“Hunted” got off to a strong start. Nick Spencer was building a story arc around Spider-Man and Kraven the Hunter’s rivalry that could match other memorable stories in Amazing Spider-Man’s history. Unfortunately as “Hunted” went along the story fell apart. How far it fell was shown in what should’ve been an emotional death for Kraven to turn into a plot that left a lot to be desired. What has been done, is done since Spencer has gone the route where Kraven died at the end of “Hunted.” Now it is important for Spencer to pick up on this plotline and make it mean something for Spider-Man’s franchise moving forward. Let’s find out what happens next with Amazing Spider-Man #23.
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ryan Ottley
Inker: Cliff Rathburn
Colorist: Nathan Fairbairn
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Kraven is laid to rest by his clone son. Kraven’s clone son then emotionally tears apart his father’s trophy room.
Elsewhere Spider-Man swings out of Central Park to find out if Mary Jane Watson is safe after all the visions he has seen.
As Spider-Man reaches where all the villains were running to leave Central Park he sees that the Avengers and Fantastic Four have shown up. Human Torch spots Spider-Man and asks if he is okay after being trapped with all the villains. Spider-Man says he doesn’t have time right now and takes off.
Captain America and Captain Marvel find where Kraven was hosting his party and immediately has Arcade and all the rich people controlling Kraven’s Hunter robots arrested.
Elsewhere Vulture recruits Tarantula, Scorpion, Rhino, Cobra and Stegron to be part of his Savage Six team.
Within Central Park Toad and other villains are ready to kill Black Ant for kidnapping them and making them part of Kraven’s hunt. Taskmaster suddenly shows up and rescues Black Ant, leaving the area without being caught.
In the sewers Black Cat returns Billy Connors to Martha Connors. After Billy has gone to sleep Black Cat tells Martha about what happened.
Somewhere in Central Park Dr. Curt Connors is shown crying back in his human form. Suddenly a vision of the Lizard’s eyes are shown.
Outside a subway station a guy waits for his Uber when he is suddenly attacked by some mysterious creatures.
Elsewhere Spider-Man finally reaches his apartment and rushes in when he sees a broken window. Fearing the worst Peter Parker calls out of MJ. Peter is relieved to find to see that MJ is okay.
MJ tells Peter that she tripped on his dirty laundry and accidentally broke a window. Peter tears up and kisses MJ out of joy that she is safe.
As Peter and MJ kiss a mysterious insect is shown on the broken window. The mysterious insect-like creature who has been watching Spider-Man then reflects that when MJ dies it will because of Peter and then they will finally be alone together.
At Kraven’s mansion the clone gets drunk and finds a letter from his father. In the letter Kraven tells his clone about how he sees him as a son, naming him Sergei. He goes on to say Sergei is the superior Kravinoff and that from this moment forward he is Kraven the Hunter.
Sergei then cuts his hair and puts on his father’s gear to look exactly like Kraven the Hunter.
Over at the original Kraven’s grave, the guy who helped bury Kraven’s body reflects on the purpose of the hunt. The guy reveals himself to be the Chameleon, who understood that his brother spared him from being part of the hunt. The Chameleon says he will finish what his brother started and that soon there won’t be much left in this world. The Chameleon then walks away. End of issue.
The Good: Amazing Spider-Man #23 is a major mix bag of an issue. On one hand Nick Spencer is able to create several strong sub-plots that can be the main driving force for several big story arcs. But on the other hand Spencer is unable to improve or avoid the major problems with the “Hunted” arc and his run in general.
When it comes to superhero rogues gallery you don’t get more impressive than Spider-Man’s. Through Amazing Spider-Man #23 Spencer is able to set up several Spider-Man villains to be now have plots that fans can be invested in. The biggest one that is likely immediate will be with Spider-Man having to deal with the new Savage Six. This is a great use of Vulture’s rise to be a leader of a villain group in “Hunted.” It is the logical next step for one Spider-Man’s big bads and give him a role that elevates his status moving forward.
The group that Vulture assembled is also has a unique dynamic as each one has a reason to be part of the Savage Six and go after Spider-Man. Rhino in particular stand out amongst the group. For Rhino, his hatred for Spider-Man runs deeper than anyone since he has gone back and forth with being a path of redemption. His latest fall back into being seen as the villainous Rhino is because of what he perceives to be a betrayal by Spider-Man. Being fueled by that hatred gives Rhino his own sub-plot within the mission that the Savage Six have.
From “Hunted” ending Spencer also gives a strong hook for the Chameleon to return as a big bad guy. The Chameleon is one of Spider-Man’s villains that has long been in need for a refresh. Spencer opens up that opportunity with how Chameleon views his brother’s, Kraven, death as a lightning rod for his next big step. The way Chameleon acted at the end of Amazing Spider-Man #23 makes it clear while he does have love for his brother and appreciated Kraven’s mercy he is going to be doing things his own way. What that plot entails will be interesting to follow whenever he reappears in the future.
On Spider-Man’s side of this issue, Spencer did a good job in giving some weight into having him be part of Kraven’s hunt. While it was a very quick scene it was good to see Human Torch shown to be concerned about his best friend being stuck in Central Park. Up until this point, Spencer has positioned Spider-Man to be on his own island because other heroes despised him. That never made sense given how Spider-Man has been established over the years as an Avenger and Fantastic Four member. So having this recognition was a great way to show what Spencer previously showed is not really the case.
And by having members of the Avengers and Fantastic Four immediately answer the call once all the villains were let loose elevated the danger in “Hunted.” This isn’t something you normally see, save for big events. So seeing all of Marvel’s big guns there to clean things up puts into perspective how dangerous of a situation Spider-Man and Black Cat were in as the only heroes in Kraven’s hunt.
Spencer also continues to do a good job writing Peter and MJ’s relationship as one that has a solid foundation. Seeing Peter break down once he realized that MJ was safe was a big sigh of relief both for him and the reader. MJ’s lighthearted reaction to push a reaction to Peter when talking about how he left clothes on the ground was also a nice touch to show how casual they can talk with each other.
Ryan Ottley returning to draw Amazing Spider-Man #23 was great to see. Ottley’s art style was already top notch. And with each issue of Amazing Spider-Man that he draws he is becoming more comfortable drawing these characters so they don’t look exactly like his work over in Invincible. The adjustments Ottley continues to make his artwork even more impressive. Seeing him get the chance to draw the Avengers and Fantastic Four in action also just gives me hope that Marvel will give him a shot at drawing issues of those team comics in the future.
The Bad: While Amazing Spider-Man #23 was an improvement over the last few issues of “Hunted” it did not overcome the problems with the story arc as a whole. The biggest problem with this issue is that it solidified the fact this entire story arc’s purpose was to replace the iconic Kraven the Hunter with a clone version of him that is a blank slate. That is an absolutely horrible move to try to put over a new character that Spencer created. Rather this character fully establish himself as an individual Kraven’s son will forever be seen as a cheap clone replacement.
It is the same exact problem that Marvel always runs into whenever they try to replace a well-known hero or villain with another person. The biggest mistake that Spencer makes in establishing the clone as the new Kraven is that he has him take on Kraven’s name of Sergie and his look. In doing this Spencer just established the fact he wanted to create a version of Kraven that doesn’t carry the history of the iconic version of the character.
This only creates an aura that this new version of Kraven we are stuck with is nothing more than a clone. He isn’t the true version. Rather he is just a clone that will never be on the level of the original since he is just a younger version of the iconic Spider-Man villain. Ending this clones arc with a shot of him looking exactly like Kraven the Hunter was a major disservice to the development in “Hunted.”
Another problem that Spencer cannot help but avoid is with the development in The Other-like insect creature that watches Spider-Man’s life from the shadows. Spencer has yet to move this mysterious character beyond being just a creepy stalker. After 23 issue we have learned absolutely nothing about what makes this villain a major threat outside his appearance and stalker tendencies. At some point very soon Spencer will need to pay this build up off because right now he is just dropping the ball in making a compelling new villain for Spider-Man to face.
Something that I ignored mentioning in previous reviews was the fact that Peter was dealing with a fever throughout “Hunted.” This was a sub-plot Spencer established in the opening chapter of “Hunted” but completely threw away once the hunt commenced. That was actually believable since it was clear with the situation at hand Peter would fight through his fever and be committed to being Spider-Man. But now that we reached the epilogue it would have added a great layer if we saw the fever Peter had been brought back up. After all with the injuries he sustained it would only be reasonable that it would all catch back up to him. Touching upon this sub-plot would’ve highlighted how much Spider-Man fought against while stuck in Kraven’s hunt.
Overall: Amazing Spider-Man #23 was a mixed bag of quality. While Spencer set-up several compelling storylines to follow up on later on the overall problems with “Hunted” could not be avoided. Luckily Amazing Spider-Man #23 had Ryan Ottley’s incredible artwork to elevate the entire issue above what it could have been rated.
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