Remember what I said last time about the uninteresting fight scenes ruining the rest of the issue? Well, here it comes again.
Spider-Man breaks up a bank robbery but one of the crooks is actually the Chameleon in disguise and he uses his appearance-changing talents to escape. Fed up with the web-slinger ruining his plans, the Chameleon contacts his old friend Kraven the Hunter and invites him to New York for a hunt.
Kraven is the star of his own TV show (filmed somewhere out of the country) in which he wrestles animals, as far as I can tell, and he flies in on his private plane to meet his public. While at the airport, his animals escape and he impresses the crowd by re-capturing them. The release of the animals has all been planned, of course, to make Kraven look good. He uses this stunt as a springboard to announce that he is in New York to hunt Spider-Man. Even J. Jonah Jameson is aghast at this. "Hey, he's a bad guy but he's a human being" he says, "I don't think that's such a great idea. I think we have laws against that."
Kraven doesn't care. He has been "genetically enhanced by the most cutting- edge scientists in the world" to be "faster and stronger than any man on earth" and he's anxious to prove it. He meets with the Chameleon who has hired some thugs to draw Spider-Man out. Kraven watches the fight to gauge his opponent and then takes the web-slinger on himself. In the first battle, Kraven paralyzes Spider-Man's left arm by hitting the correct pressure point in the shoulder forcing Spidey to run away. It sure looks like he's going to lose the second fight as well except he lucks out when Kraven's poison dart hits his web- shooter instead of flesh. Then he takes advantage of the squabble between Kraven and the Chameleon to put them both away.
Mike Raicht does a pretty good job of adhering to the original story but, as usual, too many of the finer details are lost. He tries, though; I'll give him that. The scene showing the Chameleon rubbing flesh tone make-up all over his face to change his appearance after the robbery is one of the best depictions of the Chameleon's powers that I've seen. (A lot of credit goes to penciler Jamal Igle for this scene, as well.) The developing triangle of Peter, Liz, and Flash is nicely displayed here, though it suffers for not having Betty as well. I don't much care for the idea of Kraven as a TV star (cobbled from Ultimate Spider-Man) but it does add to his arrogance. The notion that animals have escaped from a private plane rather than the cargo ship of the original story is ridiculous but Mike is aware of this, too. When he has Spidey say, "Just great, how'd he even get those animals into the country in the first place? Did they have their own seats on his plane?", he makes the concept forgivable without having to explain it. Also well done is the scene where Aunt May tells Peter about Mrs. Watson's niece who is transferring to Midtown High School. When May asks Peter to go out on a blind date and "introduce her to your friends", a horrified Peter replies, "I don't have any friends and I'm not going on a date with someone I don't even know!" A deft summing-up of Peter's position in High School.
So far so good. Then it all starts to come apart. After Kraven paralyzes Spider-Man's arm, we see no ramifications except for Peter holding his shoulder at school the next day. Gone is the classic scene from the original in which Peter has the shakes all day, tries to conceal it, can't hang on to his test tubes in science class, and doesn't know when the symptoms will stop... if ever. Also missing is the elaborate battle in Central Park with the drums and the nets and the magnetic device that Kraven clamps on Spider-Man's wrist and ankle. In its place is a quick fight that Spider-Man doesn't even really win. In the Lee/Ditko version, Spidey overcomes an elaborate plot conceived by two powerful opponents and demonstrates his resolve, intellect, and versatility. In the current version, he wins only because Kraven and the Chameleon get after each other. And because the poison dart happened to hit his web-shooter. And this is the one written specifically for kids? What is this teaching them? It's better to be lucky than good?
I have nothing but good to say about Jamal Igle's pencils. His Kraven the Hunter is smarmy and slick. The physical dimensions of Peter, Flash, and Liz relative to each other almost explain the relationship without any words being said. And his character's facial expressions are so apt (I particularly like Peter's horrified look on page 17 panel 2 when Aunt May suggests the blind date with Mary Jane) that it's a shame that Spider-Man and the Chameleon have their faces covered up with masks.
Still, it's the same old, now very familiar pattern. Some nice characterization, nice deft modernizations. None of which compensates for the loss of an interesting hero/villain confrontation. As things stand, I still can't go any higher than three webs.