“Hunted” is a story arc that has continued to improve with each passing issue. Nick Spencer has found his groove with how he has structured “Hunted” to be this self-contained epic taking place within Central Park. Everything Kraven has set has tested Spider-Man in ways that our hero did not expect. Adding in so many wild cards with all the villains that are also being hunted by the VR controlled Kraven Hunter robots has elevated the story. In particular, the elevation of Vulture in this situation has added a new hook to the story, as he has taken charge of the situation on the villains side of things. How things go from here is anyone’s guess. Let’s find that out now with Amazing Spider-Man #20.
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Humberto Ramos
Inker: Victor Olazaba
Colorists: Edgar Delgado and Erick Arciniega
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Within Central Park Spider-Man wonders why Black Ant stopped him from destroying one of the Kraven Hunter robots and shrunk them both.
Before revealing his true motives Black Ant talks about how he once tried to be a good guy, even joining the Avengers, but he kept feeling this pull back to the darkness. Spider-Man doesn’t feel bad for Black Ant since he and Taskmaster are the ones that captured everyone. Black Ant reveals that Taskmaster sold him out.
Elsewhere Taskmaster has knocked out several guards he trained. He then lets go of Lizard from his chains. In the process it is revealed Lizard bribed Taskmaster with an antidote for something. Lizard takes off and reveals to Taskmaster that the antidote he promised was time, much to Taskmaster’s disappointment.
Back with Spider-Man and Black Ant, the latter believes it is best for them to stay small and let the hunt die down. Spider-Man is not down with that plan as there are people counting on him to get out safely. Black Ant states there is no getting out.
Outside Kraven’s mansion Black Cat and Billy Connors try to sneak out but are found by one of the Kraven Hunter robots. The guy controlling the Kraven Hunter immediately goes after Black Cat.
Inside the mansion Kraven’s son is frustrated that Black Cat escaped and that he is still not allowed to join the hunt. Kraven tells his son it is not time yet. Kraven’s son has had enough and says he is sick of his father’s inaction. He marches off while stating he will uphold the Kravinoff name since his father won’t.
Kraven is shown visibly angry, clutching his hands hard enough to start bleeding.
Back outside the mansion Black Cat struggles to fend off the Kraven Hunter. The Kraven Hunter nails Black Cat with a shot from his laser gun. He then spots Billy hiding terrified in the bushes. The guy is surprised to see a kid part of the hunt as that is not what who he was told would be involved. He decides to run away and look for something else to hunt.
Billy goes to Black Cat and helps her walk to safety.
At the prison cells Lizard is shocked to find that his son is not there. Kraven’s son suddenly appears and starts knocking Lizard around with ease. Kraven’s son calls Lizard pathetic and promises to take Billy apart limb by limb while Lizard watches helplessly.
The guy controlling the Kraven Hunter who attacked Black Cat is furious since Arcade never said anything about kids being involved. The guy tries to take the VR unit off but it is stuck on his face. The guy’s Kraven Hunter is suddenly surrounded by Vulture and his gang of villains.
Meanwhile Black Ant reveals those being hunted do have a chance against the Kraven Hunter robots. He goes on to reveal to Spider-Man that the rich people controlling the robots are wired directly to their brain through the VR units so when the Kraven Hunter robot they control are destroy they die.
At that same time Vulture and his gang of villains easily overwhelms the Kraven Hunter robot they found. They completely decimate the robot and take off its head.
When they do that the rich guy back at the party Kraven’s hosting suddenly dies. All the other rich people controlling Kraven Hunter robots freak out and try to take off the VR units but are unable to.
Outside Kraven’s mansion Spider-Man yells for Kraven to face him. Arcade appears as a hologram and tells Spider-Man that Kraven is occupied with other business. Arcade then tells Spider-Man not to worry since they have things prepared to keep him busy in the meantime.
An army of Vermin suddenly appear out of the bushes and quickly surround Spider-Man. They immediately charge to start attacking Spider-Man. End of issue.
The Good: Amazing Spider-Man #20 keeps “Hunted” moving at a steady pace. There aren’t major moments in this issue. This issue was more about the smaller moments that moved all the chess pieces of Kraven’s latest hunt into place. Which is appropriate as Amazing Spider-Man #20 moves us into the second half of the “Hunted” story.
The pairing of Spider-Man and Black Ant in particular provided a lot of the forward progress in this issue. With Black Ant previously hired to capture all the animal inspired villains he is well informed into a good portion of Kraven’s plans. With Taskmaster betraying him there was nothing left for Black Ant to lose. Clueing Spider-Man into Kraven’s plans was the only thing Black Ant could do to help himself survive now that he is being hunted along with the others.
This characterization for Black Ant by Nick Spencer was impressive. Spencer dug into what has made Eric O’Grady a compelling character as he is a guy that teethers between hero and villain. His latest run as Black Ant has seen him become more of a villain. But as Spencer shows Eric is only doing this as a self-preservation tactic, as he doesn’t know any other way to survive.
That made the dynamic Black Ant shared with Spider-Man even better. Because the reality is Black Ant was mostly used as a tool by Spencer to do a lot of exposition to clue Spider-Man into what is really going on. But since Spencer injected a lot of Eric O’Grady’s personality into this exposition it never felt like we were stopping to get all this information. It all worked as part of the natural flow of the story because it was Black Ant delivering the dialogue.
Black Ant was also a great foil for Spider-Man. Seeing Spider-Man call Black Ant out on his bullshit was appropriate. It showed that Spider-Man is not looking to waste time as all of their lives hang in the balance. Spider-Man fully understands what the stakes of this hunt continuing. Having Spider-Man act with a sense of urgency made the reader feel the same way about this story as things could only get worse for all involved the longer “Hunted” goes on.
Ending Amazing Spider-Man #20 with Spider-Man immediately looking to confront Kraven at his mansion was a great hook to end things. Again, this emphasized the sense of urgency in this story. It also transitioned Spider-Man into his next big battle before he can even clash with Kraven in the form of Vermin.
As the major villain involved in “Kraven’s Last Hunt,” Vermin represents someone to Kraven and Spider-Man that the latter has a tough time defeating one-on-one. So for Kraven having an army of Vermin attack is a big test to see if Spider-Man is even worth fighting. But if Spider-Man does survive this then it will only show Kraven that his nemesis is truly worth all this time and effort.
And as we see with Kraven’s brief appearance we do see how he is starting to get impatient. Even as he stressed to his son that they need to be patient the urge to be part of the hunt is starting to be to great. Kraven is fighting his own instincts by staying inside the mansion to observe what is going on. By characterizing him in this way Spencer is able to further build anticipation for when Kraven finally joins the hunt.
Positioning Kraven in this way made how his son’s impatiens be a nice counterbalance to his father. Kraven’s son’s desire to prove himself worthy of being his father’s son made him lash out in the way he did. It makes him an even more dangerous wild card in this latest clash between Spider-Man and Kraven. Spencer showed how dangerous Kraven’s son is with how he easily took down Lizard, who in his own right is a powerful character. With how much Kraven’s son is letting his desire to hunt has fully taken over it’ll be interesting to see what role he serves at the conclusion of “Hunted.”
On a similar level, now that the Vulture has united all the villains to fight back together they are the other big wild card in all of this. Now with Vulture having all the villains have a strong focus rather than just trying to survive they are more dangerous together. But as Spencer explained, this was all part of Kraven’s plan to take down all the rich hunters he gathered. If this was truly part of Kraven’s plan then there may be more to this hunt than what we have been presented so far.
Though she didn’t get a lot of attention in this issue it was good to see Black Cat still being shown to be an active player in “Hunted.” The injury she got showed that Black Cat’s strength isn’t necessarily fighting others out in the open. She is all about sneaking around in the shadows and finding ways to have the advantage in fights. But with Spencer having her watch over Billy Connors, Black Cat can’t go about fighting in her normal style of combat. Now with Kraven’s son setting his sights on Billy how Black Cat is able to recover and combat this powerful foe creates an intriguing sub-plot for the last few issues of “Hunted.”
Humberto Ramos continues to be at home with the “Hunted” storyline. Amazing Spider-Man #20 proves that as he puts over how chaotic things are with so many villains all in one place. At the same time, Ramos got over how much urgency there is to what is going on. From the different ways Kraven and his son got impatient to Spider-Man angrily going after those responsible, Ramos got over how important everything that happens in each panel is.
The Bad: The one part of Amazing Spider-Man #20 that does not connect the way Spencer intended was Lizard’s part in this story. In particular the whole sudden team-up between Lizard and Taskmaster completely came out of left field. There was absolutely no build up to how this exactly happened.
The whole thing with the antidote Lizard promised Taskmaster just made things more confusing. Spencer did not give us a reason to care for why Taskmaster needed an antidote or how Lizard knew this is what he needed. This in turn, made it tough to get behind Lizard’s role in the story and be as shocked as we should be when he is taken down so easily by Kraven’s son.
Overall: Amazing Spider-Man #20 was a strong chapter that moved “Hunted” into the second half of the story. Nick Spencer execution of the story as he moves every chess piece into the place they need to be to maximize the sense of urgency in the story was great. Every character from Black Ant to Kraven to Black Cat are made to feel important even as Spider-Man is still clearly the star of the show.
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