Superhero Beatdown! Thrills! Chills! Genetic mutations! Broken Bones! Black Eyes! Hot Cheerleaders and Cold Weather! The works!
Written By Matt Wayne
Directed By Kevin Alteri
Music by Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion
Animation By Dongwoo animation
THE PLOT: Geeky Gwen Stacy or luscious Liz Allen? That’s the ten million dollar question Peter Parker keeps asking himself, as both girls are now the objects of his arachnid affections. While he tries to decide which to date, a russian hunter from Africa who goes by the name Sergei Kravinoff has chosen the Spectacular Spider-Man as his next big game prey. Will Spider-Man be reduced to a masked head on Kravinoff’s mantle?
LONG STORY SHORT: Kraven undergoes a godless experiment by way of Professor Miles Warren, and has now mutated into a giant cat-like creature. Spidey manages to best him in combat, but fails to capture him nor get away without a few bruises. Elsewhere, Flash Thompson has been injured in the Midtown High’s state football game. Peter is confused as he witnesses Liz show great affection for both classmates.
MY THOUGHTS: After a decent second season premiere, the series kicks it into high gear with this slam-bang action drama of what’s marketed as a “kid’s show”. Not to say that this one was particularly grim or gritty,(although there were some interesting lines from Calypso) but this to me felt like the series was 100% back in full force with the balance of Peter’s private life and his violent, uncompromising life as Spider-Man. In the risk of completely gushing, I have to say that this one was for the most part such an enjoyable and engrossing chapter in the series history that its almost surprising that the villain of it was Kraven the Hunter, who’s usually been seen as one of the cornier villains of the Spider-Man rogues gallery. Oh sure, “Kraven’s Last Hunt” is a classic “BEST SPIDER-MAN STORY EVER” candidate in the minds of fans. Nevertheless, the character in and of himself as well as the concept of a hunter attempting to stalk a super hero can come off as incredibly stupid at first. Now I never really doubted that the writers would make Kraven an interesting villain to watch, and they did succeed in making me interested in him. But once again, the show’s shining quality is the portrayal of the life of Peter Parker. All he thinks about in this episode are girls, girls and girls, specifically Gwen and Liz. And all they think about is him. But what could have easily been a cheesy, “CW” type of melodrama turned out to be an interesting look at the lives of three people who happen to have feelings for each other. The show doesn’t get that heavy into it here, but what we do get comes off as natural, organic and beliveable. And, once again, that makes it all fun to watch.
The first thing that caught my eye and stayed with me was the terrific animation. Admittedly, this may seem like a flip complement. But to me, the figures and models of the characters looked fresh and alive at all times throughout the episode. The colors were bright, the facial expressions were subtle and realistic, and the fighting was fast paced and fluid. No one acted stiff or too cartoony, and the body language felt real and honest. Also of note is the sound effects, particularly when Spider-Man and Kraven are fighting on the rooftops at night. You can distinctly hear the snow being crushed under their feet once they land. Its those little things that increase the overall experience. And for an episode that’s half about wanton violence, it makes every punch and kick feel that much more visceral and painful. I was not surprised in the least when Peter had a black eye at the end. The scene where Kraven threw him and a piece of the setup from the museum at the bus which tipped over into a couple of cars was a serious “OUCH” moment. This is another example of Spider-Man being heavily taxing on Peter’s physical well being, and you bought it in this episode. Again, wondeful animation and effects work.
Getting back to Kraven, while I said earlier that the writing was generally good where his character was concerned, I did feel it was a tad inconsistent. I’ll preface by saying that the cold opening was a great way to introduce his character in Africa, taking down a rhinoceros. His intense determination and sheer confidence in himself kept you waiting in anticipation to when he and Spidey would first fight. (It should also be noted that this is episode #15, and Kraven the Hunter first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #15) I actually enjoyed him up to where Spider-Man first owned him in a straight up fight. Kraven’s clearly a little insane, and has always been that way due to the nature of how he goes about his business. But still, his character was definetely in-synch with what’s been established in the comics. However, I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about Kraven being turned into a giant Lion-Monster. Greg Weisman said it was merely an adaptation of the Ultimate Spider-Man version where he had enhanced, mutated abilites. But a full-on Lion mutation did feel like a little bit over the top to me. I’m not saying I outright hated it, but at the same time I didn’t love it. I think it mainly had to do with the design, where he has that big, neanderthal looking chin and his face seemed like a mix between Scar from the Lion King and Shere Khan from the Jungle Book. It was a little too dumb looking for a lack of a better phrase; I couldn’t take it seriously. It’s certainly in Kraven’s character to try to enhance his abilities after finding out that Spider-Man has super powers. I’m just not sold on the look is what I guess I’m trying to say. I feel it went too far, and if they had held back on the outright beastial look to the design, I wouldn’t mind it so much. I dunno, what do you think?
One last thing about Kraven is that I felt the character’s intelligence was a little inconsistent. He has all this knowledge of animals and wildlife, as shown when he points out to Prof. Warren that the spiders they keep in the ESU lab don’t belong to any known set species. But he doesn’t know of genetic testing? He’s never heard of experimentation on animals? Maybe it was the accent which lacked personal pronouns or how Warren seemed to talk down to him, but it did feel like the character’s I.Q. was in a type of “start/stop” loop. I’m not saying he was shown to be downright idiotic, but he was definetely ignorant. I didn’t feel that being from Russia and Africa necesserily meant that he couldn’t understand in broad strokes modern science.
As previously stated, the Peter/Liz/Gwen triangle is getting better and better with each episode. The show handles it in such a way where you could easily lable either Peter or Liz as being air-headed, where Peter can’t make up him mind and Liz shows deep affection for both Peter and Flash. But one simply has to remember that they’re teenagers and these type of things do happen. In Peter’s case, he does try and talk to Gwen. Liz is the one coming onto him, and he’s recognizing that for what it is and trying to figure out how to deal with it. He likes Liz fine, as evidenced by “Interactions” way back when, but he also has feelings for Gwen, who kissed him. What should he do? In Liz’s case it was never explicitly said what exactly went down, but its meant to be made clear that Flash was the one who broke up with Liz so he could go after Mary Jane. Liz still has strong feelings left over for Flash, and it would be stupid to think that she should simply write him off just because they aren’t together anymore. But..she also has a growing and intense attraction to Peter, who’s nice, thoughtful, intelligent and as evidenced by last Halloween in better physical shape than previously thought. So her deep concern for Flash when he gets hurt and is in the hospital is natural and in no way shows her being an air head or a bimbo. She simply acts on her immediate emotions. Someone who doesn’t however is poor Gwen, who can only look as Liz showers Peter with hugs and kisses right in front of her. After kissing someone you liked and seeing them being flirted with by other attractive people, how would you feel? Poor Gwen…