Amazing Spider-Man (Vol. 1) #636 (Story 1)

 Posted: Jul 2010


The Kravinoff family – mother Sasha, daughter Ana, sons Alyosha and Vladimir – embarked upon a Grim Hunt to capture and ritually murder Spider-Man, an act intended to restore Kraven the Hunter to life.

As of the end of last issue, it seems they have been successful...

Story 'The Grim Hunt'

We open with intercut scenes at the New York zoo and the Kraven estate. There’s trouble at the former: dead spiders litter the walks, and – of more immediate concern – the lions have escaped their pens, which is bad news for the human staff. At the latter, Sasha is giving her now-revived husband a bath. I guess grave-soil in one’s private places is uncomfortable. She’s also explaining to him why she deserves a World’s Best Wife coffee-mug (or as she puts it, “not since Isis and Osiris has a wife sacrificed so much for her husband”). She’s not only resuscitated him from death, but also killed Spider-Man, his greatest enemy, and installed his corpse among the rest of the trophies.

Kraven is impassive. I wonder what he’s thinking?

For the moment, he wants to be re-introduced to his family. We readers can see he puts air-quotes around that word. He ignores Alyosha entirely; takes the scent of Sergei (the Chameleon), which the faceless man finds unnerving; and permits his daughter Ana to embrace him. The expression of... regret? unease? that crosses his face when he considers how much Ana has grown is the first emotional reaction we’ve seen from him, and it’s muted and cryptic enough to be unnerving.

Kraven then asks after Vladimir, and when Sasha hedges, we see a second emotional reaction, which is straightforward anger. Vladimir, you`ll recall, was resuscitated from death back in ASM #634, but in the form of a lion-headed monster. At this moment, he’s in the dungeons of Castle Kravinoff, trying to make a meal out of Anya “Arana” Corazon. Julia “Arachne” Carpenter and Madame Web try to fight Vladimir off, but their imprisonment has left the three women far too weak.

Kraven is strong enough, though. He enters the room and takes Vladimir out. It’s not clear just how he does it, but it involves snapping and cracking and blood leaking from Vladimir’s still body. Has he just killed his own son? If so, Sasha’s okay with that: “He has served you well... do with him as you will.”

Wow, that’s cold. Apparently Kraven agrees: “None of this is right,” he mutters. “None of it.”

Indeed. According to Madame Web’s voiceover captions, the effects of Kraven’s resuscitation have torn a great hole in the “web of life,” and have disrupted “all of nature.” Birds and rats and panthers and monkeys roam the streets of Manhattan, making our supporting cast – Norah, Harry, and Mary Jane – uneasy. MJ is particularly unnerved, as the rat-swarm she encounters boiling out of a sewer reminds her of something. She doesn’t say what in front of Harry, but we readers are certain she’s recalling the events of "Kraven’s Last Hunt".

Meanwhile, back at Castle Kraven, the Hunter sits brooding in his trophy room, while the rest of the family gossips in the kitchen (centre island, nice gas range, granite countertops). Alyosha and Sergei are concerned that Kraven’s take-down of Vladimir was “excessive.” I guess Vladimir’s not dead, as he seems to be cowering in a cage. Huh. I wonder why they put the cage in the kitchen? On second thought, maybe I don’t want to know. Sasha isn’t interested in questioning anything the Great Man chooses to do, but Sergei won’t have it. “I’m the only one who’s noticed the ‘great hunter’ isn’t all there?” Sasha explains that coming back from the dead requires a certain amount of emotional adjustment, but Sergei won’t have that either. “Has anyone stopped to consider the fact that this man shot himself in the head? How do you know he wanted to come back?”

That’s a good question, Sergei, but a bad time to ask it. It would have been more useful to raise the matter earlier, don’t you think?

Ana finds all of this talk troubling, and goes to talk to her dad about it. “You didn’t come all this way for this.” It’s phrased as a statement, but it’s really a question. What does Kraven want?

To beat his daughter up, apparently. “Rrrargh!” he cries, and makes to punch her. She reacts instinctively by drawing her knife and stabbing him in the chest. As he slumps to the floor, he whispers “Never apologize... good girl.”

Let’s interrupt the flow of the narrative to ask what this scene is about, as events are about to overtake it. Is Kraven crazy, so there’s no motive behind is actions? Is he so upset over his revival that he’s just lashing out for no reason? Does he think he’d be happier dead (again), and he provoked Ana deliberately, in a Kravinoff variant of ‘suicide by cop’? Readers are left to decide for themselves. Whatever his reason, this whole moment tarnishes Kraven and the mystique of his jungle code. Men who beat up their children, or try to do so, are not honourable, full stop.

Sasha rushes to Kraven’s side, but he doesn’t need help. He’s rising back up, grimacing in rage. “You ignorant sow!!” he spits (yes, he uses two exclamation points). “What have you done to me? You have given me the unlife... the eternal curse!”

Sasha tries to explain that she used Kraven’s own spells and serums, but Kraven isn’t listening. As Alyosha and Sergei watch, Kraven takes the scent of the dead man in the Spider-Man costume. Surprise, surprise, the man who died in ASM #635 is not Peter Parker, but Kaine. In flashback, we watch the events of that issue again, and see Peter fall into the open grave... and we see Kaine jump in after him. In Peter’s weakened state, he can’t resist as Kaine knocks him unconscious and strip him of his costume. “Don’t screw up my hero moment, Parker.”

So it was Kaine who fought Team Hunter, and Kaine who was murdered to bring Kraven back. And by sacrificing the wrong man, Sasha put her spell awry, giving Kraven the curse of unlife, whatever that means.

For right now, though, we’re concerned with Peter. The grave that he lay in has been filled in, and he has to dig himself up from it, in an obvious homage to Web of Spider-Man #32. Realizing what Kaine did for him, Peter (covered in dirt and dressed only in briefs) runs through the graveyard and kicks open the door to Castle Kraven. Inside the entrance hall, he finds Kaine, lying in a coffin. Draped over the coffin is a black Spider-Man costume, and resting atop it is a note that simply says “Hunt me.”

General Comments

This story is moody and atmospheric, which is all well and good, but I want more than that for a book that costs $3.99. For that price, I also want a good story. Unfortunately, only two things of note happen in this book:

  • We establish that Kraven is indeed back, that he’s got “the curse of unlife” (whatever that is), and he’s not happy about either development; and
  • He’s set Peter up to hunt him, in an inversion of the “Kraven’s Last Hunt” dynamic.

This story isn’t original or interesting enough to merit this sort of decompression. As I recall, ASM #634, the first part of this arc, was well-padded also. I’m thinking “The Grim Hunt” should have been a three-issue arc but was filled out to four, even as the price was hiked. Shoddy practice, Marvel.

Overall Rating

Not much happens, and what does happen is unpleasant: lions eating people, Kraven beating up his own family. For this I’m paying $3.99? Two webs.

 Posted: Jul 2010