Story By: John Semper and Jan Strand
Written By: Mark Hoffmeier
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)
THE PLOT: While researching for a cure of her colleague’s miracle serum, Dr. Mariah Crawford is hunted by her insane lover Sergei Kravenoff, a.k.a. Kraven the Hunter. Well Spidey can’t let that slide, can he?
LONG STORY SHORT: After a mixup invoving “Robbie” Robertson, Spider-Man battles Kraven at the National Jungle Exibit in New York. Crawford arrives with the formula, and all’s well that ends well.
MY THOUGHTS: After a string of really good consecutive episodes, the run comes to an end somewhat, as “Kraven the Hunter” is a fairly lacking episode in overall effort. As always, the episode is not without its nice bits in it, but a combination of the very stilted animation and weak battles tend to bring this one down in my eyes. Oh, there’s also a plot hole at the end.
Let’s start with the good. The best thing about this episode I think is the interpretation of Kraven. If I didn’t say it before in my review of his appearance in Spectacular Spider-Man, I’ll say here that Kraven is either a very good villain or a very cheesy one. He can’t go both ways. To make a big game hunter threatening to a guy who can press 15-25 tons is no easy feat, and luckily I think this episode pulled him off pretty well. I’ll still go with the Spectacular Spider-Man’s version overall (sans the furry transformation) but I did like this version’s voice actor better. Greg Berger sells a very conflicted, malicious and intelligent Kraven that comes off as a pretty big threat to Spider-Man. Part of that is helped by the fact that there was a underlying tone of domestic disturbance in the episode, and a jilted ex-boyfriend quality was implicit in his scenes. Nevertheless I thought he was pretty cool here. His redesign was also a welcome update from the original spandex and ballet shoes into black pants and boots. I actually had that toy when I was younger…
His origin however is very different from the comics, almost completely so. It was still a solid origin that made sense for Kraven to really be a good guy deep down. Kraven’s a character with enough sense of misguided fair-play that he can easily become a hero should the situation call for it. It’s partly why his subservient attitude in the Sinister Six was fairly jarring for me in Spectacular Spider-Man.
I also liked the attention to Peter’s romantic life by giving him girl trouble with both Mary Jane and Felicia. This was fun in two ways, the first being that his battles with Kraven had nothing to do with Peter Parker and bringing in Mary Jane and Felicia helped ground the show back to the “Life and Times” aspect of his adventures. The second reason is that Peter actually goofed up and became a thick-headed male, agreeing to go out with both MJ and Felicia at the same time. He realized what a dope he’d been, but the fact that it happened made his troubles more on him than the women, and it was more believable since both women were foxy, attractive romantic interests instead of the “Betty and Veronica” aspect of an assertive girl and a slightly meek girl. It was a fairly well-trodded trope in that the hero has to duck out so he can hop into action as his costumed persona and the girls get mad at him for leaving, but it was still fun.
Now the problems of the episode are first and foremost presented with the animation. This is the first episode in my opinion where the animation was really stilted, and it showed. There wasn’t as heavy an emphasis on repaeating the scenes from previous episodes, but that didn’t mean there weren’t any scenes re-used from “Night of the Lizard”. Some scenes just started and slowed for whatever reason, and it got very old very fast, especially after some episodes like “Sting of the Scorpion” didn’t need to have fantastic animation to be good, it just needed to be solid and kinetic. I thought Kraven’s movements were decent overall. He was very on-the-go and ferocious. Spider-Man on the other hand didn’t seem nearly as athletic as he has been shown in the past. He was also pretty big in this episode, physically. There wasn’t as much definition on his musculature, which reminded me of Tobey MaGuire in Spider-Man 3. That’s not a good thing.
Also the fights were pretty poor overall, just running and grabbing. I know this show can’t have people straight-up sock each other in the face, but that still would’ve been nice. Even going further, the impact of being thrown could have been made to look more intense than it did. I think what was mainly the problem with the action is that Kraven is attacked and heavily wounded by lions twice in this episode, and just looks as though he has a bad headache. It’s especially bad with Spider-Man’s line at the end saying “He’s been badly wounded.” to Dr. Crawford. It’s as though he’s talking to a child. HOW was he badly wounded would be nice to have been explained. Technically he is talking to children, as that was clearly a line made to say how serious he needed medical help without showing any indication that he needed medical help. The whole thing with Kraven’s injuries felt weak and half-hearted, and is the type of prissy shying away from violence which this series is sadly known for.
Robbie’s role in the episode was another aspect of my disappointment. This time around it wasn’t so much Robbie’s portrayal exactly. I thought he was okay, thought I still think he’s made out to be too young looking. Spider-Man’s repeated monologue about how much he respects Robbie and how worried he is about him is, once again, stupid because we haven’t been shown yet why Robbie is such a good character. The comic book fans will know, most certainly. I personally love Robbie, he’s one of my favorite supporting characters. But in this show he hasn’t done much besides try to reign JJ in, and even when he did it wasn’t with the typical Robertson cool that he did it with in either the comics or the Spectacular Spider-Man. Robbie’s a cool guy, he’s a man with years of life experience he uses to deal with the craziness of both the news world and New York in Marvel Comics, and we as an audience respect and admire him for it. None of that has been shown in this series yet, and it just comes off as annoying to have Spider-Man react as he does without the audience feeling the same. I want to like Robbie, and if I recall correctly he is given his due down the line when Tombstone is introduced. But at this stage in the series, it just doesn’t work. And where the heck were Martha and Randy? Was Robbie staying at Jameson’s loft or something?
Finally, there’s the character of Mariah Crawford. It might just have been this viewing, but her character came off pretty badly in this episode. By that I mean to say she was pretty weak and came off as fearful and at times hysterical with paranoia and fear. This is appropriate since this episode has a clear jilted ex-lover overtone to it. Other times it’s as if she’s getting into peril left and right. Let’s see, she falls off the building at the beginning, she’s attacked by a cobra in Africa, she’s set upon by a pride of lions, she’s hit in the face with a geyser of high-pressurized water, it was as though the episode had it out for her. I didn’t hate her character, but she did leave an impression of annoyance because although she provides Kraven with the antidote that saves his life (I’m about to to get into that) she seems so useless the rest of the episode. I suppose that was the intention, but it wasn’t a positive introduction to someone who will become a recurring charater. This episode premiered four years after the 1990 Todd MacFarlene Spider-Man run where Calypso played a big role in that introductory Lizard story. Crawford is quite obviously based after Calypso, but confusingly so as Calypso was a psychopath and Crawford is a…doctor? Scientist? Exactly what does she do? She provides the episode with the appropriate “SCIENCE!!!” but it is very vague. Even when talking about her colleague James Reeves who looked like Lion-O from the Thundercats, she doesn’t explicitly explain what type of doctors they are.
Okay, the ending. Kraven is attacked by a pride of lions while saving Dr. Crawford in his makeshift jungle. He starts dying, so she provides him with the serum she concocted to strip him of his powers, and hence his madness, which ends up both saving his life and curing him of his insanity. This is all well and good except for the fact that it contradicts what happened in Kraven’s origin story where he gets his powers. He recieved his powers after…being attacked by a pride of lions while saving Dr. Crawford. He was dying, so Crawford gave him the wonder serum that Reeves created which endowed both men with primal urges and super strength. So wouldn’t giving him a serum that would take away his powers as he’s dying of lion bites kill him? Think about it, he really should be dead. A better ending could’ve been Crawford being forced to save his life by readministering the original serum, thus ensuring his insanity. It would’ve been more tragic since he was a good guy to start out with, and it would ensure him remaining an adversary to Spider-Man. I don’t mind that he becomes a nice guy after this, but it isn’t earned since he should have been dead from losing his powers when he needed them the most.
I did like the very end, when Spider-Man sees Crawford and Kraven sail off into the sunset, and he comments on how sappy it is of an ending for them while complaining about how his life now stinks due to his abandoning both MJ and Felicia. I thought that was funny.
Overall I wanted to like this episode when it came time to review it. Kraven’s ferocity always stuck with me, and I remembered liking the plot. But while there are some nice parts in this episode, compared to the ones before it, it comes up short.
3 “MARY JAAANE!!!’s”/5
Best Quote Contender-
Spider-Man: “Nice outfit! Don’t tell me, you’re a leo right?”
images taken from both marvel.toonzone.net and drg4.wariocompany.com