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Comic Book / Kraven's Last Hunt

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"I have slain the Spider. Become him. I have hunted as the Spider hunts... consumed the Spider's prey. I have proven myself his superior in every way."

Kraven's Last Hunt, or Fearful Symmetry, is a 1987 Bat Family Crossover 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. This is the first event title in Spider-Man's publication history, and the first time a single story carried across all the books.

Sergei Kravinoff, a.k.a. Kraven the Hunter, has been a major member of Spider-Man's rogues gallery for years. Originally invited to New York by his half-brother the Chameleon (the first supervillain Peter Parker fought), Kraven was soon introduced to the unique challenge of hunting Spider-Man. Since the '70s however, he'd diminished somewhat. This time, The Hunter is setting out to truly prove himself to be superior to Spider-Man — by going for the kill and seeking to become his replacement.

The story was popular enough to receive multiple follow-ups over the years. 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. In either case, Kraven's still dead and gone in that story. Later still, Grim Hunt has Kraven's ex-wife and children rounding up spider-powered heroes and using them in blood rituals to resurrect both Kraven and his dead eldest son in the same mansion Kraven uses in this story, much to Kraven's fury at being cheated out of a peaceful end through unnatural means. Nick Spencer's 2019 event Hunted also builds on the legacy of Kraven's Last Hunt and Grim Hunt, while pretty definitively ending Kraven's story.

The video game Marvel's Spider-Man 2 is a partial adaptation of the storyline.

Kraven's Last Hunt provides examples of:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: There's a small but incredibly powerful moment where, after reuniting with Mary Jane, Peter stands on the windowsill in the pouring rain, then pauses and takes Mary Jane's hand in his and holds it up to his face, before swinging out into the night after Kraven and Vermin.
  • Animal Motifs: Both spiders and rats feature prominently in the story, seemingly representing both death and the primal instinct to survive. Peter considers smashing a spider by his bed but ultimately decides to spare it only to reflexively kill it when he awakes from a nightmare. Kraven keeps a large collection of spiders that he fights and consumes prior to his battle with Spider-Man and later hallucinates that they form a massive singular spider that represents his fear that Spider-Man is superior to him. A rat sticks around Spidey's grave and MJ frantically kills a rat in her apartment while worrying that Peter is dead, recoiling in horror after she does. And then of course, there's Vermin.
  • 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 with "tyger" replaced by "spider" or "spyder". Its alternate title is even "Fearful Symmetry."
    • "I am Kraven. The Hunter."
    • "I am the Spider!"
    • "I am so afraid"
    • "Look at his eyes."
    • "They said my mother was insane."
    • "Mary Jane!"
  • Ate His Gun: After feeling that he's sufficiently proven his point and is ready to die honorably — by his standards, at least — Kraven positions himself in front of a coffin, sticks his hunting rifle in his mouth, and fires, with his body falling inside from the recoil.
  • 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: Peter suffers this fate after Kraven drugs and defeats him. It takes him two weeks to wake up from his state and break out of the coffin.
  • Caught Monologuing: Averted. And how. After Spidey gets shot with a dart and becomes entangled in a net, as Kraven approaches he immediately muses that The Hunter will revert to type, bragging about his imminent victory, giving the Wallcrawler and opportunity to turn the tables and escape. But things don't turn out that way...
    Spider-Man: I've been in worse shape before. I know Kraven's method. He's just like Doc Ock and The Vulture and all the rest of 'em. He's gonna pack me off to some secret hideout, spend a couple of hours ranting and raving — and while he does, I'll find a way to beat his smirking face right into the- A RIFLE?!
  • Contemplate Our Navels: Peter early in the comic thinks about mortality:
    Peter: That's what it's all about, isn't it? Yesterday, Ned Leeds, today, Joe Face. Tomorrow... Aunt May? Mary Jane? Me? Funny. I'm out there facing death every day as Spider-Man — But I never really think about it. Guess I don't let myself. Yet so many people I love have died before their time: Uncle Ben, Captain Stacy, Gwen — now Ned... do I think I'm somehow immune? I'm going to die. But not yet.
  • Darker and Edgier: Considered to be darker than any other Spidey story by a long shot.
  • 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.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Spider-Man gets out of his grave. His name is cleared. The police even express sympathy for his ordeal of being buried alive and drugged by Kraven and he goes home to his wife.
  • 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. 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.
  • Hope Spot: A villainous example. When the spiders that Kraven has kept in a glass cage congregate to form a gigantic and monstrous spider, he initially believes that it is an hallucination induced by the drugs he has assumed and his own obsession with Spider-Man and he tries to fight it off. But he soon concludes that it is real and is dragged into the cluster of spiders, finally losing what little sanity that he still has.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Vermin drags a woman into the sewer while thinking "yum" multiple times. A little while later, Vermin can be seen with a human rib cage, indicated he did in fact eat her. In the What If?' of this issue — where Kraven actually kills Spider-Man with bullets rather than just drugging him with a powerful tranquilizer — Kraven continually eats parts of Peter's corpse.
  • 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: When Kraven concludes that the gigantic spider that he is seeing is real, his descent into madness is punctuated by one.
    Kraven: It's true. It's true. It's true. It's true. It's true. It's true. It's true. It's true. It's true. It's true. It's true.
  • Mood Whiplash: This incredibly dark story comes immediately after Peter and Mary Jane's wedding and honeymoon issues (both were Amazing and Spectacular Annuals). What drives Peter to come out of the grave is precisely the fact that he and Mary Jane are in their early days of marriage and two weeks of their life is taken away and with that the newlywed bliss and happiness that they enjoyed.
  • Not Quite Dead: Spider-Man isn't shot with a bullet, just a very powerful tranquilizer.
  • Oh, Crap!: Once Spidey realizes Kraven is done screwing around.
    Spider-Man: Look at his eyes. There's something in his eyes! This isn't the Kraven I know!
  • O.O.C. 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.
    Kraven: (as he takes aim at a downed Peter) Honor... will be restored.
    Spider-Man: A rifle?! C'mon, Kravey... rifles aren't your style! You've always wanted to pound me into a hamburger — with your bare hands!
  • Prematurely Marked Grave: On 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 is a murderous cannibal with the reasoning level of an infant. Spider-Man's inner monologue recalls how Vermin's wretched state is Baron Zemo's fault.
  • Sanity Slippage: Kraven goes through this after one too many defeats and goes insane trying to prove he's superior to Spider-Man.
  • Scenery Gorn: Mike Zeck's artwork makes New York's sewers look ugly, dark, and grimy, rather than the cavernous, but cool underground tunnels they're usually shown as.
  • Secret-Keeper: Mary Jane eats herself up with this. Because she knows Peter's secret, she has no way of communicating or sharing her concern with anyone else, any way to explain her husband's absence or the fact that the Spider-Man going on a rampage is an impostor. She briefly considers going to Joe Robertson, Daily Bugle editor-in-chief and family friend, (and "a man of integrity" as MJ notes) but she can't bring herself to tell him.
    • A major reason MJ seriously considers confiding in Robbie is that she believes that the wise and perceptive newspaperman already knows (or at least strongly suspects) that Peter is Spider-Man. But in the end, she still can't do it.
    MJ: Even if he does know... I can't tell him.
  • Superior Successor: Kraven defeats Spidey, then takes up his costume, going out to vanquish Vermin, which all three men point out required Captain America's help the last time Vermin was fought. This is Kraven's big goal before he allows himself to die — proving that he could be a better Spidey than Spider-Man. He of course misses the point: there is no Spider-Man. Only Peter Parker, as The Hunter realizes that Spider-Man's humanity and compassion is what defines him and gives him purpose, which Kravinoff himself doesn't have.
  • 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).
  • Sympathy for the Hero: Kraven experiences this when he and Spider-Man confront each other a second time, especially when he sees Peter's sense of responsibility and concern for the savage Vermin. He even saves the webslinger's life from Vermin, shocking Peter after what he did earlier. Kravinoff then advises Spidey on how to find Vermin and after Spider-Man leaves (while warning him he'll come back), Kraven proceeds to commit suicide.
  • Thou Shall Not Kill: Spider-Man refuses to play Kraven's games (beating the bestial Vermin to death while raging out after gaining the upper hand) because he's not a killer.