Spider-Man has had quite a year. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse blew us all away and won an Oscar, Nick Spencer has been writing a back to basics story with Ryan Ottley, and Kraven the Hunter enacted his biggest plan yet in “Hunted,” a massive 300-page story. That story is being collected for the first time this week and you can find it in comic shops.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
When Kraven returns, Spider-Man becomes the hunted! Sergei Kravinoff and his minions have been kidnapping animal-themed superhumans for months, and they need one more to complete the collection: the Spider. But what does Kraven want with all of them?! In Central Park, the prey is let loose, and the hunt begins – but Kraven isn’t the one in pursuit. Who has Spidey in their crosshairs? The Lizard has a target on his back, too – but he has a truly terrifying plan of his own! Peter Parker will find himself in a horrible situation, but there are lives – innocent and otherwise – at stake, and…well…he’s Spider-Man. When it comes to the big showdown, you have no idea how this one will go down!
Why does this matter?
This collection houses 11 issues, containing Amazing Spider-Man #16-23 and the three .HU tie-in issues. It’s pretty much everything you need to dig into Kraven’s ultimate hunt as he draws together all the animalistic villains of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery — a wild concept that Spidey editor Nick Lowe said is what Nick Spencer pitched to get the Spider-Man job. It shows.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Everything about this story feels like a tool to squeeze something new out of the character or his world. It’s very much focused on the villains and many of them are passed through the “Hunted” meat grinder and come out new. By the end Kraven is revitalized, Vulture comes out as a strong leader, and Lizard’s tragic story goes from bad to worse. Spidey’s rogues are essentially reset in some ways while empowered for future stories. Spencer does a good job here to set up a threat we’ve never seen in Central Park, forcing heroes and villains to team up lest they be murdered by robots that look like Kraven but are driven by the super-rich who want to bag and tag a villain. Along the way, Arcade plays a part in making Spider-Man’s life a living hell and Black Cat does everything it takes to keep Kurt Connor’s son alive. It’s a story of survival and understanding yourself better when you’re forced to keep yourself alive in an impossible situation.
Probably the most interesting aspect of this series is Kraven, who has cloned himself and set up this entire hunt scenario. He stands motionless for much of the narrative, watching and waiting for his chance to fight Spider-Man for the last time. It’s what Spencer does in the final moments that really hammers home a clever idea that makes a lot of sense. It adds to Kraven’s mythos quite well and it suits the character. Frankly, this twist of sorts makes the entire book worth reading.
It took a lot of artists to make this book happen and I can’t name them all, but Ryan Ottley, Gerardo Sandoval, Chris Bachalo, Cory Smith, Ken Lashley, Humberto Ramos, and Iban Coello pencil the book. Color artists like Cliff Rathburn, Erick Arciniega, Laura Martin, Brian Reber, Edgar Delgado, and more contribute. This is a story set at night and I think the artistic team has done a good job creating a darker toned atmosphere for Spider-Man and his rogues to battle in. The final moments with Kraven are really just perfect and the epilogue does a good job establishing new directions and focus for characters.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
The collection as a whole reads like it had many good ideas but never really settled on what it was about at its core. It’s a narrative that could have been boiled down to a tighter six issues. It starts off slowly, utilizing Black Cat as a protector who tries her best but gets nowhere fast. The one-shot stories that focus on Lizard or Gibbon are interesting since they dig into the characters, but they also pull us out of the “Hunted” story and make things drag.
Essentially, Spidey and the rogues are fighting for what seems like multiple nights when really it’s all occurring during one. Then you have a deeper focus set on Taskmaster or Black Ant that takes us further away from Spider-Man’s struggle. Speaking of which, Spidey doesn’t appear for long stretches, further alienating the reader from him. We’ll get brief check-ins with MJ, or the Lizard’s son, but the very fact we get a couple of these seems to suggest the monthly release schedule forced them to do this so as to not let the audience forget after these weirdly plotted gaps.
Is it good?
An enjoyable read in one sitting, but it’s obvious the plotting and planning of this event left stretches of meandering, unfocused storytelling. You’ll love what they do with Kraven, but he doesn’t matter much for a bulk of the middle portion of the book. That goes for Spider-Man too since the narrative focuses on specific villains for periods of time.
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