Monday, November 17, 2014

SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #253 - January 1998

Son of the Hunter! Part Three
Credits:  J. M. DeMatteis (writer), Luke Ross (penciler), Dan Green (inker), John Kalisz (colors), Comicraft’s Kiff Scholl (letters)

The Plot:  Under Calypso’s influence, Spider-Man and Kraven fight.  Spider-Man is able to resist Calypso long enough to stab her arm with a spear, which weakens her spell.  Spider-Man and Kraven team up against Calypso’s henchmen, and to Spider-Man’s surprise, Kraven makes peace with Calypso.  Later, at Kravinov Manor, the bloody bodies of the henchmen lie on the floor.  In the bedroom, Kraven stands triumphant over the body of Calypso.

The Subplots:  The Gibbon and Grizzly attempt to stop a bank robbery, only to discover it’s being committed by White Rabbit and her heavily armed flunkies.  Meanwhile, Professor Angst meets with a mystery man in Ravencroft.  Finally, Anna Watson confronts Peter when he returns home, accusing him of having an affair.  MJ responds that Peter’s true secret is that he’s Spider-Man.

Web of Continuity:  
  • The spear that Spider-Man throws at Calypso doesn’t “go deep” of course.
  • Anna Watson’s dialogue hints that her husband previously had an affair.  The idea of Anna having a husband is a retcon, one that a few fans noticed.  Anna is, after all, the sister of MJ’s father Philip Watson.  Since her last name is Watson, the assumption was that she never married.
  • Kraven’s lion is given the name Gulyadkin this issue.  The previous issue established that the rest of Kraven’s animals died in Calypso’s bombing.  Gulyadkin was apparently a character in the Marvel Heroclix game, and even appeared in the ‘00s Spectacular Spider-Man animated series.
  • Dr. Garrison, a young man with a nicely groomed ‘90s goatee, is temporary head of Ravencroft following Dr. Kafka’s dismissal.

I Love the ‘90s:  The Gibbon wonders if Katie Couric will talk about him on tomorrow morning’s news.

Review:  The Kraven Jr. storyline finally concludes, with one final twist thrown in.  Apparently, Alyosha Kravinov isn’t the nice guy he portrayed himself as earlier in the issue, as the ending takes a sick turn.  Luke Ross’ cartoony style can occasionally undermine the tone DeMatteis is going for, but the final two pages of this issue are genuinely disturbing.  Not only has Kraven massacred the jungle clan that once followed his father, but the implication is that he’s murdered Calypso post-coitus.  The lion Gulyadkin apparently watched in approval.  The double-twist actually feels true to Alyosha’s early cameo appearances, so this isn’t a total cheat, and it leaves Alyosha in a position to return as a more credible villain in the future.  (Not that he does, of course.)  I’m not thrilled with Calypso receiving yet another death scene so soon after being resurrected, but the final page is vague enough to give future writers an opportunity to reveal that she was merely unconscious if they so wish.  Then again, there’s always “voodoo” for an explanation, too.

Leading up to that moment, the Alyosha plot is rather tame this issue.  Spider-Man and Kraven fight, under the influence of the voodoo drums, with DOOM appearing rhythmically as the beat’s sound effect.  This is likely an allusion to the “Torment” storyline, although McFarlane did a much more effective job of visually selling the sense of disorientation and frustration caused by Calypso’s poisoning.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with Luke Ross’ fight scene, there’s just a generic feel to it.  Through a series of bizarre page layouts, McFarlane created a mood that Spider-Man’s facing the worst night of his life, a sense Ross doesn’t even approach.  Then again, it took McFarlane around four issues to accomplish that, while Ross has about six pages.  It looks nice enough, it just isn’t that exciting.  Regarding the subplots, the Gibbon/Grizzly stuff just isn’t that amusing so far, but it’s a relief to finally see one of the writers do something with Aunt Anna.  Having her in the house is logically going to cause some problems, and it’s amazing that it’s taken so long for anyone to actually capitalize on the fact that the Parkers have a somewhat unwelcome houseguest.  That cliffhanger between MJ and Anna is also great, even though it’s not too hard to guess how it will play out next issue (and the demands of continuity require around two dozen stories be placed in-between Spectacular #253 and #254, which outright kills any sense of urgency).

1 comment:

Matt said...

And then Alyosha moved to Hollywood to become a movie producer, with the Vulture as his nutty sidekick.

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