Retro Review: Kraven’s Last Hunt (1987)

Spyder! Spyder! Burning bright
Kraven

Synopsis: Frustrated with his repeated failed attempts at killing Spider-Man, Kraven the Hunter hatches a final plot to best his adversary. Shooting and burying him alive. With his enemy out of the way, Kraven dons a Spider-Man costume and patrols the city, intent on proving himself a better hero.

 

Story

Writer J. M. DeMatteis (who we interviewed) has crafted a darkly gothic character study of Spider-Man and his nemesis Kraven. A poignant theme throughout is Kraven’s sorrow over his family’s exile from Russia and what he sees as society’s decadence, which Spider-Man becomes symbolic of in Kravinoff’s mind. Conversely, we see Peter Parker’s empathy and desire to help. And do the right thing despite the utter horror Kraven subjects him to. Tranquilizing and burying him alive. It should be noted that Peter goes through similar mental torture to Kraven. But retains the will to keep fighting and ultimately help the villain Vermin who Kraven set him up to fight as part of his twisted game. Interestingly, Sergei Kravinoff sees himself as more than human. Whereas Peter Parker calls himself weak and cowardly. Vermin is an affecting adversary due to his childlike amorality. And the sense that on some level he cannot help what he is doing. What separates Peter from both foes is his kindness and refusal to give up. Even when he is terrified. Kraven’s Last Hunt ends bittersweetly. As Peter reunites with MJ. But Kraven is dead by his own hand and buried. This is a serious subject that DeMatteis portrays with maturity and empathy. There is a list of helplines at the end of this article for anyone struggling.

 

Artwork

Mike Zeck has created some striking art for Kraven’s Last Hunt. There is a great panel layout in Chapter 1, which juxtaposes Spider-Man and Kraven. The rainstorm on the night Kraven shoots Spider-Man is beautifully rendered. Moreover, Kraven and Vermin’s fight scene really puts across the raw animalistic violence that they have both succumbed to. The use of blank space for Peter’s dream state is fantastic. As are the wordless pictures that show Spider-Man’s initial reaction to his reawakening. I loved the splash page where Spidey bursts out of the grave with the caption “I love you”. Indeed, this showed his undying devotion to MJ brilliantly. Kraven’s drug-induced hallucinations are so visceral and shocking. Rick Parker‘s lettering tells this story of madness and survival. Bob McLeod‘s inks make us feel the desperation that each character goes through during the story.

 

Overall

Kraven’s Last Hunt is one of Spider-Man’s greatest stories. At its core is love’s power to make an ordinary person survive and help others against all odds. Additionally, a sister theme to this is the loss of love which can drive someone to insanity and suicide. Deeply emotional is Kraven’s pride and his gentleman’s code of honour. Warped into something hideous by pain and loss. By contrast, Peter Parker’s care for both his loved ones and his enemies and his determination to never give in. Remind us why Spider-Man is one of the greatest, if not the greatest comic superhero of all time.

 

Wikipedia’s suicide helplines list: List of suicide crisis lines – Wikipedia

 

Check out our retro review of The Sandman: Endless Nights here

 

Check out our retro review of Batman – Arkham Asylum here

Autistic writer who loves sci-fi, cosplay and poetry. Actor with Theatre of the Senses. He/him.
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