spider-Man and burrys him alive in a casket. He then assumes Spider-Man's identity and hunts down, defeats, and captures the creature know as Vermin, thus redeeming himself. Meanwhile our hero struggles with his own identity, his fears of death, and loosing the ones he loves. At the same time, Mary Jane is left wondering what happened to her newlywed husband, while having to fend for herself.

Why It's In The Top 50: Jesse praises the story for its psychological depth.

I feel like this is an epic and truely dark tale about fear. There are many elements of fear in this that each character has to face head on. Their paranoia becomes almost a bigger challenge than the object of fear itself. It seems that every major super hero has had to overcome death at some point and this is Spidey's moment of triumph.
To put it bluntly, its a shocking tale of desperation, about a mad man and his last ditch effort to put an end to his obsession with being the alpha supreme. To go out in full glory.
The story means a lot to me in terms of defining Peter Parker and Kraven, explaining their motivations, how they view themselves, and so many other deep psychological issues.
So does Mister Mets.
There are a lot of reasons that this story's compelling. As a huge fan of the Lizard, I'm honestly disappointed that the Lizard's never had a story this good. Even before it was cool, I thought that is this were ever adapted into the movies, the Lizard should have Vermin's role. I still think this, post- Amazing Spider-Man
Mary Jane has possibly her strongest moments, as a newlywed searching for her missing husband, and having absolutely no one to turn to.This story perfectly shows Spider-Man at his angriest, most traumatized, and still willing to do what is right.And I'm not sure if any Spider-Man villain's ever had a story as compelling as Kraven does here.
What the pros say: In a Round-table discussion for Write Now! #14, Dematteis explains his focus on the villains.
With a character as multilayered as Peter Parker, it seemed natural (at least to me) to go to for as many psychologically-driven stories as possible. I like to peel back the layers of a character, question the basic assumptions we all take for granted. Try to figure out why he does what he does. Find out what life circumstances, what stresses and traumas, pushed him to become the man he is.

Looking back, I think the single thing I did best was to shine that same kind of light on the Spider-villains. I did some stories with Kraven, the Vulture, Mysterio, Electro, and especially Harry Osborn that I'm very proud of. I never saw any of them as "bad guys." In my mind, they were trying to do the best in difficult circumstances: they just made horrendous choices along the way. We live in a world where people are forever trying to demonize "the other," "the enemy," "the evildoers." Which means that, more than ever, we need stories that examine even the worst human behavior with compassion.
What others say: Spiderfan.org voted it the third best Spider-Man story ever. CBR users recently declared that it was the best Spider-Man story ever. It was #6 on IGN's list. Wizard Magazine has said on separate occasions that Spider-Man VS. Wolverine was a dark Spider-Man story done right, and Kraven's Last Hunt was indicative (in a bad way) of the grim n' gritty comics on the 80's, and 90's.Kerry Wilkinson of spiderfan.org gives it a 3/5. Henrique Ferriera of the same website gave the book a 5/5. There's a final positive review at the Ninth Art website. JR Fettinger AKA Madgoblin thinks Kraven was lame and that the final battle with Vermin was unsatisfying.

Related Stories: Vermin was introduced in JM Dematteis and Mike Zeck's Captain America #252 as a monster created by Baron Zemo. His battle with Spider-Man and Cap, referenced in KLH, occurred in Marvel Team-Up #128 by JM Dematteis and Artist Kerry Gammill. JM Dematteis and Mike Zeck later worked on a sequel one-shot to Kraven's Last Hunt called "Soul of the Hunter." Vermin was one of the villains of JM Dematteis and Sal Buscema's run on Spectacular Spider-Man, appearing in "The Child Within" storyline (Issues 178-184) and "the Death of Vermin (Issues 194-196)" which also included the return of Baron Zemo.

Numerous villains would seek revenge for what happened to Kraven, notably Calypso in Todd Mcfarlane's "Torment" saga (Spider-Man #1-5), Kraven's two sons: the Grim Hunter and Al Kraven, and his daughter in the Kraven's First Hunt storyline in Amazing Spider-Man #565-567. A plot to resurrect Kraven was the basis for the Gauntlet mega-arc, which culminated in the Grim Hunt storyline in Amazing Spider-Man #630-633.

Scene Analysis:

There's tremendous and effective irony in these two pages. Mary Jane is looking for Peter, and gets attacked. And she starts smiling, because she knows something they don't know, as she thinks her husband has appeared to save her. Instead, Kraven shows up, disguised as Spider-Man. And MJ realizes that her husband is in even bigger trouble.

It's also a very one-sided fight scene, which reveals a lot about Kraven's character, his brutal efficiency and how he tried to incorporate the mannerisms of a spider. Mike Zeck deserves a lot of credit for his ability to convey that the man in the Spider-Man suit is a different man than the wall-crawler we all know and love.

A criticism of the story is that Dematteis robbed the reader of the traditional rematch between the superhero and his enemy. But a conventional ending would not have worked here. Kraven really thinks he won, and you understand his skewed position, even if the conclusion of the story makes it clear which of them is the better man.
And here's another example of Spidey when he's pissed off. He tries his best to explain the situation to Vermin, though the response is similar to that of a mad dog.

While this story elevated Kraven to the top-tier of Spider-Man's enemies, it also brought Vermin into the rogues gallery, with an interesting hook: the villain who disgusts Spider-Man. It's interesting to compare the subtle differences between Zeck's take on an out of control Spider-Man with the disguised Kraven from the earlier scene.

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