Sunday, November 16, 2014

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #252 - December 1997


Son of the Hunter! Part Two
Credits:  J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Mike Deodato (penciler), Al Milgrom (inker), John Kalisz (colors), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters)

The Plot:  Kraven’s bullet grazes Spider-Man, but he’s shocked to discover later that Kraven has bandaged his wound.  Kraven reveals that he only wants to speak to Spider-Man, his father’s greatest enemy, in order to learn more about him.  Suddenly, Kraven’s home is bombed by Calypso, who’s accompanied by the senior Kraven’s lackeys.  Calypso drugs Kraven and Spider-Man and takes them upstate to the Kravinoff estate.  She practices a voodoo ritual that unleashes the inner rage of Kraven and Spider-Man.

The Subplots:  Norman Osborn meets with Jonas Mueller, alias Professor Angst.  Gibbon and the Grizzly patrol the city in the Bearmobile, until Grizzly crashes it into the river.  Aunt Anna grows irritated with Peter’s sudden disappearances and tells MJ that she knows “the truth.”

Web of Continuity:  
  • The new Kraven, Alyosha Kravinov, lists his age as twenty-one.  He says that even though his father arranged for a cultured education, his true teachers were the beasts of the jungle.
  • Kraven’s last name is spelled as both Kravinoff and Kravinov this issue.
  • Spider-Man wakes inside the senior Kraven’s mansion “up on 72nd.”  This is presumably the same Kravinov home partially destroyed in the “Torment” storyline.  The upstate Kravinov home is where Spider-Man was buried alive in “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” and where the climax of  the “Pursuit” crossover took place.

*See _________ For Details:  Calypso wants revenge on the younger Kraven for rejecting her in Spectacular #250.

Miscellaneous Note:  The Statement of Ownership lists average sales at 128,297 copies with the most recent issue selling 102,787.

Review:  So, we discover the new Kraven actually isn’t a villain, even though he’s brainwashed into attacking Spider-Man again by the end of the issue.  I can’t decide if this issue’s opening is a brilliant fake-out or a cheap trick on the reader, to be honest.  We’re lead to believe for a few issues that Alyosha is Kraven, then learn he’s another son, one with the same apparent motivation as his brother -- kill Spider-Man.  Ending the issue with Spider-Man getting shot, only to discover next month that he’s only grazed and that Kraven did this to incapacitate Spider-Man so that he can hear stories about his father…yeah, it’s a bit cheap.

But I like the fact that the third Kraven isn’t a flagrant repetition of the characters we’ve already seen.  He’s simultaneously more civilized and savage, and his interest in Spider-Man is mainly based in curiosity.  He doesn’t necessarily want to be his father, but he wants to understand him better, and meet the man who drove him over the edge into insanity.  All fine as far as comic book motivations go, even though the younger Kraven’s more nuanced portrayal makes Calypso seem even more ridiculous.  Even if “Torment” is still an easy target for ridicule, I think McFarlane had the right idea regarding Calypso.  Keep her in the background, as a mystery element, and she’s fine.  Bring the voodoo priestess lady out in the open for more than a few pages and she’s just an awkward fit for a Spider-Man story.  

Although Luke Ross has evolved greatly over the months on this title, I wasn’t disappointed to see a Mike Deodato fill-in.  Deodato’s art has shown a Gene Colan influence in recent years, but it’s actually evident as far back as this issue.  I know Deodato (or more specifically “Mike Deodato Studios”) is associated with some of the most stereotypical ‘90s art this side of Extreme Studios, but he’s found a great mix between classic Marvel and the early Image look this issue.  He doesn’t draw Spider-Man any more consistently than Luke Ross does in a typical issue, but there are a few panels where he goes for a flagrant McFarlane style and it actually works quite well.  (His standard Spidey drawings aren’t so bad either, even if I think he overplays the white in Spidey’s eyes.)  Deodato walks the line between traditional superhero anatomy and a cartoonier style in a surprising way, and his heavily detailed drawings add a lot to the mood.  The new Kraven really does look intimidating, and Deodato’s rendition of his pet elephant is great.  Unfortunately, Deodato’s female characters are still strictly generic; there’s virtually nothing to distinguish his Calypso from, say, his Scarlet Witch.  That’s a shame, because every other aspect of the issue is on par with the best art being done in the other titles.

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