The Stalking of John Doe
Written by Adam-Troy Castro
The Plot: Peter Parker is admitted as John Doe to the psychiatric ward, hallucinating violently after being poisoned by Kraven the Hunter. Delirious, Peter latches on to Dr. Gwendolyn Harris, whose name and face remind him of Gwen. When Kraven enters the hospital, Dr. Harris trusts Peter enough to accept his request for gauzes to cover his face. He confronts Kraven, and when Kraven threatens Dr. Harris (after she futilely tries to sedate him), Peter finds the inner strength to break out of Kraven’s grip and take the fight outside. Weeks later, Dr. Harris receives an anonymous note thanking her for her help.
Web of Continuity: Like the previous story, this nominally takes place in “recent” Spider-Man continuity. The presence of Kraven the Hunter creates a problem, though, since he was killed off in 1987. Is this one of Kraven’s sons? Perhaps, although nothing in the story indicates this. Spider-Man even mentions Kraven’s relationship with the Chameleon (implying this is the original), although he is delirious at this time. Could one of his sons fit into the mid-‘90s continuity of this story? Alyosha Kravinoff only fought Spider-Man once before declaring him an ally in Spectacular Spider-Man #253, which would leave Kraven’s oldest son, the Grim Hunter. And Grim Hunter was only active for a few months before getting killed, so that leaves a very tiny window for this story to take place in.
Forever Young: This story, set at some point in the past circa 1997, describes Peter as being a young male in his “late twenties.”
Review: The final, and longest, story in the book, “The Stalking of John Doe” has a solid hook, but a few nagging plot problems. The major one is the idea that Dr. Harris can’t recognize Spider-Man without his shirt and mask. As the story puts it, he’s only wearing blue tights and a straightjacket. Okay, but…what happened to his boots? They easily identify him as Spider-Man. (And where does that belt go when Peter takes his shirt off, anyway?) And, while it’s not hard to imagine Peter ripping off his mask and/or his shirt while in a psychotic rage, I have a hard time picturing him going through the effort required to take off his long, tight gloves or webshooters.
Plus, there’s the continuity nerd question of when this story is supposed to be taking place. Spider-Man mentions that he was ambushed by Kraven in SoHo, which could imply the story is set in the early years of the marriage, circa Amazing Spider-Man #325. However, Kraven was dead long before they moved. Okay, then…being ambushed in SoHo doesn’t mean he’s actually living there, but the placement of this story still creates problems. Since the previous story had Alistair Smythe in his cyborg-monster ‘90s phase, it has to take place after 1987’s “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” which means the reader has to create his or her own explanation for what Kraven’s doing here (or which Kraven this is).
Judged on its own merits, the story still has a lot going for it. It’s a great setting for a Spider-Man story, and the shock opening of a crazed Peter Parker fighting his way out of a straightjacket certainly grabs your attention. And, even though this is probably the fifth story in the book to make Peter’s guilt over Gwen’s death a major plot point, Castro puts the doctor’s coincidental resemblance to Gwen to good use during the final fight scene. His characterization of the staff of the hospital and the beleaguered police officers tasked with bringing Peter in also adds a lot of personality to the story. Having finished the book, I now wonder if this story wasn’t intended to be the final installment, but was moved to the end to make a stronger finish. After all, “My Enemy, My Savior” would’ve been an extremely weak closer. Perhaps someone pushed this story to the back, not considering the continuity issues that the move created.