Amazing Reviews: “Kraven’s First Hunt” (Amazing Spider-Man 564-567)
Having finished off the first Complete Collection volume of Brand New Day, it’s time to get started on the second. With only four issues included in this first volume included in the Complete Collection, there’s not a ton to sift through. But these issues—written principally by Marc Guggenheim, with help from Dan Slott and Bob Gale for the first issue, and illustrated by Paulo Siqueira and Phil Jimenez—help, in part, to kick off the greatest Spidey story arc in ages a few years down the line. More on that in future posts.
“Kraven’s First Hunt” is the story line that starts Brand New Day: Complete Collection Volume 2, a grouping of twelve issues that I will be reviewing, once again, in three separate blogs. As a small tangent before delving into the story lines within the volume, I have to admit that I really, really like these giant collections of issues. One volume, twelve issues. Done. For a guy who wanted to collect all 159 physical issues leading up the final #700, these larger volumes were wonderful. They take a bunch of dense material and put it in one volume that makes for easy reading and organization.
"Life is a Highway"
So, then, onto the issues themselves. The first story in this volume is sort of a filler tale, just a single issue story told for fun to take up some space between the previous two-parter that I mentioned in the last blog and the upcoming Kraven’s daughter story line showcased in this post. Actually, this issue was tacked onto the end of the first Complete Collection volume, even though it appeared in the “Kraven’s First Hunt” standalone volume originally. I’m not sure why they worked it that way, but I decided to slide it in here because of the original publication. It’s sort of a fun issue, too. Spidey’s going after one of his newer villains. Known as Overdrive, this guy can manipulate vehicles and essentially soup them up for his own needs with the use of nanites. It’s a weird ability, one that makes no sense, but as I’ve said before…
It’s comics, man.
Spidey first faced him and cleaned his clock back in a Free Comic Book Day issue before Brand New Day kicked into high gear, revealing that Overdrive was actually a crook working for Mr. Negative. He’s still working for that shady crime boss in this issue. The story’s interesting because it tells the tale from three different perspectives: Spidey’s, Overdrive’s, and police officer Vin Gonzales. Vin also happens to have recently become Peter’s roommate, put together by their mutual friend Carlie Cooper (who Vin seems to have a liking towards). And he hates Spider-Man. Great combo. So while the tale told from Spidey’s perspective is all encouraging and positive regarding his heroics, the other two versions are not. Spidey, of course, gets in Vin’s way of stopping Overdrive. And Spidey, of course, keeps Overdrive from fulfilling his duties for the nefarious Mr. Negative. Vin rants about Spidey being a menace; Overdrive exaggerates his own self-importance and makes himself sound like the victim. It’s an interesting way to tell a story. We always get Spidey’s side in these issues, but what do cops and bad guys think about his escapades? Granted, they’re colored perspectives, but it’s fun to get into their heads.
Daughter of the Hunter
With this filler issue done, let’s move onto the central tale by Marc Guggenheim and Phil Jimenez. The main task of this story is introducing Spider-Man’s newest enemy, Ana Kravinoff. The first part of her last name should entice readers. “Kravin,” as in, “Kraven the Hunter.” As Spidey later realizes, he battles the daughter of his old enemy, a man who committed suicide years before. Though the extent of Ana’s involvement is not revealed until much later in the series, it’s cool to see how threads of her later story begin all the way back here and get teased for a number of issues.
Turns out, Kid Kraven is a bit of an amateur, right off the bat. Yes, she is able to follow Spidey to his home. She’s able to use that clue to figure out who he is. It seems like she knows Peter is Spider-Man. She even manages to kidnap Spider-Man…
…or so she thinks.
In actuality, Ana nabs Peter’s roommate, Vin the cop. The cop who hates Spider-Man gets kidnapped because Ana thinks he is Spider-Man. The irony is wonderful. Now, Spidey’s gotta save his roomie. However, one of the clues Ana has used to pin Vin as Spidey is a Spider-Man costume that she found in their apartment; therefore, Spidey has no costume.
So he does the logical thing and borrows a costume from his pal Matt Murdock, alias Daredevil. Except it’s a Daredevil costume, so we get this wonderful image.
Despite the fact that Spidey is not the real Man Without Fear, he manages to sneak into the sewers and do battle with Ana without her realizing he isn’t Daredevil. Things get hairier (literally) when a villain named Vermin shows up and starts fighting Ana, claiming the sewer is his territory. Admittedly, his involvement in the story feels a little shoehorned, perhaps Guggenheim’s attempt to cash in on the popular “Kraven’s Last Hunt” arc from the 80s that first pit Spidey against Vermin. Nevertheless, Spidey saves Vin, leaving the two villains to duke it out beneath the streets of New York.
The humor here is really quality. Guggenheim inserts some hilarious jokes and meta-references in these issues, with jokes ranging from Peter talking to a guy in a comic book shop about a new X-Men comic drawn by Steve McNiven (an actual Marvel artist who worked on Civil War and Old Man Logan with Mark Millar and illustrated the very first Brand New Day issue, as mentioned earlier) to Matt Murdock talking about prank phone calls he receives, including ones from that “fictional” superhero Superman. Anytime Marvel can poke fun at their Distinguished Competition is great, so props to Guggenheim to fitting that in here.
As mentioned earlier, while Vermin’s inclusion in this tale is weird, Ana’s is not. Readers at the time may have thought this was just an attempt to bring in another new villain into Spidey’s expanding rogues gallery (alongside Mr. Negative, Freak, and Menace), but it will turn out that Ana is more integral than that. Whether or not this was the plan all along, it’s cool to see the writers planting seeds that will come to fruition a few years down the road.
The story also introduces one other character. Sasha Kravinoff, the wife of Kraven the Hunter, a woman who exudes control. She’s twisting her daughter and, as subsequent issues reveal, she is pulling various other strands for her sinister endgame. Her introduction here, and the fact that the story hints that she is working on a larger, certainly more diabolical scheme than just the death of Spider-Man, points that the writers had at least an idea of what her purpose was. If they had the final idea already crafted, great for them. As you will see, Kraven’s family continually schemes throughout the next 60 issues or so. They're here to stay, sticking to the shadows at first, and this story introduces them well. I liked Jimenez’s version of Freak better than his art here, but he still does quality work. A group of regular artists is being collected here, like the writers, and all of them add their individual talent and flair to the world of Peter Parker, making it a multi-faceted and entertaining world to dive into.