Written by Joe Kelly, J.M. Dematteis, and Stan Lee
Art by Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudiano, Max Fumara, and Marcos Martin
Covers by Gabrielle Dell’Otto and Mike Fyles
Longtime Amazing Spider Man writer J. Michael Straczynski made the controversial decision to introduce the concept of a “Spider Totem” which linked all the spider-themed characters in the Marvel Universe to a “spider goddess” who granted them their power. This was a concept I never really went for, and it’s been all but ignored by successive writers for the book until now. For the “Grim Hunt” storyline that has been brewing for the better part of a year now, Joe Kelly is bringing back the totem angle and tying it in with “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” which is one of the greatest Spider Man stories ever written. Leave it to Kelly, possibly the best writer of ASM‘s current rotating crop of creative teams, to sell me on something I hated by mixing it in with something I love.
The main storyline of “The Grim Hunt” revolves around the family of Kraven the Hunter, who are kidnapping and murdering costumed heroes with spider themes, with the reluctant help of the kidnapped Madame Web. After murdering former Spider Woman Mattie Franklin in the previous issue, they were able to resurrect Kraven’s son Vladimir, albeit as a deformed beast. Spider Man is informed of these events by his rogue clone Kaine and enlists the help of fellow web slinging hero Arachne, and both are visited by the seemingly resurrected Ezekiel, who leads them to a battle with the Kravinoffs to prevent them from taking the young webslinging hero Arana. This all leads to a frightening climax as Spider Man is taken captive and the family tries to bring back their long-dead patriarch.
Despite his inclusion of Kaine and Ezekiel, two characters I never much cared for, Kelly’s ties to a classic Spidey story make “The Grim Hunt” a very interesting chapter in the Spider Man saga. Lark and Guadiano’s art makes the perfect counterpart for the dark, moody storyline. The first of the two backup tales, featuring Kaine and written by “Kraven’s Last Hunt” scribe J.M. Dematteis, is an interesting yet somewhat unnecessary flashback tale chronicling an early encounter with Kraven, while the second backup tale by Stan Lee and Marcos Martin is a silly tale of two petty criminals who find a way to enter the pages of a Spider Man comic. These extra stories aren’t adding much to the main storyline, though the Dematteis story seems to serve as a prequel of sorts to Kraven’s final battle with Spidey. So many long-dead characters have been brought back to life in mainstream comics lately that it’s getting a little tiresome, but if Marvel truly intends to bring Kraven back, at least they are doing so in an interesting way. It’s still too early to tell if Kraven will truly be back to stay, of course, but Kelly, Lark, and Gaudiano have at least piqued my interest enough to keep reading. This issue gets 4 out of 5 Daggers In the Chest.