just kidding. Spidey's back in capable hands the last couple of years and the recent 'Gauntlet' theme, with all his classic rogues gallery coming back to bitch-slap him was just the prelude, orchestrated by Kraven's family, to finally bring down their arachnid enemy and resurrect their patriarch. i figured i'd wait till the conclusion of the arc before i put it in my two cents worth (roughly 1/8 its value because of the economy).
so what's the deal? first off, i can't believe anyone would call himself "Kraven the Hunter". it sounds cool and all, but Kraven or 'craven' means 'cowardly' or 'characterized by abject fear'. i don't think anyone who fancies himself to be a hunter would like to be seen in that light. is this in reference to the Wizard of Oz, because Kraven is dressed up up in lion gear? ah, i know. its the media who gave him that nickname. Sergei Kravinoff. Kravinoff the Hunter. Kravin the Hunter! then someone makes a typo.
the main perpetrators of this scheme is Kraven's wife Sasha and his purported daughter Ana, and recruit Kravinoff's (crazy) son Alyosha. first up, kidnap Madame Web and Mattie Franklin (the Other Other Spider-Woman). the Madame, for her prognosticating abilities (and in a way, responsible for psychically drugging Peter), and Mattie, as a sacrifice to revive (with assistance from Diablo and Electro) the other Kravinoff son, Vladimir, who now becomes Taylor Lautner. oh, sorry, was that a lion-like creature? again, with the lions. uh, duh.
hunters like to stalk obviously, and no amount of restraining orders will keep them away. Spidey clone Kaine (i try not to think of the '90s, honestly) gets fragged but manages to warn Peter of the impending danger. he's somehow mysteriously being me when i get annihilated by allergies, but manages to rescue (in a way) Arachne (Julia Carpenter - the Other Spider-Woman) from Ana and Alyosha. strangely, they never did date.
another figure from Peter's past shows up: Ezekiel (gaahhh! too many Spiders!), who confirms the "war between hunters and spiders". and just in time, they get to save Araña (who's like the Dora the Explorer of the Spider family) from the Kravinoffs. or not. Spidey's not a hundred percent, so he keeps slipping up, and the hunters take Spider-Woman 2 and Spider-Girl. but wait - if they need just his blood to resurrect their Daddy, why don't they just go get Spidey outright? all this dancing around - and the altruistic Ezekiel leads him right into their trap (CGI and special effects provided by Mysterio), with Ezekiel revealing himself to be the Chameleon (their uncle Dmitri, natch!) - its just theatre. were they aiming for Tonys?
and when the deed is finally done:
do we really get Kraven? or someone who's already short of a few braincells further reduced?
ok, this series was dedicated to JM DeMatteis and Mike Zeck, who were responsible for Kraven's Last Hunt (and Kraven's suicide) and may be an aside saying, "we're gonna bring him baaaaaaaaaack - and y'all can do nuthin' about it!"
Spider-Man as it turns out, is the thread that holds the web together. and if he's weakened or dead, the web is broken. kinda like the Force. so all the creatures in NYC get restless (where's Animal Man when you need him?) and for some, like the lions (yes, the lions) get back to basics and attack humans. you know Hizzoner J. Jonah Jameson is going to blame Spider-Man for all of this the next day, right?
whooop. there it is.
Kraven, for what its worth, finds the whole thing distasteful (he retired on top, fer chrissakes - why would he want to come back?), and even the Chameleon is having second thoughts about it too. even i would be creeped out if i had a daughter who wanted to please me (ok, that didn't turn out right) the way Ana pathetically and desperately wants his approval. she even stabs him when he goes nuts (ok, that was courtesy of Madame Web).
even worse, its not Peter Parker's blood that brought him back ...
yes, apparently, Mysterio is not the only one who knows about sleight-of-hand and special FX. Kaine pulls a last-minute switcheroo, and thus giving hope that we can close the door on this cloning thing. but no ...
Kraven takes matters into his own hands (despite his better instincts) and challenges Spider-Man to a hunt. and even provides the clothing (where the hell did he get the black costume?). by the way, did we mention that Peter did another rising from the grave act? and he's the jokester in the Avengers.
now he's the Spyder (not the sports apparel brand), and he's laying the smackdown on anyone related to Kraven. the strange part is, Kraven gives his "marching orders" but chills out as everyone gets picked off one at a time. then when we get to the inevitable, mano-a-mano, the Spyder gets the upper hand - and takes the high road. because he's the goddamn thread that holds everything together. he's not like Daredevil!!
so, the Kravinoffs teleport out of there (lucky Chameleon slinks back into the concrete jungle with 3 million dollars tax free) and end up in the Savage Land. Kraven dispatches Sasha and Vladimir due to philosophical differences (and when i say "dispatch", i don't mean "sent to the crime scene"). Julia becomes the new Madame Web, and Araña updates her duds with Julia's black costume. Kaine, meanwhile, is dead as a dodo one moment, then rises from the grave too the next. apparently, he will become the first Tarantula who isn't remotely Hispanic.
the whole thing holds up. although i would rather have dead villains stay dead (yeah sure), Kraven is probably the last great Spider-villain that needed to be brought back (please do not bring back the goddamned Jackal!), in keeping with the whole Spider-Man revival (which has been great in the last few years after the awkward One More Day/Brand New Day). its a bit heavy into mysticism and the fantastic, which is a Joe Kelly trademark, but that works well with the Kraven angle. it just became a lot more creepier though, with Ana presumably winning her survival challenge with Alyosha, and returning to jump-start a tribe with her Papa. eeewwww.
by the way, the best line (and a critique of superhero comics in general) is this:
that applies to heroes too!
Amazing Spider-Man #634-637