So Amazing Spider-Man has been running a sort of overall-metaplot called “The Gauntlet” all year, where the heirs of Kraven basically beef up every one of Spidey’s villains and then send them after him (or manipulate them into doing so). Originally, the implication was that the Kraven family was trying to knock Spidey down enough to then take him on themselves, a la Bane’s plan for Batman in “Knightfall.” This didn’t entirely work in terms of the stories that were being told, mostly because the rotating-writer-and-weekly format of ASM doesn’t lead itself to the sort of cohesive storytelling you want for this sort of plot, so at the same time as Spidey was fighting villain after villain, he was also engaging in all his other running subplots, which meant that the “beat him down into exhaustion” idea didn’t really work.
This became obvious early on, so the ASM writers collectively shifted gears (or maybe they intended it all along, but I don’t really think it reads that way) and shifted the Kraven family’s focus so that they weren’t so much interested in defeating Spider-Man as they were in changing his nature to become a more primal nature-warrior (the “Spyder”, a nice callback to “Kraven’s Last Hunt”) that they could then defeat. This worked much better with the nature of the comics model they were using, and some of the various rogues’ gallery stories that came about as a result are just instant classics. The Lizard four-parter has already been hailed in other quarters, and deservedly so, but the Rhino and Sandman stories were only a step behind, and the Electro and Mysterio ones quite decent as well; the only failure was the Vulture one, and that wasn’t bad so much as it was just kind of there.1
And then, in the dramatic conclusion of this year-long metaplot, it turned out the entire reason for all of it was… to bring Kraven back from the dead.2 This earns a “wait, what?” for two reasons.
Firstly, there really isn’t any reason to bring Kraven back from the dead. His death story is a classic, so it’s not like bringing him back avenges a sin against comics. (Whatever that is.) Kraven, more than most villains, is a really dated concept to boot.3 His heirs fulfill the functional purpose for his existence; you don’t need Kraven when Kraven’s Son or Kraven’s Wife or Kraven’s Daughter can do everything he can do anyway. And Kraven isn’t someone who should come back, frankly, even considering that comics characters do it all the time, because let’s not forget the reason he’s dead is that he committed suicide. The Chameleon points out in the story itself that resurrecting a character who killed himself is kind of a stupid idea, and as always, when characters in the story are pointing out that the premise of the story is stupid, you’re not in a great place.
Secondly, if you’re going to resurrect somebody with magic, you shouldn’t be doing it in Amazing Spider-Man, because Spider-Man’s world isn’t one where people magically come back to life (stupid deals with the devil aside); he’s not that sort of high adventure superhero comic. Spidey is street-level superheroics, even when he gets a little mystical. Spider-Man’s world is one where when you die, you’re dead: see Captain Stacy, Gwen Stacy, Jean DeWolff, the Tarantula, et cetera. If somebody gets killed in a Spider-Man comic and you want to bring them back, you need to establish that they were never really killed in the first place: see Norman Osborn, Aunt May or MJ, all of whom were thought dead at one point or another, but who were after-the-fact revealed to be not dead and Spidey just tricked.
However, there’s no way to use that method to bring back Kraven, since there is no way to write it so that Kraven didn’t really blow his head off. So instead, there’s another boring story about magic in a comic where it doesn’t really belong, and the resolution is that Kraven goes to the Savage Land until some other writer thinks of something to do with him, which – why would you go to all the trouble of resurrecting somebody like this if you don’t have a plan to do something with him? It’s a shame because most everything leading up to the reveal was really good, but the denouement was just unfortunate across-the-board.
- Why do all the other classic villains get a revamp or a pump-up, and Adrian Toomes gets pushed off to the side for a newer, freakier Vulture? The Rhino story was good because the newer, meaner Rhino got absolutely destroyed by the old one, making it clear that the original was the badass. Why no love for the original Vulture? [↩]
- I know there are some people who are all offended about Kaine and Mattie Franklin and Madame Web being killed off, but honestly, who the hell cares about them? [↩]
- Remember: he’s a big game hunter turned baddie. A big game hunter. Do they even exist any more? [↩]