Comics : Scarlet Spider (Vol. 2) #23
This review was first published on: Nov 2013.
Kraven the Hunter has finally returned and is looking for release from life after his family resurrected him. However, the only person who can give him that, Kaine, is trying to be a better man. Knowing this, Kraven drugs him and dresses as Ben Reilly, trying to force Kaine to kill him by challenging his humanity. While this plan fails, Kraven’s daughter has abducted Kaine’s friends and brought them to the zoo (in a deadly sense, not like…sight seeing). Kraven brings Kaine there as well and after fighting some animals and Ana Kraven, the Scarlet Spider makes his way to Kraven. The Hunter has Kaine’s friends and is ready to kill them unless Kaine will kill him first and end the life that has been given to him.
Scarlet Spider (Vol. 2) #23
Jan 2014 : SM Title
Summary: Scarlet Spider vs Kraven
Arc: Part 3 of "Into the Grave"
We begin at the Houston Zoo, where Kaine laments how his choice to be a hero has endangered the people who believed in him, the people who believed him to be a hero. Kraven, however, knows he’s a killer and is hoping he can goad Kaine to give in to that side once again. Kraven feels as though he proved himself Spider-Man’s superior and has had both his victory and his peace stolen from him. Kaine attempts to escape to free his friends, telling Kraven to have his daughter kill him. Again, Kraven states that only Kaine can do this (Kaine must be particularly thick headed).
Kraven begins a savage assault, all while taunting Kaine with the knowledge that he’ll never be the man Ben was or Peter is (irony!). Kaine is surprised by Kraven’s strength and speed, especially considering that Kaine is stronger and faster than Peter. Ana pleads with her father to let her be the one to end his life, but Kraven tells her that her attempts so far have done nothing. He turns his attention back to Kaine and continues to beat him. Kaine continues to take the moral high ground, refusing to play their “game”, which momentarily stops Kraven’s assault. Does he truly understand? Nope! He laughs in Kaine’s face, amused that he truly thinks he IS a hero. Kraven orders Aracely to kill one of their captives.
Kaine lunges to stop Ana, but Kraven grabs him and beats him further. He tells the “hero” that this is not a game, it is a hunt. Kaine pleads with Ana to stop. She tells Donald Meland that he is her favorite…and then slices him across the stomach! Kaine is horrified and tries to run to his side, but Kraven again stops him. He asks why now Kaine has stopped killing, after killing Doctor Octopus and Kraven’s son. When Ana asks if she should kill another Kraven tells her to kill them all. Kaine gives an eerily calm “No” before screaming it and slamming his hand into Kraven’s chest. The impact breaks his ribs and also stops his heart. Kraven finally has the death he wanted….
Kaine runs to Meland’s side and pleads with him to tell him how to save him. He tells Kaine to bind the wounds, but Wally tells him to stop because he’s hurting Meland. Having made a web bandage, he cuts the rest of his friends down. Ana attempts one final attack, but Kaine silently cuts her across the face with his stinger. Kaine wants to be a better man, especially after all the faith Meland showed in him. But if being alive is hell for Kraven, that’s something he wants too…and he slams the villain’s chest again, re-starting his heart. He tells Kraven their connection is gone and that his was the final death on his hands. Kraven manages to get a final taunt in- “Are you sure?” Kaine turns back to his friends and tells them to call the hospital so he can bring him, but Wally angrily tells him that he’s done enough. With the hero distracted, Kraven has made his escape.
We cut to the Park Plaza Hospital, where Meland is in critical condition. The doctor informs Kaine and Annabelle that even if he makes it through the next few hours, he’ll never fully recover. Annabelle says they need to help Wally, but he’s disappeared. At the Houston Police Department, Officer Layton searches SHIELD’s Superhuman Criminal database and learns of Kaine’s true origins…
Wow. Seriously. Not a joke, not a scathing review…wow. I don’t think I’ve been this impressed with a Scarlet Spider issue since the beginning. Let’s look over this one a bit.
Do we still have Kaine’s usual inner-struggle? Of course. But this time it’s a bit different. This time it’s him being a hero because other people believe in him. We get to see a different side of things- this isn’t just him saying he’s trying and so on. This is about wanting to be a hero for the people who needed him. Very cool. Some growth!
And then we have Kraven…personally, I think this issue really capitalized well on the whole idea of his return. This is the same thing we saw when he was first resurrected, but not to this level of desperation. The little bit he’s done so far have really just been minor annoyances. This isn’t the same anymore. Kraven needs Kaine to end this and won’t accept any hesitation. If they were trying to sell us before on Kraven hating his renewed life, this issue completes it. The scene where he hits his own daughter was pretty dramatic I feel. And I loved the panel where Kaine tells him he won’t kill him- his face perfectly conveys that confused, crushed understanding, only to have him spit it back.
Donald Meland…I honestly didn’t see that coming. When everyone was alive at the end of last issue, I expected everyone to be alive by the end of this issue. The way in which Kaine fights and is yet kept from saving him added perfect tension. And to actually deliver on it? Very shocking.
Wally’s reaction is great too- he blames Kaine, which seems like the sort of reaction one might expect. The ending is perfect set-up for the next two issues as well. With all of Kaine’s talk of being a monster and Kraven taunting him to kill, its about time someone did a search on him. What will Wally do with this information now? How will this affect what happens to Kaine? What about the rest of the cast?
And finally, let me touch on one more moment, possibly my favorite in this issue. The whole page where Kaine brings Kraven back was perfect. He always believed that he was a monster, but because someone believed in him, and may die because of it, he WILL be a better man. But this is Kaine. And even at his best, he still has his darker moments. The line and moment itself- “I want to be better. I want to be the man he believes in. And if being alive is never-ending torment for Kraven…then I want that too.” It’s the perfect Scarlet Spider moment, capturing everything that worked about this series (redemption, yet on Kaine’s terms) in one page. We see that while he can be the hero, he still has the anger to him, and even his best actions can have less than heroic intentions. The fact that he actually killed Kraven worked…but the reason he brings him back just makes it even better.
Yeah call me crazy. Maybe I’m buying into the cheap moments, but for this series, this issue is a 4. It wraps up a story that’s been present since the beginning, it has fantastic dramatic moments, it has some genuinely shocking moments, and it has one of my favorite moments in a comic this year, and one that will probably be in my top favorite for awhile. The ending was perfect too and I am genuinely looking forward to what will happen next, even if doesn’t have long to go.