By Eli Katz
Writer: Marc Guggenheim
Artist: Phil Jimenez
Listen up all you Joe Q-bashing, "One More Day"-hating fanboys. It's time to get over your contempt for the magic mindwipe and to start reading Amazing Spider-Man again. I'm not saying that ASM is some great, groundbreaking work of genius. It's not. But after an onslaught of really bad stories with really lame villains (like Freak and Menace), Marvel has finally dropped the "Brand New Day" banner and has started to put out some decent Spidey stories again.
And by decent, I mean stories that have cool villains and some clear connections to Spidey history.
In issue 567, Marc Guggenheim does a great job of concluding a fun, three-part arc that's based on J.M. DeMatteis's classic Spider-Man tale, "Kraven's Last Hunt." Guggenheim incorporates some of the same characters and situations that DeMatteis used back in 1987, but he pens a story that's much lighter in tone and style than the original. This is a wise move. There's no point in trying to mimic or remake one of the greatest Spidey stories ever told. That would be sheer folly. So what Guggenheim does is pay reverence to the source material by producing a lighthearted companion piece, aptly titled "Kraven's First Hunt."
The story is a tongue-in-cheek tribute, but it's never a parody. Kraven's daughter, Ana, takes up the family legacy of hunting down superheroes. But she mistakes Peter's roommate for Spider-Man and abducts him instead, forcing the poor guy to wear Peter's last Spidey costume. Eventually Peter figures out what has happened and, after borrowing a Daredevil outfit from Matt Murdock, he follows Ana into the vast New York sewer system. The only problem is that before he can save his roommate, he has to take on a very hungry Vermin.
It's amusing to see Spidey swinging around in Daredevil's costume, and it's awesome to see Vermin make an appearance in this Spidey story when he played such a crucial role in DeMatteis's masterpiece. But the best part of this arc is that Kraven's daughter is portrayed as having the smarts and the strength to actually defeat Spider-Man. She's a truly menacing foe, who takes Peter to the limit and forces him to fight wildly for his life. Believe it or not, that's something new for Spidey.
The "Brand New Day" reboot has had many problems, but one of the biggest is that the stories have lacked a sense of real danger. Most of the new villains have come across as losers and lightweights, who've had no chance of beating Spider-Man. It's hard to feel threatened by a guy like Overdrive, whose main power is to transform normal cars into evil vehicles. Whoa, scary! Not since the late '70s, with throwaway villains like Big Wheel and Rocket Racer, has ASM been so devoid of suspense.
Kraven's daughter, Ana, is a welcome departure. She rips apart Spidey's webbing effortlessly and easily matches his speed and agility. This is the kind of foe that Spidey should be battling on a regular basis. But what makes "Kraven's First Hunt" so satisfying is that Spidey has to confront not only Ana, but Vermin, too. This tag-team combination provides nonstop thrills and adds some much-needed edginess to ASM.
Phil Jimenez does a great job illustrating the long climatic battle between Ana, Vermin, and Spidey. He definitely makes sure that the action flows seamlessly from panel to panel and from page to page. My only complaint with his art is that he makes his Spider-Man look too much like Todd McFarlane's, with the oversized eyes and the tiny web pattern. I find the look too cartoonish for Jimenez's otherwise realistic approach to character design.
But all in all, it's a solid issue and a solid arc. And it might just mark the beginning of Spidey's rejuvenation. After all, next week's issue promises the return of Venom. Now that's more like it!
Posted originally: 2008-08-14 12:55:38