1994 Spider-Man episode #45-“The Return of Kraven”

The Black Cat tries to help an angsty Spider-Man deal with the, you guessed it…RETURN OF KRAVEN!

Written By: Meg McLaughlin
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)

THE PLOT: New York has become beset with the attacks of a mysterious nightstalker. Spider-Man, still very much in anguish over the dissapearance of Mary Jane, soldiers on to try and battle who he thinks is Kraven the Hunter returned to New York. But the Black Cat, in an attempt to prove her value as a partner, tries to get him to think rationally.

LONG STORY SHORT: With the help opf Debrah Whitman and Curt Connors, Black Cat states that the creature is none other than Dr. Mariah Crawford who has been mutated after taking the very same serum which created Kraven the Hunter. The two jungle people go off to live their lives, and Peter goes back to Harry Osborn to be his roommate.

MY THOUGHTS: With this episode, we see a side of Spider-Man that honestly should have been present since the season four premiere. Throughout this entire ordeal, Peter is angry, impatient, and really down a path to nowhere in terms of where he sees himself in his life. The loss of Mary Jane has left him wondering what good he’s doing as Spider-Man, yet it’s not a simple matter for him to give it all up. He wants to desperately, but the reality of his civillian identity is met with constant reminders from his social circle that Mary Jane is indeed gone. So Spider-Man has found himself trapped in a seemingly endless struggle for self worth and meaning in his life. That’s just as well, considering how in love he was with MJ in season three. Now that the meaning in his life is gone, he’s a wretch looking for the next bad guy to punch in the face.

This is all heavy drama that the season had to have at the start, and though “Guilty” and the two Black Cat episodes were all well and good, the fact that we get a bitter, really pissed off Spider-Man first here is a problem. Especially with the ending of “Guilty” where he feels better about being Spider-Man, if that episode came after this, then it would flow a whole lot better. As logical as Peter’s inner turmoil is, it comes off slightly as a gimmick set against the backdrop of the Kraven plot. That being said, it serves as a very entertaining gimmick. Spidey is constantly angry, and the use of the Black Cat works well to show how anti-social he now is. Whenever left by himself, he just despairs over his misery. This works great for a kids cartoon, and it feels right. It’s just…why wasn’t this apparent in the past three episodes?

Besides that, this is another good episode that serves as a nice one-off seperate from the series. Then again, it doesn’t really stray far from the season’s premise does it? So far the series has been Spider-Man dealing with Mary Jane’s loss. I guess what makes this a bit random is the insert and immediate removal of Kraven from the series. I really liked Kraven in his last appearance fighting against and with the Punisher, but this one was a case of an annoying trope that finds itself in comic book media all the time. Misunderstandings that occur because somebody keeps their mouth shut. If Kraven would not act like a jackass, beating up policemen, Spidey and the Black Cat then most of this episode would not have happened. They could just as easily had Kraven acting as benevolent as he did in “Duel of the Hunters” and Spidey just not willing to hear any of it. That would have been much more logical, perhaps too much so.

I also suppose that it makes some modicom of sense seeing as how Kraven was driven a bit loony when he took the serum the last time, but he’s very lucid throughout all of this. It’s just annoying, and it nearly ruins what made Kraven a likable character in his last appearance. His intentions are equally noble in that and this episode, yet the way he goes about them shouldn’t be too different.

Going back to the Black Cat, this episode switches her character slightly to someone who willingly wants to fight crime alongside Spider-Man. While that makes sense for Felicia’s character, it’s less fun compared to the mischievous version of the character in the last episode. She doesn’t have to be robbing people’s penthouses to be cheeky and sarcastic, and Spidey’s constant condemnation of her made it seem as though she was a bungler. I think the writer Meg McLaughlin (who wrote this entire thing solo in contrast to most of the series when Semper had a hand in the plot) wanted to have Felicia come off as the “straight man” so-to-speak, but I don’t think it worked too well. It wasn’t awful, but it made her look a bit weak in my eyes.

 Lastly, the twist that Mariah Crawford turned out to be the, in terms of Spider-Man himself, “hideous creature” is an interesting one in that it’s literally the same exact thing that caused the creation of Kraven back in season one. It also sees her transform somewhat into the Calypso character from the comics, who was a lot more crazy and homicidal but we won’t get into that. So it was interesting, but for some reason her and Kraven leaving to run around the jungle nights for the rest of their lives doesn’t quite sit right with me. It’s odd, as Crawford was a real staple of the show circa season two, yet it’s no different than what’s been going on with Felicia in this season. Maybe it’s the fact that Crawford abandoned the African plague she was fighting to cure for the sake of playing Tarzan around the world with her boyfriend. I don’t know, what do you all think? Animation-wise, this is another surprisingly good outing. Much of it was original barring purposeful flashbacks, and Spidey, Black Cat and Kraven all looked really cool. I especially like the shot of “Calypso” in the bushes, as a freaked me out when I was a kid. 

Overall, I do enjoy this one but there are a number of things that nag at me here and there. It’s a good episode and works very well as another aftermath episode from “Turning Point”, and the ending was probably the best part of the episode. But there were other things that were kind of stupid like Spider-Man wanting to check up on Aunt May after she moved in with Anna Watson (presumably at Ravencroft) and feeling bad for Harry, then inexplicably coming to the conclusion that Black Cat was right about him being heartless. Stuff like that is just dumb, but the episode does end on a good note with a nice bit of character from Peter.  3.5/5 “MARY JAAANE!!!”s Best Quote Contender-Kraven: “This does not concern any of you!!”Spidey: “Oh I don’t know about that! I’m a caring kinda guy!” All images taken from marvel.toonzone.net and drg4.wariocompany.com respectively.

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