Spider-Man: Grim Hunt
written by Fred Van Lente and J.M. Dematteis
illustrated by Michael Lark, Joe Kelly and Phil Jimenez
Even if you think you know your Spider-Man, it might be time to open up Wikipedia to help you through Spider-Man: Grim Hunt. While not nearly as incomprehensible as, say, X-Men during the 1990s, Grim Hunt is a good read that can’t be approached blindly.
Many years ago, Kraven the Hunter decided that his life was complete after hunting and “killing” his ultimate prey, Spider-Man. And so, with no remaining purpose, Kraven kills himself. Unfortunately, this doesn’t sit right with his family, who spends the intervening years attempting to resurrect him. Coincidentally, this ritual requires the blood of Spider-Man, and Spider-Man isn’t interested in giving it away. So, Kraven’s family arranges for a series of Spider-Man’s greatest foes to attack him in sequence, weakening him to a point where he can be captured and sacrificed. This is where Grim Hunt picks up.
The story requires knowledge of the many different characters that are related to Spider-Man in some way: Spider-Man’s two imperfect clones, various Spider-Girls and Spider-Women, Madame Web, and spider-businessman Ezekiel, who once revealed to Spidey that his powers aren’t based on weird science as much as they are from spirituality. Spider-Man’s embodiment of the spider-spirit presumably explains why a majority of his foes are also based on animal totems (and some are just jerks). Of course, this also presumes that other animal-themed Marvel heroes (Wolverine, Falcon, Black Panther, etc.) also relate back to these totems, and that a rhino would hunt a spider out in the wild world, but this is where a healthy dose of comic book logic comes in: There are always forces at work that haven’t been revealed previously, but have been manipulating things all along, whether they’re called Skrulls, Nekron, or Loki.
Subsequently, death is never final in comics, so Kraven’s prolonged absence from the Marvel Universe is actually surprising, even though his return to life isn’t. Grim Hunt makes many references to Kraven’s Last Hunt, from Kraven’s anger at being brought back to life to Kraven’s daughter reciting lines from the original storyline. Villainous families aren’t always as compelling as heroic ones, but the Kravinoffs are just weirdly dysfunctional enough to work, and by the end, there are a few less to keep track of.
Max Fiumara’s artwork is a highlight, featured in the backup story “Hunting the Hunter,” which is also penned by the author of Kraven’s original death, J. M. DeMatteis. Fiumara’s stylized art is weirdly kinetic, and he draws the coolest looking Kraven I’ve ever seen. It’s pretty difficult to make a guy who wears a lion’s head over his torso look cool, but Fuimara does it. Joe Kelly also pens a pretty great Spider-freakout, once again putting Spider-Man in his ominous black costume and reminding us about the fine balance between great power and great responsibility. There’s a whole lot of metaphor and impressionistic storytelling, so if that’s not your thing, you may not enjoy this story as much as a diehard Spider-fan.
Grim Hunt contains standard amounts of comic violence, death, and sensuality, but nothing that exceeds the bounds of Marvel’s usual sense of decorum. While there are good comic tales exist to test the hero’s physical limits, the best ones test the hero’s psychological limits. Grim Hunt does a great job of reaching both.
-- Collin David