Kraven the Hunter has suffered one defeat too many at the hands of Spider-Man. He now sets a plan that will finally bring the wall crawler to his knees. Kraven attacks violently and succeeds in his goal, by "killing" Spider-Man and burying him. However, this is not enough, Kraven must prove himself as Spider-Man's superior in every way to achieve his final victory.-summary
Spanning across six issues that took place in the three Spider-Man monthly titles. Kraven's Last Hunt to me was definitely a great story no doubt. I do think there is some truth to one of its claims, which happens to be "it took the Spider-Man story to new heights". I think it did that by forcing Spider-Man through a traumatic experience.
The story is recognized as one of Marvels biggest milestones. It's also hailed by many fans as one of, and even the greatest Spider-Man story ever written. Some place it above The Death Of Gwen Stacy, and even The Death of Jean Dewolff. For those who may not know, those were some very tough acts to follow, so that says a lot about the impact of this story.
Writer J. M. DeMatteis mainly focused on delivering a strong narrative, that was built around self-destructing themes and character development, instead of high impact action. One can actually look at this story as a character analysis. The reader will more than likely come away understanding how different people cope with certain struggles.
Ok at first, I was never a fan of Kraven the Hunter. When compared to many of Spider-Man's foes, I would go so far as to say that I didn't like him at all. I never really saw the appeal with him. However, after re-reading this story, DeMatteis made me respect and understand the character to the point where he's now a part of my Top 25 Comic Book Villains List. There was just no way I could continue thinking of Kraven as some ordinary villain anymore, because he did what so many was unable to do, and that's kill Spider-Man.
Kraven made his first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #15 in 1964. He was a big game hunter who lived for the hunt, and he was able to conquer every beast that he set his sights on. That is, until he met Spider-Man. Spider-Man was the only "creature" to ever stand against Kraven, and beat him time and time again. Spider-Man has even beaten him on his own terms. Eventually, Kraven would be pushed to the edge, and it appeared that he allowed his sense of honor, as well as ego to overcome him. The constant defeats to Spider-Man drove him from obsession into madness.
DeMatteis takes an unexpected approach here. He makes Kraven into the main character, thus delivering a good portion of the story to the readers from Kraven's perspective.The writing is delivered through plenty of internal dialogue. Kraven also subjects himself to different types of rituals to prepare for his battle. He even seeks to overcome his own fears. The storytelling is pretty slow, yet gripping and suspenseful.
The story introduces one twist after the other. Kraven becomes Spider-Man by donning his costume with intentions on proving that he's a better Spider-Man. He even seeks to battle and defeat a foe that Spider-Man couldn't on his own. Kraven soon journey's into the filthy sewers to confront the half-man, half-rat, named Vermin. This villain was tough enough to the point, where it took the combined efforts of Spider-Man and Captain America to bring him down. This would be the ultimate slap in the face should he win.
The story is mainly character driven, with several people having to deal with their own demons. For some, this may hurt the pacing, but I thought it was well played due to the characters behaving like real people. One of the more interesting characters that I don't think gets enough credit in the story is Mary Jane. Her and Peter are newlyweds. She's known his secret for years and understands the dangers he puts himself in. She's forced to fight off the possibility that he could actually be dead. Spider-Man also has to deal with his traumatic experience. The thing that makes it more interesting is that he has to do it in the heat of battle. Eventually, the story shifts back to him, and he has to face his own demons. I have to say that there was never a boring moment.
Although Kraven's Last Hunt is not in the least bit action driven. The action panels are pretty good, and there is even traces of character development going on through the fights. I really liked the artwork because it fit perfectly with the gloomy atmosphere. Almost the entire story took place at night, under the rain, or in the sewers. I also feel that the different settings brought out the best in the themes. The gore is rather minimal, and there are small segments of nudity.
Kraven's Last Hunt is definitely a series that should be read by comic fans. Do I think it's the best Spider-Man story ever? Well, I'll have to revisit the ones I think are great before I come to a definite answer. This is a story that grew on me, because I was too young to really understand it when I had it in original form. One thing is for sure, I've been able to come back to this one often. This TPB collects The Amazing Spider-Man #'s 293-294, Web of Spider-Man #'s 31-32, and Spectacular Spider-Man #'s 131-132. The book is 145 pages.
Pros: -Dark -Well use of themes -Keeps one thinking -Character evaluation -Action scenes
Cons: -Could be too slow and not action packed enough for some
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