“Kraven’s Last Hunt” is a six-issue story arc that is the quintessential Kraven story, and one of the greatest Spider-Man stories ever. Created by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck, this tale is one of the darkest of Spider-Man’s entire history. It’s also one that was an inspiration for creators like Scott Snyder. It’s a story so good it will likely be read and reread for decades to come and, quite frankly, it’s a shock a movie producer hasn’t tried to tell it on the big screen. Released in the premiere Marvel Select Edition format for the first time, now is the perfect time to pick up one of the best stories in comics history.
If you’re unfamiliar, Marvel Select Edition is an ongoing series of collections hand-picked by Marvel editorial to highlight some of Marvel’s best stories. Along with the full “Kraven’s Last Hunt” story — which spans Web of Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man, and Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man — there is a two-page introduction by DeMatteis that explains the decade-long history of an idea that eventually became “Kraven’s Last Hunt”. This introduction, originally written in June 2006, helps show how ideas in comics can sometimes take years (and multiple pitches to different companies) before finally finding their final form. It’s a great introduction and a great way of seeing how a story as iconic as this took multiple pitches and multiple factors in its creation. As DeMatteis puts it, “stories have lives of their own.”
It’s a funny concept, especially when paired with “Kraven’s Last Hunt” being about death and rebirth. At its center is Kraven — a character first introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man #15 way back in August 1964. Here was a B-lister at best in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery, but was lifted up to become something so much more. Maybe that’s in part to “Kraven’s Last Hunt” sticking to its guns and its title as it puts a definitive period on the character (though we know characters never truly die in comics).
This is also a story about pushing Spider-Man to the brink and approaching these characters in a mature way. There are iconic images of Spider-Man digging himself out of a grave, but also moments of fear, rage, and deep confusion. Spider-Man is at one point cowering, naked and alone. The existential crisis is real. Meanwhile, Kraven goes through his own personal crisis as he literally becomes a spider and becomes superior to Spider-Man. He literally says the word “superior,” and it’s a crushing legacy to uphold.
Zeck’s art, along with inker Bob McLeod and color artist Ian Tetrault (Zeck also colors much of this book) is as iconic as the idea of this story. Zeck tends to push in on faces, getting very close as if we are experiencing the emotions along with the characters. Much of this book takes place at night, in the rain, and Zeck does well to capture the dank, slippery awfulness of the weather and — by extension the experience — what these characters are going through very well. Many of the iconic images of Spider-Man in the black costume can be attributed to this work and the darkness of that costume is reflected well in how dark this tale goes. The deep emotion felt in this work is in large part of Zeck’s work.
Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt Marvel Select Edition is now available in comic book shops and it’s well worth picking up if you don’t have it already. Often we talk about works like Watchmen as the greatest comics have to offer, but it is a gross insult to not list Kraven’s Last Hunt alongside it.
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