The Spider-Man Challenge: Monday through Friday, I read a Stan Lee-written issue of Amazing Spider-Man and write crap about it.
Whelp, as Lost’s John Locke famously said, “I was wrong!” It turns out that tomorrow’s issue is Daredevil/The Circus of Crime and today’s the very first appearance of Kraven The Hunter (and the return of The Chameleon, even!). Checkemout:
“Kraven The Hunter!”
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Synopsis: Lee and Ditko don’t waste any time with this issue, Spider-Man foils a group of bank robbers at their hideout, but their leader evades him impersonating an old man, meaning it could only be issue #1 baddie The Chameleon. He heads back to his swank hideout and decides to call in some help in taking care of the wall-crawler:
A week later, J. Jonah Jameson has Betty and Peter come with him to the pier for the arrival of the world-famous Kraven The Hunter. Liz and Flash show up and Betty, like in every issue, gets super-jealous of her blonde rival. Kraven arrives, but without warning, Kraven’s collection of dangerous animals escape!
Peter switches into Spider-Man, but falls back once he sees how easily Kraven takes care of the situation. Afterwards, Jameson is furious that Peter didn’t get any photos, Betty’s still icy, and Flash threatens to give him a fat lip. He’s really just getting it on all side today. Jameson asks Kraven what he’s in New York to hunt and he tells him:
Betty gives Peter the cold shoulder and Peter sits on the sidewalk and mopes about inevitably being hunted for sport. Back at his bachelor pad, The Chameleon shares some intel on Spider-Man with Kraven.Chameleon warns him not to underestimate their foe, but Kraven boasts about his enhanced, jungle potion derived strength. Later, Spider-Man stumbles into trouble while out on patrol:
He comes across a bunch of thugs breaking into a building and takes them out. Kraven watches from a distance, Chameleon having set up the thieves so that his partner could observe Spider-Man in action. Kraven makes his dramatic entrance and engages his prey. Kraven has him on the ropes initially, but Spider-Man’s intense strength forces the hunter to resort to drugging him. Spidey flees and discovers his hands can’t stop shaking. Kraven regroups with Chameleon and can’t wait to triumph over his super-messed up foe. The next morning, Peter still has the shakes and Aunt May tells him he’s set him up on a date with her friend Mrs. Watson’s niece, but Peter’s got bigger problems to worry about.
Peter shows up at The Bugle and Betty’s still miffed with him. But Peter forgets about her the second he sees Kraven there; turns out Jameson made some deal with Kraven to capture Spider-Man (I’m guessing there’s money involved? It’s never made clear, weirdly). At school, Peter’s shakes get in the way of his studies.
Peter continues to worry about the Kraven problem and heads out in the evening to find him. His spider-sense finds Kraven, but he ends up tracking The Chameleon into the woods instead. The duo spring a trap and OUT COME THE JUNGLE DRUMS:
Kraven and Spider-Man fight, but Kraven tosses magnetic manacles onto Spidey that gradually pull his arm and leg together. He runs from Kraven and manages to pour some webbing over the device. Someone triggers his spidey-sense and he’s surprised to find that he’s grabbed The Chameleon. Spider-Man turns the tables and Kraven finds himself fleeing. They fight, but Kraven ends up stuck in a giant web, defeated. Spider-Man leaves him there for the police, who’ve already nabbed Chameleon. The next day at The Bugle, Jameson praises Peter for getting pictures of Kraven AND The Chameleon and even offers him “one of my own personal bars of milk chocolate” (all class). Betty’s glad to see Peter looking chipper and apologizes for her behavior and says she’s free that night. Peter wants to go with her, but remembers he has that blind date. Betty’s put off yet again. Back at home, Aunt May tells Peter his blind date canceled and even Liz Allan isn’t available. Back at the pier, Kraven and Chameleon are deported and put on a boat to South America, but Kraven vows revenge after he’s trained in the Congo. Spider-Man sees the boat and wishes he was on it. “It looks so quiet–so peaceful!”
- I have to say, I don’t remember reading this issue before at all, but it’s pretty great. I think Lee has really come a long way as a writer. This is the first issue that really feels …clever. The Kraven-Chameleon team-up is inspired and feels natural, the fights are really well thought-out, and the dialogue is really crisp. Spider-Man’s last lines to Kraven in this issue are perfect.
- Kraven is another one of my favorite Spider-foes (I know I say that kinda often, but it’s just a testament to the quality of Spider-Man’s villains) and this issue does an excellent job of showing you why. He’s works great with the loose theme of “animal/predators” that Spider-Man’s bad guys tend to have, for one. He’s also got some depth: He’s the self-proclaimed greatest hunter in the world, but he resorts to cheating when things don’t go his way. Kind of like Doctor Doom, you get the idea that he believes he has honor, but he really just likes the idea of having honor. Awesome costume too, it shouldn’t work, but it totally does. He works perfectly with The Chameleon, who’s just an out and out coward and schemer.
- The really interesting thing about this issue is this is the start of the “Mrs. Watson’s niece” running gag, where Peter keeps missing the girl Aunt May’s trying to set him up with (who later turns out, of course, to be his future wife, Mary Jane Watson). One of the things that really makes these stories such classics is that Lee isn’t afraid to be funny and do silly running gags. Most contemporary Spider-Man writers seem unable to do that. I’m not saying a Spider-Man story needs to be funny, some of the best ones aren’t, but it tells you something when Brian Michael Bendis IS one of the writers to incorporate is and Ultimate Spider-Man is a consistently great book.
Final Thoughts: Really great issue all around and a real joy to read. Definitely one of the highlights of the last few issues. Tomorrow: Daredevil! Circus of Crime! For real this time! It’s going to rule.