AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #634 Review


AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #634

“The Grim Hunt, Chapter 1”

Writer: Joe Kelly

Penciler: Michael Lark

Inker: Stefano Gaudiano

Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth

“Hunting the Hunter, Part One: Adrift”

Writer: J.M. DeMatteis

Penciler: Max Fiumara

Inker: Max Fiumara

Colorist: Fabio D’Auria

“Spidey Sunday Story Part One”

Writer: Stan Lee

Penciler: Marcos Martin

Inker: Marcos Martin

Colorist: Muntsa Vicente

Cover Art: Leinil Francis Yu

Variant Cover Art: Mike Fyles

Villain Variant Cover Art: Joe Quinones

Be warned – there are SPOILERS ahead!

This issue has a main story and two backups, including a brief two-pager.  I’ll focus primarily on the main feature and pepper in the backups as I go.

The Plot

The Hunt begins!  A beaten and bloody Kaine appears on Peter’s doorstep warning him that spiders are being hunted.  Spider-Man heads out to find and warn the others, and finds Arachne (Julia Carpenter) being attacked by Ana and Alyosha Kravinoff.  They barely make it out alive and use Mattie Franklin’s apartment as a hideout, where Ezekiel shows up.  Meanwhile, Mattie Franklin is sacrificed to resurrect Vladimir Kravinoff, the Grim Hunter, but he comes back as a strange lycanthropic beast, which leads them to conclude that only the blood of the true spider can be used to resurrect Kraven.

The Good

Right off the bat, the first thing that jumped out to me was how good the artwork is.  Granted, coming off of an arc drawn by Bachalo warps my perception, but Lark does a very good job here.  More than anything, his style is a perfect match for the pervasively dark tone of the story.  This time, he’s only penciling, and that allows him to devote more attention to his renderings of the characters and environments, an approach that works better here than in his previous work on the title.

The structure of the story is top-notch.  A running monologue by the trapped Madame Web is weaved into the action, and it is generally helpful in explaining some of the more questionable parts of the story.  For example, even without explicitly being told that she disabled Peter’s spider-sense, we can assume she was involved based on what’s she’s thinking.  It’s a good device to avoid a lot of tedious exposition.

Seeing the pieces come together made for a satisfying experience.  The Gauntlet ran for far too long, and the lead-up to Grim Hunt was too sparsely sprinkled throughout.  Here, though, Kelly makes good use of all of those setups by featuring as many characters as he could fit – including an appearance by Ezekiel, who we haven’t seen since The Amazing Spider-Man #508.  (Granted, it makes you wonder how he’s alive …)  Mattie Franklin’s death in the ceremony at the end of the issue raises the stakes for these characters, and it makes you question whether or not more spiders will be killed before this is over.  Kaine is set up to be a driving force in the arc, and though I don’t like everything that was done to get him to this point (in particular, the fact that he got his ass handed to him by a kid), I’m looking forward to seeing him play a big role.

The DeMatteis/Fiumara backup seems like it could be a significant story.  For one thing, it reads like something that should have been the main feature in Web of Spider-Man rather than a backup in the main title.  While I’m not a fan of Fiumara’s artwork, DeMatteis has always been great at providing subtle moments – a facial expression or a silent beat – for a penciler to flex different artistic muscles, and Fiumara nails these moments.  I didn’t care for much else in his art, but those moments were played well.

The Bad

As much as I liked this story, there were some nagging problems that drag it down.

For one thing, the character of Ana Kravinoff makes me want to gouge my eyes out.  She’s a really, really redundant character – even more so when you put her next to Alyosha Kravinoff, a character that essentially fills the same role.  She’s written as a very one-note, improbably overpowered villain.  Naturally, when she’s shown slicing and dicing her way through both Kaine and Arachne, it made me even angrier.  It.  Doesn’t.  Make.  Sense.

Remember last issue, when Spidey refused to even defend himself against the crowd of Lizard-controlled people?  In this issue, he knocks Alyosha out of the air, Alyosha gets impaled and nearly killed on a pipe below, and Spidey jokes about how much of a wimp Alyosha is.  Wow.  It makes you wonder if there is any communication at all between these writers, or at least some communication via a proxy like the editor or assistant editor.  This kind of incongruence isn’t supposed to happen – in fact, part of the supposed reasoning for going to a single-title, almost weekly format was to avoid stuff like this.

At the end of the issue, they resurrect Vladimir Kravinoff, who was killed (ironically, by Kaine) back during the Clone Saga.  He comes out as some kind of wolf-man.  I don’t think I need to even talk about this, right?

As much as I hate to say it, I really didn’t get the point of the Lee/Martin backup.  I really can’t complain too much, because it’s clearly a tiny fraction of a larger story, but this failed to draw my interest at all.

The Ugly

Thankfully, there wasn’t anything so offensively bad about this issue as we had in the last arc.  My one gripe would have to be the price – I would have preferred to have this book be $2.99 without the backups.

I must not be the only one, either – they actually give a mild apology in the letters page, and the only letter they responded to involved reinforcing their spiel about the price.  Maybe the orders are looking a little grim?  (Heh.)

The Bottom Line

This issue was a good start to the arc, and I’m pretty interested to see where this goes.  A few annoyances keep this from being highly recommended, but it certainly delivered on the promise of being an event worth checking out, if only to see what they do with the pieces they’ve been placing on the board for the last six months plus.  3.5 out of 5 webheads.

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