“The Grim Hunt, Conclusion”

Writer: Joe Kelly

Penciler: Michael Lark and Marco Checchetto

Inker: Stefano Gaudiano, Matt Southworth, and Marco Checchetto

Art Assist: Brian Thies

Colorist: Matt Hollingsworth

“Hunting the Hunter, Part Four: Burning Bright”

Writer: J.M. DeMatteis

Penciler: Max Fiumara

Inker: Max Fiumara

Colorist: Fabio D’Auria

“Spidey Sunday Story Part Three”

Writer: Stan Lee

Penciler: Marcos Martin

Inker: Marcos Martin

Colorist: Muntsa Vicente

Cover Art: Mike Fyles

Variant Cover Art: Olivier Coipel, Mark Morales, and Justin Ponsor

Be warned – there are SPOILERS ahead!

Like the previous two, 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

Spider-Man hunts the hunters.  Madame Web dies, but transfers her powers to Arachne.  Spidey (with Arana) soundly trounces them and defeats Kraven.  Kraven asks to be killed, but Arachne uses her new powers to show Spider-Man a vision of the future, which prompts him to spare Kraven.  The next day, Kaine is buried by the spiders, who move on to new roles (with new costumes).  Kraven and his family relocate to the Savage Land, where he promptly kills Sasha and Vladimir and reveals a plan for “survival of the fittest.”  Alyosha runs off, not wanting to be part of it, but Ana runs after him with the promise that whichever lives will rebuild the family with Kraven.  “After the credits,” Kaine bursts out of his grave, mutated.

The Good

This issue has another team-up of artists, with Michael Lark and Marco Checchetto splitting duty.  While I didn’t care for Lark’s work this time around – which, frankly, looked very rushed in spots – Checchetto’s pages are a wonder to behold.  In my humble opinion, this guy is a superstar in the making, and it’s a pity that he doesn’t get more regular work.  Inking his own pencils, he gives the book a slick, smooth look.  It doesn’t jive with Lark’s work at all (making me wonder why they were paired in the first place), but I actually prefer Checchetto’s work to the “main” artist.

Unlike last issue, which was padded filler, this issue has an extra-sized main feature, weighing in at 35 pages of story.  With the backup features and the Epilogue, we get another 13 pages of story, giving us 48.  That’s good value for the $3.99 price tag, and it makes the previous issues’ price point look bad in comparison.  None of this stuff feels as half-assed as the previous issue – there’s a single writer again, and the story is much meatier.  As for the nutritional value of that meat, well …

The Bad

… it’s not good.  In fact, it’s pretty bad.

To put it mildly, this issue is a mess.  It picks up well, continuing straight from the previous issue – but very quickly, something began to feel wrong to me as I read it.  Kraven himself is leading his family against Spider-Man.  Like I’ve stressed throughout these reviews, to the point of harping about it, the characterization of Kraven increasingly contradicts both the end of “Kraven’s Last Hunt” and the entirety of Soul of the Hunter.  By the time Kraven’s soul passed on to the afterlife, he and Spider-Man were not only on good terms, they were friends.  Kraven’s last experience on this plane of existence was hugging Spider-Man as he faded away.  Why in the hell would he want to lead a pack of bloodthirsty charlatans – ones that he readily admits he’s not proud of – into battle against the man that saved his soul?

The Chameleon wants to get the hell out of there, and rightfully so.  (He probably realized that he belongs in a better story.  Besides, if Mysterio was allowed to disappear without explanation after Part Two, why couldn’t Chameleon?)  Of course, he’s compelled to stay after being threatened by a twelve-year-old girl throwing a knife six feet from his head.  Any reasonable supervillain would have told her to work on her throwing accuracy on the way out the door, but of course the Webheads like to try to make this child look like a badass at every turn, so he does what she says.

Yay!  Madame Web is dead!  Thank goodness, she never belonged in Spider-Man stories anyway.  Wait, no!  She passed her powers on to Arachne for some reason!  Since when could she do that?  Also, she’s not blind.  Again, no explanation.

Anyway, the fight rages on.  (Arana is included, of course, because she has to be spun off into her own series.)  Spider-Man beats Kraven – OFF-PANEL, naturally, because it’s not like we would actually want to see that instead of two panels of Arana pulling Ana Kravinoff’s hair – and is about to finish him off when Arachne appears and dissuades him from doing so with a vision of the future.  Again, this blatantly ignores everything we know about these characters.  Spider-Man doesn’t kill people.  That’s pretty much his M.O., to the point that criminals, supervillains, and even other superheroes mock and criticize him for it.  But of course, since consistent characterization is not one Brand New Day’s strong points, he actually has to be told not to kill Kraven because it would be bad.  I’m not making this up.  (Sure, we get a cool montage out of it, but the ends do not justify the means in this case.)  Then again, this is the same issue in which he rips half of Sasha Kravinoff’s face off, so any notion that Spider-Man is in character has gone out the window.

Spider-Man, Arachne, and Arana bury Kaine in a potter’s field on Hart Island (which is not identified as such in the actual comic).  It had the potential to be a pretty nice scene, except for a couple of big problems.  First of all, they clearly didn’t do their research.   On Hart Island, like many potter’s fields, the bodies are buried in trenches – and, therefore, have no individual gravestones.  Second, the main point of the scene was to show that Arana now wears Arachne’s costume, and that Arachne has adopted a different style for her new role.  That’s right kids, they talk and joke about superhero fashion while standing in front of Kaine’s grave.  Way to respect the dead, jerks.

Kraven relocates his family (minus Chameleon, who has finally managed to escape this disaster) to the Savage Land, then promptly kills Sasha and Vladimir.  Alyosha runs off, and Ana chases him.  We don’t see them again, but considering that the Webheads have spent the entire arc propping Ana up, we can just guess which one of the two will survive.  This also seems to be a pretty expensive trip for Kraven to do what he could have done at his house anyway.

By the way, the lack of … well, anything between Kraven and Alyosha throughout the arc is very bothersome to me.  After all, Alyosha slept with and then killed Kraven’s girlfriend Calypso.  That would have made for a pretty interesting conversation.  Another strange omission for the arc as a whole was the current Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew.  I can only assume Bendis called “super-dibs” or something.

The backup stories didn’t do anything for me.  I don’t really need to say anything beyond that, because they didn’t really leave me with any lasting impression other than the fact that I was very let down.

The Ugly

On the very last page of the issue, after the backup stories, we get a page of Kaine breaking out of his grave, apparently mutated into a humanoid spider-monster.

This takes away all meaning from his death, and it does it immediately.  He should have degenerated as soon as he died.  When Kaine first appeared, his degeneration was already so bad that he had to wear a protective suit.  Now, not only does he not degenerate upon death, but he further mutates into a spider-monster.  They forced him into Straczynski’s spider-totem mythos so haphazardly that they ignored all the previously established facts about the character.

Kraven is also back for the long haul.  This makes me very, very angry, and I’ll leave it at that.

The Bottom Line

This arc really dive-bombed after the first two parts, collapsing under its own weight.  Continuity gaffes, illogical story flow, and broken characterization doomed this issue and, ultimately, this arc.  It isn’t the worst comic I’ve read in a while because of its bang-for-the-buck value and good artwork, but it was still a poor issue.  1.5 out of 5 webheads.

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