There are several â€œmust-readâ€ Spider-Man trade paperbacks out there, collecting some of the most stellar runs on Marvelâ€™s flagship superhero.Â â€œThe Death of Gwen Stacyâ€, â€œSon of the Goblinâ€ and â€œSpider-Man Legends: Todd McFarlane vol. 1â€ are just a few examples of the cream of the crop, at least when it comes to Spider-Man.Â Yet, among them all, one stands out as the best piece of Spider-Man fiction I have ever had the pleasure of reading, and the single trade paperback I would recommend above all others.
Thatâ€™s â€œSpider-Man: Kravenâ€™s Last Huntâ€.
I never liked Kraven when I was a kid.Â I thought he was the lamest of the lame, stagnating down there with the Beetle and the Trapster.Â He just didnâ€™t have the â€œoomphâ€ that other Spider-Villains had.Â He had no super-powers to speak of; he was just a tremendous athlete and hunter.Â Then there was his costume, which was one of the most ridiculous outfits in Spideyâ€™s rogueâ€™s gallery (thatâ€™s really saying something, too).Â So yeah, there just wasnâ€™t anything about this guy that impressed me in the slightest.
Then I picked up â€œKravenâ€™s Last Huntâ€, and like many others, immediately developed a new-found respect for the one-time mort.Â Itâ€™s hands-down the best Kraven story ever written, and fittingly enough, the last one, too (well, last one for the original Kraven; a new one has since taken his place).Â Author J.M. DeMatteis takes a deep, psychological look into what makes Kraven tick; from his iron-clad sense of honor, to his overwhelming obsession which has been whittling away at his sanity for so many years.Â In 6 issues, Kraven rises from the ranks of â€œanother stupid villainâ€ and into a legendary status.
Kraven, his mind gradually decaying, desires only one last hunt; to restore his honor by finally defeating Spider-Man.Â Kraven at last learns from his many mistakes in the past and preys on Spider-Man when heâ€™s at his weakest.Â Netting the wall-crawler then drugging him with a poison that simulates living death, Kraven buries Spider-Man alive in a coffin six feet under.Â Kraven then proceeds to prove heâ€™s superior to Spider-Man by becoming Spider-Man; masquerading in the heroes costume and violently thwarting crimes, even going so far as to use lethal force.Â Kraven then hunts down the vile sewer-dwelling cannibal, Vermin: a foe Spider-Man was unable to defeat on his own.Â By defeating Vermin, Kraven will have proven his superiority.Â Meanwhile, after two weeks underground, Spider-Man finally digs his way to the surface.
A simple plot summary canâ€™t hope to describe how intense and impressive this storyline really was.Â Making expert use of inner-monologue, DeMatteis journeys into the minds of the heroes and villains, examining what makes them do what they do.Â You understand Kravenâ€™s desperate need to hunt, but at the same time, you realize that heâ€™s totally nuts.Â Vermin is also handled quite well; a disgusting, frightening creature straight out of a horror film.
Mike Zeckâ€™s artwork is stunning.Â He conveys the dark atmosphere of the story splendidly, but without laying it on too thick.Â There are several events happening at the same time, with panels for each plotline cut into pages, developing tension and anticipation.Â Particularly well-done in regards to Spider-Manâ€™s return from the grave.
â€œKravenâ€™s Last Huntâ€ is currently available in a hardback edition that runs for $19.99.Â A paperback version has also been released, though is currently out of print.Â I canâ€™t recommend this book enough; itâ€™s the only Spider-Man story you just *have* to read.