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, 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. Kraven's Last Hunt 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: Edward Whelan, more commonly known as the cannibalistic killer Vermin.
In this arc Spider-Man has just returned from his honeymoon with Mary Jane Watson and finds 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, later holding a small funeral for his enemy on his estate. Needing to completely defeat Spider-Man beyond killing him, Kraven dons a copy of Peters then-black costume note and masquerades as the hero. When he saves Mary Jane from a group of muggers, she knows instantly he's not her husband. Kraven also captures the insane Vermin, who Spider-Man had helped Captain America defeat before.
But Peter isn't dead. As it turns out Kraven shot him with a tranquilizer then deliberately buried him alive. Panicked but determined, Spider-Man digs his way out before he can waste away. Understandably shaken and staggering, he still makes it to his apartment to assure Mary Jane that he's alive before going to confront Kraven. Spider-Man finds him with Vermin, who has been tortured by the Hunter. Spider-Man attacks Kraven, but the villain doesn't fight back—considering his point made and his victory achieved. Kraven then demands that Spider-Man and Vermin fight, but Spider-Man walks away disgusted. Kraven releases Vermin, who attacks Spider-Man in terror and confusion. Kraven later stops Vermin from killing Spider-Man and releases him, telling Spider-Man that he can pursue if he wishes. Kraven, however, has hunted his last.
Spider-Man tracks down and defeats Vermin before returning home to Mary Jane. Kraven also goes home, muses at the peace he feels, and commits suicide.
Trope examples in Kraven's Last Hunt include:
- 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.
- 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 the Spider!"
- "Look at his eyes."
- "They said my mother was insane."
- "Mary Jane!"
- Ate His Gun: Kraven does this at the end.
- 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: Happens to Peter when Kraven defeats him.
- Contemplate Our Navels: Peter early in the comic thinks about mortality: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 efore 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.
- 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.
- Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex: What is strongly implied to happen when Peter and MJ reunite for real.
- 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.
- 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, Kraven also eats parts of Peter after killing him.
- 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.
- 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 wasn't shot with a bullet, just horse tranquilizer.
- 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.
- 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 monologue recalls how it's Baron Zemo's fault.
- Scenery Gorn: Mike Zeck's artwork makes New York's sewers look ugly, dark, and grimy, rather than the cavernous, but cool underground tunnels it's usually shown as.
- Secret Keeper: Mary Jane eats herself out of this. Because she knows Peter's secret, she has no way of communicating or sharing her concern with anyone, or any way to explain her husband's absence or the fact that the impostor Spider-Man going on a rampage isn't Spider-Man. She briefly considers going to Joe Robertson, a family friend, (and "a man of integrity" as MJ notes) but she can't bring herself to tell him.
- Spiritual Successor:
- 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, The 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 Hunted his 2019 event is also intended by him to build on the legacy of KLH and Grim Hunt.
- Superior Successor: 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. He of course misses the point. There is no Spider-Man. Only Peter Parker, and as Kraven realizes that Spider-Man's humanity and compassion is what defines him and gives him purpose, which Kraven 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 Vermin. He even saves Spider-Man's life from Vermin which shocks Peter after what he did earlier. Kraven then advises him 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 because of this.