The image to the left is the cover for Web of Spider-Man #32, penciled by Mike Zeck (well, it's a painted version). It was part of the six part story, Kraven's Last Hunt that was published way back in 1987. The cover is widely considered one of the greatest covers in Spider-Man history. What's it doing in my blog? Well, aside from looking sweet as it always done, I've just finished reading my trade paper back of J.M. DeMatties masterpeice, Kraven's Last Hunt. You just knew I hadda say something about this.
I've a confession to make first: this weekened marked the first time I've read all of Kraven's Last Hunt. I own the two issues of Spectacular Spider-Man that make up this story, which I picked up more than ten years ago. Until this weekend, that was all I'd ever read of this story, but even then, I thought those two issues were great. Reading them again with the rest of the story was naturally, a whole lot better than my first mini encoutner with this story years ago.
This may make me the odd man out, but I've alays liked Kraven inspite of his somewhat campy nature. Many readers didn't give a rat's butt about him until he was offed in this epic story. As much as I've enjoyed previous tales with Kraven, I cannot aruge that this (along with Kraven's First Hunt from the '96 Senssational Spider-Man Annual) is the best that the hunter has even been written.
Kraven is a man who has long past his prime. He's defeated and tamed every animal in the animal kingdom. But one foe has always prooved his better and Kraven's repeated defeats have been hanging over his head like an unpaid bill. This elusive prey is not an animal, but a man. Spider-Man.
One of my favorite lines in this story is spoken from Kraven and it's one that has stuck with me since I read it a few days ago:
"Oh I see now; I understand in a way I never could before. This costumed adventurer called Spider-Man is just that: a man"
When Kraven set out on what would be his final hunt, two things frustrated him.
1. His numerous defeats by Spider-Man
2. He didn't think anyone had nobility or honor anymore.
By "killing" Spider-Man, taking his placing and proving himself superior to the web-slinger, and then meeting with Spidey after he crawled his way back up from the grave (which is a griping scene. Really, words fail to convey it.), he sees that Spider-Man is the second half of his name, not the first like he previously thought. Kraven went into this thing thinking that because of all the things Spider-Man did he more insect like. When he meets with Spider-Man again, he realizes that Spider-Man, despite everything he can do is a man. In Kraven's own twisted way, he was ability to restore his honor by taking Spidey's place and he found honor and decency in Spider-Man when the web-head refused to fight Vermin for his own amusement. In many ways, this story is more about Kraven than it is about Spidey. Sure, there are some great moments with Spidey (which I'll get to in a bit), but this story really gets into Kraven's head more any any other tale. Again, this is the best he has ever been written.
I have never really give much thought to being burried alive, but this story makes it unfathomably frightening. Spidey making his way back to the surface was one of my favorite scenes in this story. His motivation for leaving the pit? Mary Jane. She was his reason for leaving that dark and lonely place. And MJ was emotionally tortured almost as much as her husband was. For two weeks Peters was six feet under. Two. Weeks. She wasn't sure if Peter was either dead or crazy until the moment they were reunited.
In the end, I cannot say enough great things about this story. It's excellent. It's magnificent. You have to read it. It's a ridulously easy TPB to find because Marvel has been reprinting it every few years.
It's interesting that KLH has been an evolving story since it was first plotted by DeMatties before it was published. It started as a Wonder Man story, then became a Batman story, and finally, a Spider-Man story. Read the introduction at the beginning of the book for the whole story straight from the man himself.