Comic Book: Kraven's Last Hunt

Kraven's Last Hunt, or Fearful Symmetry, is a 1987 crossover series between various Spider-Man titles regarding his last battle with Kraven the Hunter. It spans Web of Spider-Man #31-32, The Amazing Spider-Man #293-294 and The Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132.

Sergei Kravinoff, aka Kraven the Hunter, had been a major member of Spider-Man's rogues gallery for years, if not a persistent one, even more so than his half-brother the Chameleon; the first supervillain Spider-Man fought, and the one who brought Spider-Man to Kraven's attention in the first place. Since the '70s however, he'd diminished somewhat. The story was originally not a Spider-Man story at all, but a Wonder Man story of all things. Writer J.M. DeMatteis claims the original idea started with the concept of being buried alive. In the original version, Wonder Man would have been buried alive by his brother the Grim Reaper. Realizing the concept didn't work so well with Wonder Man, DeMatteis tried to rework it as a Batman story featuring the Joker, but some other story called The Killing Joke was in development then. DeMatteis eventually settled on Spider-Man and Kraven as the major players in addition to a creation of his: Vermin.

Spider-Man has just returned from his honeymoon with Mary Jane Watson. For whatever reason, he cannot shake a feeling of unease that doesn't seem to stem from his spider-sense. Encountering Kraven, Spider-Man tries to make light of the situation, but still can't shake the dread, especially when he sees the deranged look in Kraven's eyes, and the rifle in his hands.

Kraven shoots, and the webhead quickly loses consciousness. Kraven holds a small funeral for his enemy on his estate, and buries Spider-Man. Needing to completely defeat him beyond killing him, Kraven then dons a copy of Spider-Man's then-black costume note  and masquerades as Spider-Man. When he saves Mary Jane from a group of muggers, she knows instantly he's not her husband. Kraven also captures the rat-creature Vermin, who Spider-Man had helped Captain America defeat before.

But Spider-Man isn't dead. Kraven shot him with a horse tranquilizer and buried him alive. Just barely managing to avoid panicking, Spider-Man digs his way out just before his air runs out. Understandably shaken and staggering, he still makes it to his apartment to assure Mary Jane that he's alive and goes to confront Kraven. Spider-Man finds Kraven and Vermin, who has been tortured by the Hunter. Spider-Man attacks Kraven, but he doesn't fight back, considering his point made. Kraven then demands that Spider-Man and Vermin fight, but Spider-Man walks away disgusted. Kraven releases Vermin, who attacks Spider-Man, thinking he's the one who captured and tortured him. Kraven stops Vermin from killing Spider-Man and lets him go free, telling Spider-Man that he can pursue him if he wishes, but Kraven has hunted his last.

Spider-Man tracks down and outwits Vermin and returns home to Mary Jane. Kraven returns to his home, muses at the peace he feels, and commits suicide.

Trope examples in Kraven's Last Hunt include:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: It's hard not to feel sorry for Kraven as he kills himself.
  • Arc Welding: A decade later, this crossover became important again because it created a span of time that Peter can't account for his whereabouts... meaning he had no alibi for the murders committed by his deranged clone Kaine.
  • Arc Words: Several:
    • Quotations from William Blake's "The Tyger" are spread all throughout the storyline. Its alternate title is even "Fearful Symmetry."
    • "I am the Spider!"
    • "Look at his eyes."
    • "They said my mother was insane."
  • Ate His Gun: Kraven, poor Kraven.
  • Book Ends: The first and final chapters end with Spider-Man and Kraven being buried with the phrase "Spyder! Spyder! burning bright in the forests of the night. What immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry?"
  • Buried Alive: This makes for one of the scariest Spider-Man stories out there.
  • Death Is Cheap: Kraven did stay dead for a long time, rivaling the time Norman Osborn spent dead, but his family eventually revived him against his will.
  • Due to the Dead: Three instances:
    • At the beginning Spider-Man visits the wake for Joe Face, a snitch he had sometimes had pumped for information, leaving some money to help pay for the funeral. This starts him on reflecting his own mortality.
    • After shooting Spider-Man, Kraven has him buried in style, complete with a very fancy headstone.
    • Kraven also had all his own funeral arrangements prepared at the end.
  • Famous Last Words: Kraven goes out with the words "They say my mother... was insane."
  • Fetal Position Rebirth: Peter Parker dreams of himself naked in the fetal position, floating in a white void, while drugged and Buried Alive by Kraven the hunter. Then the drug-induced sleep turns nightmarish, with amongst other niceties Peter "birthing" out of a Giant Spider.
  • Heroic BSOD: Spider-Man is easily suffering from this due to being Buried Alive. It's obvious he just wants to get back home and hide with Mary Jane for a very long time, but he pushes himself to keep going.
  • Kill and Replace: In the original story, Spidey is just knocked out with horse tranquilizers. An issue of What If? plays this trope straight.
  • Madness Mantra: Spider-Man goes into this as he's trying to hunt down Vermin, scared out of his wits.
  • Not Quite Dead: Spider-Man wasn't shot with a bullet, just horse tranquilizer.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: As Spider-Man points out, Kraven's never been a gun man, he's always wanted to beat Spider-Man with either his own bare hands or more primitive weapons.
  • Prematurely Marked Grave: In the covers, we see a grave marked for Spider-Man with either an empty tomb or Spidey himself rising from the ground, showing that he is far from dead.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Vermin. Spider-Man's inner monologe recalls how it's Baron Zemo's fault.
  • Sequel: The graphic novel Soul of the Hunter by the same artistic team shows Peter Parker still struggling with the aftereffects of being buried alive and his repressed guilt over not having prevented Kraven's suicide. This came about partly to answer accusations that Kraven's Last Hunt glorified suicide.
  • Superior Successor: Way before Superior Spider-Man, Kraven defeats Spidey, then takes up his costume, going out to defeat Vermin, which all three men point out required Spidey needing Captain America's help the last time Vermin was fought. This is Kraven's big goal before he allowed himself to die - proving that he could be a better Spidey than Spider-Man was.
  • Switching P.O.V.: The Color-Coded for Your Convenience caption narration alternates between the points of view of Spider-Man (yellow background, with a few exceptions for emphasis), Kraven (orange), Vermin (green) and Mary Jane Watson-Parker (lilac).
  • Thou Shall Not Kill: Spider-Man refuses to play Kraven's games because of this.