Amazing Spider-Man #389
Issue(s): Amazing Spider-Man #389
As for this story's psychological examination, the subject is the Chameleon, and the idea - suddenly! - is that the Chameleon is having an identity crisis because of his super-power.
He also seriously idolized Kraven.
Note also revelations about the Chameleon's age.
Can't Kraven and the Chameleon have just been buddies? It also would have been fine to reveal that they were lovers. But the idea that the Chameleon is suffering from some deep-seated hero-worship of Kraven is nutty and unsupported.
Anyway, Spider-Man fights tigers for like pages and pages and eventually confronts Chameleon, who is already far gone.
During the confrontation, Chameleon lets slip that someone led him to the Parker/Spider-Man connection, so Spidey investigates, and it turns out to have been Harry Osborn.
Writers should be encouraged to think about the psychology of their characters, and exploration of villains is a good thing. But DeMatteis' approach overwhelms the villains, making them incapable of being functional. I want to give DeMatteis points for thinking beyond "guys in tights hit each other" but the truth is that i'd rather have that than revealing that every villain has some crippling psychosis. It also doesn't help that this issue comes at the end of a crossover wherein the first three parts were inconsequential filler.
As for the Harry revelation: Harry died having reconciled with Peter, so i don't think that Peter should be so devastated by this. I guess the idea is more that Peter has run out of people to hate for the torture he was put through regarding his "parents", rather than he's upset that Harry still hated him. But i still feel like Peter is overreacting. Maybe the problem is that i never bought Peter getting so upset about the parents revelation to begin with because i've been doing my best to ignore the whole parents subplot. This whole thing is trying to get mileage out of something that i don't think many fans bought into to begin with.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: This is the fourth and final part of Pursuit.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
The Chameleon material here is DeMatteis formally bringing in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov as the backstory for all of this. In the novel, Smerdyakov is the illegitimate son of the family patriarch, just like the Chameleon, rechristened Dmitri Smerdaykov, is here.
The "Dmitri" in his name, in turn, is for another character int he novel the legitimate son Mishka ("Mishka" being the Russian diminutive for "Dmitri"), a drunken, passion-driven soldier. Beyond this, however, the Chameleon has little in common with the novel characters. (Well, he's a bit like Smerdyakov in that he's an antagonist who uses guile to attain his ends.)
Maybe it's an in-joke: Kravinoff sounds a little like Karamazov, especially to American ears. But it does seem as if DeMatteis wants these themes taken very seriously indeed.
DeMatteis will later name Alyosha Kravinoff after a main character from the novel as well, though the personalities don't match up at all. Quite why any of this means the characters have to be from the same time period as the novel's setting remains an open question, of course. And none of it really fits with the Chameleon's longtime roles as a spy and criminal organizer.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | November 22, 2017 4:14 PM
So, this stuff about the Chameleon being of the same age as Kraven is new information, right?
I wonder, though: when exactly was their connection introduced? Have they been "buddies" from the start?
Posted by: Piotr W | November 22, 2017 4:49 PM
Cohorts since Kraven's first story in ASM #15-- which was actually my very first Marvel story. Chameleon though, has been around since ASM #1.
Posted by: Holt | November 22, 2017 4:55 PM
The idea that the Chameleon is as old as Kraven doesn't really work. In Marvel Team-Up 27, the Chameleon tries to break a man out of prison who saved the Chameleon's life when the Chameleon was a child and the man is clearly not old enough to be an adolescent during the Russian Revolution.
Posted by: Michael | November 22, 2017 7:39 PM
The Chameleon thing would be better if the dude hadn't been around in a while or had always been shown to be a buddy of Kraven (i.e., maybe if this came sooner after Kraven's Last Hunt or if Chameleon hadn't been on the scene since then). However, after Kraven's death (AS RECENT AS LAST ISSUE, really), Chameleon seems a pretty well adjusted aspiring crime lord who likes hot chicks. It's a pretty jarring jump from last issue's guy who wants to kill Spider-Man because he feels slightly bad about his old buddy, Kraven, to this cringing maladjusted dude.
Posted by: Michael Cheyne | November 22, 2017 9:44 PM
I thought after reading Spectacular 200 that was a lousy revelation about Harry.
Trivia: The tie-in from What If 61 (by Kurt Busiek) ends with a "shadowy figure" enjoying Spiderman's downfall. It came out the same month as "Pursuit" and readers are told to read that storyline to learn who it is. That makes me wonder if Busiek was told to put in that scene without learning it was Harry (who's already dead) or if it was an actually alive Chameleon. Of course given the mess of revelations over the next couple of years, that figure could be retconned into anybody.
Posted by: iLegion | November 22, 2017 11:05 PM
Forgot to mention the Chameleon is apparently killed during the What If story, so he can't be the shadowy figure unless he actually survived. Makes me wanna ask who made the call that Harry was behind the fake parents.
Posted by: iLegion | November 22, 2017 11:11 PM
Well, now, you can justify that by saying it was actually Harry, what with the rubbish that Harry is "in Europe".
Posted by: AF | November 23, 2017 5:58 AM
It took a lot for me to give up Spidey, but Lifetheft and these following issues did the job.
Posted by: MindlessOne | November 23, 2017 9:51 AM
This story is a complete mess, but I feel it could have been a lot better. Chameleon wanting vengeance on Spidey for driving Kraven to suicide is a neat way of expanding upon their early appearances together, and I feel there is story potential in the Chameleon having an identity crisis.
But giving him some sort of Stockholm syndrome towards Kraven actually makes those early stories less fun in hindsight, and having him just collapse into insanity here feels just stupid. After year of showing him as a sane crime boss, you can't just say he's always had identity issues, you need to build those up from scratch!
Posted by: Berend | November 23, 2017 2:50 PM
When I got this issue, I had not (and still haven't) read Kraven's Last Hunt- but I knew through osmosis that it existed and I knew vaguely what it was about, probably from Wizard magazine and various reference in the assorted Spider-Man issues I had at the time. But the story here has little impact on a 13-year old who didn't really know Kraven's history and was just being introduced to the Chameleon at this time. In retrospect, this story makes little sense. Chameleon and Kraven hadn't been working together regularly for decades by this point and nothing in Silver Age stories where they were acting together hints at any relationship like the one presented here. If Chameleon was going to have an identity crisis, there could have been a dozen different ways to do that story without completely rewriting history.
Posted by: Jonathon | November 23, 2017 11:37 PM
I realize that this is the Marvel universe, where people build killer robots in their basements as a hobby, but it just seemed like a bridge too far to me that Harry Osborn and the Chameleon had the technology, knowledge and expertise to create incredibly advanced shape-changing artificial lifeforms that believed they were Peter Parker's dead parents, forge all of the official documents necessary to support their story of having been prisoners behind the Iron Curtain, and sneak them into Europe so they could then fly back to the States. That's the kind of work you go to Doctor Doom or Arnim Zola or A.I.M. to get done.
With hindsight, I suppose someone could handwave all this away by saying Norman Osborn was secretly behind it all, using the Scriers and the rest of the criminal empire he managed to build up during his exile in Europe to pull it off, and that this was a dry run for him unleashing all of those darn Spider-Clones on the world. But of course that would mean that we would have yet another story where Norman Osborn was the diabolical behind-the-scenes mastermind, and there's already enough of those.
Whatever the case, after ASM #389 I dropped all of the Spider-Man titles and, except for a few random issues here & there, I haven't read them since.
Posted by: Ben Herman | November 24, 2017 1:38 PM
Identity has been a relevant theme in the Spider-books since the beginning, but it's especially present in the Clone Saga and in the Ben Reilly years that follow. Having The Chameleon, Spidey's first super-villain who thrives on stealing the identities of others, as a key player in the setup to the Clone Saga is a nice bit of unintentional foreshadowing for this theme.
Posted by: TCP | December 29, 2017 8:55 PM
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