Web of Spider-Man #31
New Mutants #57
Fantastic Four #307
A great story and justifiably considered a classic. However there are many who hate it and feel it is a symptom of the disease that would overtake comics from the late '80s onward ("the darkening" I guess we'll call it). Personally I don't fault stories like this or Miller's Batman stuff from around the same period as being the problem. It's the copycats that followed that were the problem.
I noticed you skipped Spectacular 130. I don't recall the issue but a quick look online at the plot didn't give me any indication it would be out of scope. Is it still to come or is it out of scope for some reason?
Posted by: Robert | April 18, 2014 4:47 PM
Posted by: fnord12 | April 18, 2014 4:55 PM
Yes, I agree. This is my favourite Spider Man story. I don't think Spider Man should be a dark character, like DD or Batman...but this story worked because of its presentation of Kraven. It was fine to do a type of story like this with Spidey every so often, as long as it didn't become status quo for the character.
It's wrong to blame a creative talent with good ideas who was able to write a classic story for later lack of creativity, originality, and talent.
It's also OK to have some dark and depressing characters and stories in the universe, if it fits the character...that's how I enjoy seeing Batman used, for example. It becomes a real problem when every character starts acting that way, regardless.
We can't blame a Moore or Miller for wanting the freedom to tell the stories they want, which have stood the test f time. It's the fault of short-sided editors with their eye on fast money and hack writers for thinking that any story that copied the basic formula would do just as well as the original classic.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 18, 2014 5:09 PM
Fnord, the DeMatteis/Giffen run on JLI is the exact opposite of this Spider Man story. It's fun and light-hearted.
Which goes to show that the 1980s style could be creative and different without everything having to be dark.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Chris, I agree with everything you said. Dark stories aren't the problem, even with a typically light character like Spider-Man. The problem is when everybody and their uncle started thinking the only way to tell good stories (or successful ones, if there's a difference anymore) was to mimic stories like this but execute them with a sliver of the talent on display here.
Posted by: Robert | April 18, 2014 6:06 PM
Those DeMatteis/Giffen JLI issues were some of the most purely enjoyable comics I ever read. They were so, as ChrisK says, lighthearted and fun, that when a character appeared regularly in another title besides being in the League, it could be hard to see this as the same person (Black Canary in JLI versus as portrayed in Grell's Green Arrow, with its angsty navel-gaving dialogue, for example). But this was not Silver Age fun. It was a new, very self-aware kind of wacky enjoyment.
I remember that being a dark horse when DC did its massive relaunch around '86-'87. Byrne was on Superman, Perez on Wonder Woman, Baron on Flash...lots of heavy hitters, but JLI ended up being a lot of people's favorite book. Having read DeMatteis's Defenders, I did not have high expectations for him on a team book. Just goes to show.
Posted by: Todd | April 18, 2014 6:06 PM
According to DeMatteis, this started out as a Wonder Man/Grim Reaper story, then changed into a Batman/Hugo Strange story, before finally becoming a Spider-Man story. It worked well here but in the next Vermin story, DeMatteis had Spider-Man dealing with the guilt he felt over his parents death due to a side effect of Vermin's powers. DeMatteis originally intended this idea for a Batman story, and it would have worked perfectly for Bruce but it merely reinforced the stereotype that Peter blames himself for everything even if it's clearly not his fault.
Speaking of the next Vermin story, when Peter next encounters Vermin, he's in the care of Dr.Kafka, and it's explained that Reed referred him to Kafka because he felt the answer to Vermin's problems was psychological, not scientific. So it was confirmed that Peter went to Reed.
I think the people that complained that this story could encourage young people to commit suicide had a legitimate point. Part of the problem is that none of the characters comes out and says that Kraven did a bad thing by killing himself. And the other part is that Kraven says stuff that a lot of readers would agree with, like that there's no room for honor and human dignity in today's world. Of course, DeMatteis intended Kraven to be a hypocrite talking about honor- while Kraven was whining about how there's no room for human dignity in today's world, Peter was paying for a funeral. The problem isn't DeMatteis's intentions- it's that he was too subtle.
Posted by: Michael | April 18, 2014 6:42 PM
I'm overall not a big DeMatteis fan either, but this is a great story and his Justice League run was fantastic too (one of my favorite runs in all of comics).
Posted by: MikeCheyne | April 18, 2014 7:31 PM
Do you really think a lot of young people would relate to what Kraven was saying though? I don't think so...I think young people would recognize that Kraven was portrayed as the villain, and that he's obviously mentally unbalanced.
Marvel made DeMatteis write a follow-up story called Soul of the Hunter, which was basically an anti-suicide story, but I never read that.
DeMatteis would later rewrite the first appearance of Kraven as "Kraven's First Hunt" in a SM annual. That story went further in showing Kraven's hypocrisy.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 18, 2014 8:27 PM
Probably DeMaittes' best story. He isn't a writer I enjoy. Trouble is, he did almost the same kind of thing later in Marc Spector: Moon Knight & on Daredevil. It seemed like he had developed a formula and was trying to replicate the success of this.
One trick pony.
Posted by: Damiano | April 18, 2014 10:36 PM
Those were far lesser stories by DeMatteis. He certainly wasn't a one-trick pony...well, at least not doing this type of story. If you said "Hero learns a lesson about the power of Love and the Truth of the New Age", I might find it harder to argue with you...
DeMatteis' best work has all been totally different than this story. He did swipe this story for some of his lesser work, you are correct. But, he basically was just homaging Moench and Miller respectively on MK and DD anyway.
Posted by: ChrisKafka | April 18, 2014 10:45 PM
You've missed out the Published Date and the Title.
Posted by: Stephen | April 19, 2014 6:06 AM
Thanks Stephen. Added it in.
Posted by: fnord12 | April 19, 2014 9:49 AM
I guess there is no accounting for taste. I found this storyline bland even by DeMatteis' parameters. It did not help that Mike Zeck was penciling, either.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | April 19, 2014 1:59 PM
In regards to Spider-Man going to Reed, he went to him last time with his symbiote costume (Venom). So, it's not unusual for him to feel like his main go-to guy is Reed instead of Doc Conners.
Posted by: clyde | April 19, 2014 9:39 PM
So, is it by a silent common agreement that we don't mention here that later on it will be Otto Octavius who dons the Spider-Man suit to prove himself to be the Superior Spider-Man?
Posted by: Teemu | April 21, 2014 10:16 AM
That's why i capitalized "Superior". :-)
Posted by: fnord12 | April 21, 2014 10:26 AM
I thought as much, it couldn't be merely a too convenient coincidence, fnord. :)
It also leaves me terribly conflicted. Pointing out this sort of things for cheap points is a reason itself to go visit these old issues, and it feels almost a crime if you should pass such a chance, but then again the main point should without a doubt be these old awesome issues and very specifically not on how their signatory elements have been strip-mined and tidiously revisited by later writer to the extent that it's pulling down the original.
What I'm trying to say, good call with "Superior" here.
Posted by: Teemu | April 22, 2014 6:52 AM
I grew up reading DeMatteis' post-Clone Saga Spectacular run, so he was actually one of my first favorite writers in comics. Having since gone back and read his Marvel Team-Up work, I have to agree that (at least in those older stories) he tends to let his personal beliefs and literary interests take precedence over the plot. But, probably due in part to those issues of Spectacular, I do still get interested when I see his name on something, and I still love many of his more psychologically-intense stories (like this one!).
Posted by: TCP | August 22, 2014 7:59 PM
FNORD - when you wrote:
"and ewwwww don't hug him yet MJ he's been in the sewer!"
But it's ok when she hugs him (and does even more "stuff") when he was buried alive for two weeks? I'm sure he smelled great then;)
Posted by: clyde | June 10, 2015 3:53 PM
Why is it alarming she doesn’t know (or just can’t remember) the name of one of Peter’s enemies? He didn’t necessarily tell her.
I throw the haters of story who hate it because it ‘led to comics going dark’ on the same pile as the ones who decry Gwen’s death because it led to Women in the Refrigerator. It’s like blaming Henry Ford for car accidents. It’s not his fault it’s the fault of everyone else who did wrong.
Additionally Watchmen and the Dark Knight Returns I believe preceeded this and they were really the benchmark for dark comics.
I don’t think Spider-Man should be eternally dark, but I think he shouldn’t be light and fun inherently either. He’s ultimately versatile and a very humanistic character thus he should be able to play in both worlds. ASM under DeFalco and Spec under PAD was the perfect compromise imo. Additionally whilst this type of darkness IS the status quo for Spec Spidey under DeMatteis there were 3 other titles providing lighter stories and a counterbalance. Plus that run was incredibly well written with immense character work and depth to it.
It should also be worth noting that DeMatteis’ second run on Spec in 1997-1998 was also much more lighthearted. There were serious moments, a bit of darkness and psychological exploration (especially regarding Flash’s alcoholism) but it was nevertheless more upbeat and positive than this or his first Spec run. It demonstrates his versatility and skill as a Spider-Man writer since that was exactly what the titles needed in the wake of the Clone Saga.
Also ironically I feel that currently comics and comic movies are swinging in the opposite direction and more agressivly pursuing light and fun tones. Which is both good and bad. They haven’t realised that each character is different and variety should be the norm.
@Michale: You are referencing the Child Within. I like that story and think it is written well but yes Pater’s guilt over his parents doesn’t work. Psychologically speaking he’d just bee too young to adopt the guilt. The Vermin and Harry stuff in that story though was very good.
I really don’t think this story encourages suicide for young people at all. Ont he most basic level yes there is suicide in here but it’s being done by the BAD guy who murdered people, buried a man alive and was very obviously weird and insane. If Spider-Man himself did it that’d be one thing. But that isn’t what happened as for those who took it that way they were taking a weird or overly simplistic reading. From Kraven’s POV he has won. Objectively though he has not but DeMatteis is such a good writer it got inside Kraven’s head at that moment and made you understand why he beleivedhe won.
Having a character come out and say it was a bad thing would’ve been overly clunky and horribly unsubtle.
In regards to honor and dignity in the modern world, again that’s coming from a man who literally ate spiders, buried a man alive, murdered people, tortured Vermin and had visions of being consumed by a spider monster. Meanwhile Spider-Man in this story, the protagonist we have been following, is showing Kraven how wrong he is because he DOES have honor and dignity and overcomes the darkness he encounters. So in the context of the story why does kraven’s word deserve any weight? One could just as easily argue Vermin encourages cannibalism.
So I don’t think it was too subtle whatsoever.
Whoa a lot of DeMatteis detractors here. I get not liking some (but not all) Clone Saga stuff but his other Spider-Man work is superlative. He is probably the most in depth Spider-Scribe ever given how deep into the psychology of all the characters he goes. He really makes them feel real. Plus...why is New Age sensabilities bad?
I mean this story is dark but unlike many other dark stories a lot of people fail to realise it is ultimately incredibly life affirming. DeMatteis tended to take the characters into a dark place in order to make them appreciate the good stuff in thier lives. Hence Spider-Man gets out of thatgrave and gets to go home with MJ.
To be honest...when DeMatteis is on his A-game as he is here and with Lost Years and with ASM #400 and Redemption and Spec #241...I think he is the BEST Spider-Man writer ever. Yes...better than Stern. Stern is awesome but DeMatteis didn’t just write great comic book stories he wrote veritable literature packed with layers and psychology. A lot of his stuff is downright Shakespearean.
@Teemu: You mean the overlong poor excuse for a rip off of part of this story done in a less satisfying and immeasurably clunky and delapitated way which instead of reaffirming Peter Parker as Spider-Man and as a character actually summarily undermines him in favour of one of his worst villains who was a pet character of the writer despite being a mass murdering, would be rapist, would be genocidal monster who nevertheless is give ‘redemption’ by the end?
@#TCP: He doesn’t let his personal beliefs or interests take over the plot more than any other writer does, outside of the whole Judas Traveller thing. He approached Spider-Man in a more psychological way, which is entirely justified for any character, especially one so introspective as Peter Parker. his literary interests in Russian literature was just an influence on his work the way Moby Dick influenced Stan. He does have personal beliefs that appear in his work but it’s rarely if ever at the expense of the plot or characters. He always puts those ahead of anything else. E.g. he writes Peter, Kraven and Vermin honestly from their own POV, he obviously doesn’t agree with everything each of them do or hold to their beliefs.
He really isn’t a writer deserving of even half the criticism he gets, at least in regards to Spider-Man.
Posted by: Al | July 7, 2015 8:09 AM
@Al: I can get behind that summation. Having since read a lot of DeMatteis' pre-Clone Saga work on Spectacular, I no longer feel the need to qualify calling him one of my favorite Spider-writers. His run on Marvel Team-Up is still spotty at best, though.
Posted by: TCP | July 7, 2015 9:02 AM
@TCP: I agree, although I think his White Rabbit issue in Spec was funny. She is actually maybe my favourite female Spider-Man villain (I count Felicia as morally grey more than a villain) because she is just nuts, sort of Spidey's Harley Quinn.
As for the rest of his run though...its Marvel Team-Up. At best it barely qualifies as a Spider-Man title, one which is only really important because other titles chose to take pieces of continuity from it in better directions. E.g. MTU had Spidey meet Vermin and it introduced US audiences to Captain Britian. It was just a promotional title for other characters to ride the coattails of Spider-Man's popularity.
Posted by: Al | July 7, 2015 2:15 PM
I'm surprised you didn't bring up the dream sequence with Ned Leeds. Peter is haunted by his recent death. It seemed weird at the time of publication, because at this point, Peter thinks Ned was the Hobgoblin, so I'm not really sure how that sequence was supposed to work.
Posted by: mikrolik | July 7, 2015 4:39 PM
@AI- her not remembering Ock's name is weird because Ock was responsible for the death of Gwen Stacy's father, and since MJ knew Gwen at the time, you'd think she'd remember.
Posted by: Michael | July 7, 2015 11:53 PM
Captain Stacy sacrificed himself to save an innocent in an incident Gwen and to an extent the Bugle blamed on Spider-Man. The blaming of Ock for George’s death is one of those fandom truisms, sort of like how the Alien Costume made Spider-Man evil. I can see where you are coming from though, although meh...brainfart. Plus that was years and years ago and she has got other things on her mind in the scene in question.
Posted by: Al | July 9, 2015 11:48 AM
The Alien Costume making Peter evil is something that never actually happened. The reason why fans blame Ock for George Stacy's death is because the whole incident would have never happened if Ock hadn't been trying to kill Peter.
Posted by: Michael | July 9, 2015 11:42 PM
That’s like blaming Henry Ford for a car accident. Otto is evil but he wasn’t responsible for George’s death. George died due to his own decisions and his own agency. Blaming Otto for his death is thus illogical and you could just as easily blame Peter for making Otto lose control or the kid for standing there or the parents for not looking after the kid.
At the same time many fans directly blame Otto. As in ‘he killed Captain Stacy’. He didn’t. He didn’t even pull a Green Goblin wherein he knocked Gwen off the bridge but that wasn’t what directly killed her. Through no fault of his own he lost control of his arms and then that caused rubble to fall, there happened to be a kid there and George happened to see and happened to sacrifice himself to save the kid. At that point it is not Doc Ock’s fault at all, it’s an act of self-sacrifice/an accident
Posted by: Al | July 10, 2015 10:25 AM
That's like blaming Henry Ford for a car accident, if Henry Ford was trying to run someone over and then lost control & ran someone else over.
Posted by: Mortificator | July 10, 2015 10:47 AM
It's the Felony Murder rule, Al - Stacy wouldn't have died if not for Doc Ock's actions in commission of a serious crime, thus Ock is legally (and ethically) guilty of his murder. Michael has it right.
Posted by: BU | July 10, 2015 1:17 PM
Otto wasn’t trying to kill George or in fact anyone.
He was committing another crime.
Peter made his arms go out of control
That caused damage that then caused George to give his own life to save someone else’s.
Maybe legally he would be technically to blame.
But no ethically it was not his fault. Blaming him equates to blaming Peter. If Peter hadn’t got in his way or made his arms go out of control in the course of breaking the law by being a vigilante then George wouldn’t have died. But it wasn’t Peter’s fault either.
Murder requires intent to kill. Otto had no intent. It’s entirely different to say the Goblin and Gwen wherein he intended to kill her but the scenario wound up at the same ends though a different means he set into motion. Norman did the equivalent of pushing someone in front of a moving car.
Otto did the equivalent of be blinded by a car and without intent was set on a collision course with a bystander who was saved by a third party who consequently died. George sacrificed himself to save someone from what was ostensibly an accident which Otto had no intent or control over. It’d be different if Otto had controland created the rubble. Or if the rubble hit George himself sans saving the kid. But it was out of Ock’s hands. He wasn’t to blame for that. Certainly not in the same light many fans paint him in wherein it’s like a major kudos point on his villain record. “Green Goblin killed Gwen.” “Oh yeah well Doc Ock killed Captain Stacy, that makes it personal!”
Posted by: Al | July 11, 2015 1:02 PM
I believe Peter was not guilty of a felony in that affair. It's a good rule, to hold outlaws responsible for collateral damage - makes more ethical sense than a lot of laws...
Posted by: BU | July 11, 2015 3:57 PM
@BU @Al Ock's crime as you describe it would probably be considered Aggravated Manslaughter - murder wasn't the intent, but it was a direct consequence of certain negligent actions:
Posted by: Cullen | July 11, 2015 6:29 PM
Doc Ock didn't murder CPT Stacey. He created a situation where many people would/could die, and CPT Stacey sacrificed himself. There's a valid reason to blame Ock - without him, George Stacey would still be alive - and a valid reason not to - it's not like Ock personally tried to kill CPT Stacey.
I think this story is as good as Marvel gets, trying to make the characters dark. It's a good "dark" story and it's a good Spider-Man story. It works because of the lighter moments. Peter coming home to Mary Jane is one of the best superhero scenes ever, even if you're completely opposed to their marriage. That's MJ, that's Peter, that's a wonderful moment for them just before the big fight. It's not sustainable in the long run, but a very good Spider-Man story.
Posted by: ChrisW | July 12, 2015 3:04 AM
Was he not breaking the law by virtue of being a vigilante and causing property damage? Property damage which consequently led to the death of Captain Stacy? I don’t hold him ethically resposnsible but by extension we can’t hold Otto responsible either.
Yeah, but without Spider-Man he’d still be alive as well. He also would be alive if not for HIS OWN actions, or the kid’s actions. And again the primary reason for why rubble was falling was because Peter MADE Otto lose control.
Therefore it isn’t right to pin blame on him the way we pin blame on Norman for Gwen or on the Joker for Jason Todd etc.
@ChrisW: What isn’t sustainable? The dark tone?
Posted by: Al | July 14, 2015 7:16 AM
How well I remember this. Still one of the greatest storylines that Marvel has ever done.
I remember being at my cousins' in San Diego in the summer of 87 when this came out and buying it at a local 7-11. With big collections of the Avengers and X-books, I rarely strayed to other things. But it was so clear from the start that was something beyond special, both in the writing, and in the art (I'd love to see some original art because the inks look so good on here, I'd be curious to see what it looks like without the inks).
I still can't decide if this is my favorite Spider-Man story, but I think it probably is, even out-ranking the Death of Gwen Stacy, the Death of Jean DeWolff and Spider-Man: Blue.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 21, 2015 12:48 PM
Yeah, the dark tone isn't sustainable. With rare exceptions like this story or the "Death of Jean DeWolf" the darkness simply doesn't work for a Spider-Man story.
Spidey's a character who can work in complicated ethical situations - 'who's truly to blame for Captain Stacey's death?' being a good example where there are great arguments for all sides - but it wasn't a story which reached the mid/late-80s level of darkness here. And even here, it wasn't a regular thing, nor did those earlier stories [CPT Stacey's death, Gwen's death] have the tone that DeMatteis and Zeck achieve so well here.
Posted by: ChrisW | July 28, 2015 9:57 PM
Regarding the very dark nature of "Kraven's Last Hunt," here is what I wrote when I reviewed it on my blog...
Although “Kraven’s Last Hunt” superficially resembles the “grim and gritty” comic books coming to the forefront in the mid-1980s, it really did not fall into that category. It was actually the act of dropping the character of Spider-Man into a story along the lines of Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns and seeing what happens. And what occurred was Spider-Man stayed true to himself. Peter wasn’t driven by revenge to dig his way out of his grave, but by love for his wife. As Salicrup observes, it is a scene that very much parallels the classic Amazing Spider-Man #33 by Steve Ditko & Stan Lee, when Spider-Man, trapped under a mountain of wrecked machinery, struggles to lift it up, knowing that he is the only one who can bring a life-saving serum to Aunt May, who lies dying. And, despite his traumatic experiences and the temptation to kill Kraven, Spider-Man does not emerge swearing to wreck brutal vengeance, but wishing to bring his foe to justice. Finally, when Spider-Man himself must stop Vermin, an opponent Kraven defeated by brute force, the web-slinger does not descend to the level of the Hunter. Instead, he tries to reach out to Vermin with empathy & understanding, and to use intelligence to outwit him.
Posted by: Ben Herman | March 19, 2016 11:08 PM
I think it's a bit of a stretch to compare it to "ASM" #33, but your point is very well taken that the story may be dark, but Spider-Man himself does not become dark. At the beginning, he stops to drop off some money so Joe Face can have a decent box and a piece of ground. He doesn't even like or respect the guy and he shows common decency.
He does lose his temper with Vermin and Kraven, but it's entirely understandable under the circumstances. The fact that it can be accurately described as "losing his temper" and regaining it quickly sets him apart. We saw what a "Spider-Man" who lost control would be like when Kraven captured Vermin in the first place, both of them growling and clawing at each other. The story doesn't end with him chasing Vermin out of a need for vengeance or anything like that, but Vermin is a menace who needs to be stopped as soon as possible, and the first thing Spidey does after stopping Vermin is to promise to get him help.
The story is dark. Spider-Man isn't. And reality aside - he's been buried for two weeks and doesn't shower first? - the reunion with MJ is one of the sweetest, most sentimental moments I can think of in comic books.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 30, 2016 2:15 AM
The most remarkable part of this story to me is definitely the MJ-Robertson scene. I always like hints that Robbie knows Peter's secret (the most noteworthy being in Peter Parker #90, but there is also Amazing #196).
For the most part, Kraven's Hunt leaves me cold, wondering what is all the buzz about. But that scene reminds us of this long standing little part of Spidey lore, and goes a bit further by implying that MJ realizes or suspects it somehow.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | October 29, 2016 6:13 PM
This is a great story, although at the time and even now I feel the character of Kraven is not the same character that was introduced in ASM #15 so long ago. Now that I read from one of the above comments that DeMatteis had an idea for a story and played with it using several characters (Wonder Man & Grim Reaper, Batman & Hugo Strange), I know why that is. The original Ditko character was very cool in my opinion, but after his first appearances under Ditko, the character lost that and became a generic villain. So while this is a good send off for a classic character, it is still too bad it isn't actually the character Ditko created.
As for the MJ-Robbie scene, I know several fans who believe Robbie has known Peter's secret for a long time. They take it to be one of those things the reader just isn't told outright, much like how Magneto was the father of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch became a Marvel policy for several years before it was made explicit.
Posted by: Chris | October 29, 2016 6:36 PM
The idea that Robbie knows or suspects who Spider-Man is, in my opinion, should be one of those things that is never answered one way or the other, and this scene is a perfect example of why. A clearly distraught MJ goes to the one person that, consciously or otherwise, she thinks she might be able to talk to about this, and Robbie is obviously there to help, but she can't get any words out. She can't tell him.
I don't think Robbie knew Peter was missing (he asks "Is something wrong with Peter?") and one would think MJ would ask later, in a happier moment, 'so does Robbie know who you are?' but that way lies madness. Maybe this example is coloring my impression, but I think the ambiguity works much better.
Posted by: ChrisW | October 29, 2016 9:15 PM
I love that scene in the net, I mean to me it's not deminishing the other, theoretically much more dangerous, villains, to me it's showing how by facing huge danger after huge danger, Peter is now overconfident, and that confidence almost resulted in his death. It's appropriate to me, very human.
On a different note, how can MJ freaking hit a rat directly?? Do you know what kind of reflexes they have? Wait, could this be a sign... that she's a mutant?!
Posted by: KombatGod | April 11, 2017 4:48 PM