Friday, November 9, 2012

THE ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN Part Three - December 1994


Kraven the Hunter is Dead, Alas
Written by Craig Shaw Gardner

The Plot: Mysterio is freed from prison by demons he’s summoned with an ancient book. Unfortunately, Mysterio finds himself stalked by the demons, which now have a taste for his flesh. Needing help, he attempts to attract Spider-Man by robbing a jewelry exhibit. Mysterio forms an impromptu alliance with the Vulture to commit the robbery, only to be attacked by more demons after the robbery’s committed. Mysterio chases off the demons with several flash grenades, while the Vulture’s strange encounter with the demons seemingly cures him of cancer. Spider-Man, after spending a day reflecting on lost loved ones, finds Mysterio and the Vulture and easily subdues them.

The Subplots: MJ and her aunt Anna have gone shopping, leaving Peter behind for a day of relaxation.

Web of Continuity: As you may have noticed, Mysterio is using sorcery here years before he studies the occult in the comic book continuity.

Review: I’m stumped by this one. I was going to say that I’ve never read anything by Craig Shaw Gardner so I can’t speak to his writing style, but looking at Wikipedia I discovered I have read one of his works. His novelization of the 1989 Batman film. Which I read in the fourth grade. Mainly because it had swear words. Outside of movie novelizations, his focus seems to be parody fantasy stories, which helps to explain where he’s coming from, but not exactly what this story is supposed to be.

Unless there’s an obvious literary reference I’m missing, I’m going to assume that the title of this story is a nod to a novel by Michael Bishop called Philip K. Dick Is Dead, Alas. Wiki describes the novel as the story of “an alternative universe where his (Dick’s) non-genre work is published but his science fiction is banned by a totalitarian USA in thrall to a demonically possessed Richard Nixon.” That, clearly, has nothing to do with the content of the story, so I guess Gardner just liked the sound of the title. What is the relevance of the title, though? Kraven is barely referenced throughout the story; once when Peter reflects on his life and remembers villains who have died, and on the final page when the narrative makes an odd connection between Kraven’s hunt and a hunt Spider-Man’s somehow completed before he even donned his costume today. Presumably this alludes to Peter deciding to stay home with MJ even though he knows the jewelry exhibit is likely to be robbed; a dilemma that’s resolved when MJ practically orders him to go protect the exhibit. I guess Peter’s found a peace in life that Kraven’s hunt could never bring him? Okay, then. But what does this have to do with Mysterio and the Vulture? Perhaps the idea is that Mysterio’s found peace by defeating the demons without Spider-Man’s help, while Vulture’s embraced the darkness the demons inhabit…and somehow found a cure for cancer? I don’t know. This is an odd one.

Radically Both
Written by Christopher Golden

The Plot: Curt Connors develops a formula that he hopes will enable him to maintain his human persona while in his Lizard form. After ingesting the formula, he discovers that his consciousness is alive, but he has no control over the Lizard. The Lizard immediately races to the home of his ex-wife and son. Spider-Man arrives to stop him, but is knocked into a neighboring building during their fight. When the Lizard has an opportunity to kill his son, Curt’s persona emerges and spares him. Spider-Man returns and escorts the Lizard to his lab.

Web of Continuity:
· Curt Connors is living in an apartment in New York City in this story, as opposed to the home in Florida he lives in according to the comics’ continuity.
· The Lizard’s son is called “William” instead of “Billy”, which means Terry Kanavagh’s attempts to update his name from Web of Spider-Man did survive into at least one other story.

Review: There’s a nice hook for this story, as Christopher Golden has Curt Connors remain conscious during his transition into the Lizard and narrate life in his altered state. Of course, Connors is being wildly reckless by even attempting this experiment, but his actions are somewhat justifiable if he truly believes this is the only way the Lizard’s persona can ever be destroyed. The question of whether or not the Lizard could ever bring himself to kill his family is raised, with no conclusive answer given. He certainly comes close in this story, but the moment that he’s prepared to cut William open is the moment Connors finally finds the strength to overtake the Lizard’s consciousness. Did this happen because Connors had a stronger motivation than ever to take control, or because the Lizard subconsciously can’t bring himself to commit the act?

Spider-Man assures William that his father would never allow the Lizard to harm him; a statement Connors later claims is a lie. The story ends with Spider-Man choosing not to dwell on the answer. It’s a fine ending, although this story more than any other emphasizes just how foolish Spider-Man is for repeatedly bailing out Curt Connors. For the sake of the Connors family, and just humanity in general, Connors really should be in a high-security prison. Yes, Curt Connors is a tragic figure, but he’s also a horribly selfish one if he doesn’t understand why he should be removed from society.

2 comments:

Matt said...

I believe Dr. Connors split time between Florida and New York often over the decades. Even in the 60's, during the Lee/Romita era, he lived in New York for a while.

Was Billy presented as a small child in this story, or as a pre-teen or even a teen? I believe he was a young teenager for a while in the 90's comics, before being eventually reverted back to a younger child.

G. Kendall said...

He doesn't seem too young. I think his most recent appearances in WEB were used as the basis of Billy's characterization in this story.