David vs. David: ‘Amazing Spider-Man: Grim Hunt’ [Discussion]
ComicsAlliance writers and Davids Uzumeri and Brothers sit down for a discussion about the newly concluded "Amazing Spider-Man: Grim Hunt" storyline, spanning issues 634-637. WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW.
Uzumeri: "Amazing Spider-Man" #637 is the climax of "Grim Hunt", a storyline which is itself the climax of "The Gauntlet", a mega-arc of Amazing Spider-Man that's been running for the past few months. The story is a half-sequel half-inversion of the famous "Kraven's Last Hunt", resurrecting the original Kraven and turning the perfect drama of his original death sequence into an actual plot point.
Brothers: The past, what, eight months of "Amazing Spider-Man" have been kind of a downer, haven't they? The Web-heads took the classic tactic of wearing down a hero physically and mentally, seen over the course of a handful of issues in "Knightfall," into several multiple-issue long arcs.Uzumeri: It's been an entire mega-arc about inversion, really, with the Kravinoffs using the seer Madame Web to look at all of Spidey's coming adventures, which would have been relatively typical stories for the character, and change the circumstances so they come out as tragically as possible.
Peter Parker makes a workplace flub, but instead of a last-second save, he gets publicly fired and humiliated. Lizard's about to eat his son, and .... Lizard actually straight-up eats his son. The entire Deadpool issue's conceit was that the Kravinoffs hired him to distract Spidey while they kidnapped some people, including Arana. It's been incredibly well-coordinated, especially considering the huge variety of writers and artists involved.
Brothers: Yeah, overall, this is one of those events, for lack of a better word, that would have fallen flat on its face in lesser hands, but the Spidey office did a stellar job of both keeping top flight talent on the book and making sure that each story flowed into the other.
Uzumeri: While keeping its own flavor, too! Keemia's Castle was absolutely nothing like Shed. The only real theme seemed to be "make sure this story's kind of a downer that screws Spidey up." The only real uplifting issue was the first Rhino one, and that only set us up for a gut-punch later.
Brothers: Yeah, definitely. We switched between tones and sometimes even genres while going through the Gauntlet. It shouldn't have worked, but Spidey is a flexible character and it worked out admirably. It made sure that we entered "Grim Hunt" on a high point, so let's get to it. For the Metacritic, Rotten Tomatoes crowd--what'd you think of "Grim Hunt" overall?
Uzumeri: Loved it. Maybe not quite as good as Shed, but it takes "let's invert classic Spidey stories" to its logical conclusion by doing it to Kraven's Last Hunt, perhaps THE Spidey story past, like, #33 with the Master Planner.
Brothers: Yeah, I was a complete and total mark for this story. "Kraven's Last Hunt" is one of my favorite tales, and this was the kind of follow-up I love to see. It plays and builds upon its themes without... leaning on it.
Uzumeri: It reminds me a lot of the current Batman and Robin arc in that respect, really - Vladimir's sort of taking Vermin's place, Kaine rises like the original Spider-Man...
Brothers: Can you expand on what you mean by inversion?
Uzumeri: It's a lot of the same elements, and the same structure, but redone in a way that subverts and reinterprets the original while respecting it. It's all about taking the familiar and making it seem WRONG. Using things that should fit together in unsettling ways.
Brothers: Yeah, and I think that's why "Grim Hunt" worked so well when it's clearly standing in the shadow of "Kraven's Last Hunt." Joe Kelly knows what we expect to see in this story, and he sets certain things up in parallel to the original story, but then he tips it all over.
Uzumeri: It's like an intentional sacrilege against the really great comic stories, almost. But with respect. I'm not sure if I can put it better.
Brothers: It becomes something new.
Uzumeri: The fact that DeMatteis contributed backups to this arc certainly implies that he had absolutely no problem with it.
Brothers: No, sacrilege really kind of works. Like Bucky and Uncle Ben's death, "Kraven's Last Hunt" is one of those super respected tales that Marvel has been hesitant to return to. I think there have been only a few followups, and the biggest of those was Todd McFarlane's "Torment" in the '90s.
Uzumeri: The only thing that could have made it better was Mike Zeck covers.
Brothers: Geez, yeah. The covers we got were very cool, with great type treatment, but Zeck would've killed. Maybe that would've been a little TOO cute, though.
Uzumeri: I never read "Torment." I know it involves the drums and all, but how else does it tap the KLH well again?
Brothers: It's been a while, but I think Calypso was basically Kraven's ex-girlfriend, or something, and she was trying to harness something something and blah blah.
It's one of those books that's cool when you're ten because it's a little edgy, but when you grow up, whoops, it's ugly and pointless.
Uzumeri: Also, it's not like "Last Hunt" is the only well this story taps. This also serves as an unofficial climax to JMS's run.
Brothers: Oh, fair point. It pulls on (I apologize in advance) a lot of webs that have been set up in the past. Alyosha went from Kraven's successor to a son who wanted nothing to do with his father's legacy to someone who was reluctantly following along with his step-mother's orders.
Uzumeri: Ramping up the totemic aspects, bringing back Ezekiel (after a fashion), and even bringing back the dark future Spider-Man, complete with the sweet JRJR jacket costume design.
Brothers: Chameleon being a Kravinoff is a relatively recent development, and I like the way that was addressed here, with Cham being cowardly and in it for the money, rather than family.
Uzumeri: Oh, also: this pulled off "heroes don't kill" right, because it wasn't that, it was "Peter Parker doesn't kill."
Brothers: Yeah, I've been... we'll say "harsh" on the idea of "heroes don't kill" over the past year, and I may have called Peter Parker a whiny crybaby a few times, but this story got it. He doesn't kill because it's not in him to do that, no matter how far he's pushed.
He's certainly CAPABLE of killing, as we see dead on the page, but when he's in his right mind state? He's above that.
Uzumeri: it's not something Wolverine would have regretted, but it is something Spider-Man would have.
Brothers: I did like the panel of Wolverine telling Spider-Man to get out in the flash-forward sequence, though. "Hey bub, stop all the killin'!"
Uzumeri: It's telling, I think, that in the future vision, Wolverine is the one -- yeah! It's doubly funny after this week's "Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine."
Brothers: I think the difference between the two, and this is subtext in "Grim Hunt," is that Peter Parker isn't strong in the same ways as other heroes. His strength comes from his moral fiber, not his willingness to get the job done.
Uzumeri: And he can't really be tarnished, because he needs to be around sometimes to remind the other heroes that. And yeah, maybe that sometimes means being a whiny bitch to Hawkeye, but sometimes it means stopping a bunch of people from doing stupid things.
Brothers: The totem stuff! How weird was that to see a sudden reappearance of something a lot of Spider-fans hate?
Uzumeri: What, you mean OTHER than bringing back the Clone Saga in the lead-up, too?
Brothers: There was a bit of bait and switch and bait and whoops no it's for real this time in there, but it seemed pretty elegant overall.
Uzumeri: Joe Kelly is like a brilliant artist who has traveled through Spider-Man's narrative junkyard and made a sculpture that just sold for $100k.
Brothers: Tying the totemic aspects back into "Kraven's Last Hunt" is such a no-brainer in hindsight. That book was incredibly mystical in nature.
Uzumeri: Oh, totally! All about Kraven's potions and rituals. It's interesting, too, because I think with this it's all going to be part of the character in the future. It increases Peter's range, too. I mean, he's kind of like Wolverine, in that he's so well-defined that he can work really anywhere on the street-cosmic spectrum.
Brothers: Yeah. I don't think that "Grim Hunt" expanded his range, but it definitely showed what you can do with the character with a proper story behind it. He can be a fish out of water, or he can be the grim hunter. And it all works.
Uzumeri: It's going to be a hard act to follow. A very hard one.
Brothers: True. We've talked about the story, but not really ABOUT the story, so let's switch gears real quick.
Uzumeri: Go for it.
Brothers: The crux of the story, the thing the story revolves around, is the resurrection of Kraven via sacrifice of the spiders, best described as Spider-Man's "family."
Who, it is worth noting, have absolutely no actual connection with him at all, beyond the totem they all pay homage to!
Uzumeri: Which Peter keeps bringing up, which is great. "I barely know you people!" Jessica Drew's absence was interesting. Was it because she doesn't actually WEAR a Spider?
Brothers: That... is a good question. There were several spiders who were missing. Venom/Anti-Venom, for example.
Uzumeri: Well, Ezekiel mentioned them before revealing he was actually Chameleon.
Brothers: Yeah, true. It's kind of interesting how in pulling in all these disparate characters, and I think Araña met Spider-Man like once ever, "Grim Hunt" is about Spider-Man as a franchise as much as it is about Spider-Man as a character.
Brothers: Marvel's favorite everyman has a tremendous network of friends and enemies. This arc alone was Kravens vs Spiders, and we had how many people involved in the story? Five or six on each side?
Uzumeri: Yeah, and it was really a deck-clearing exercise on both, which makes it interesting that this worked so well since it was clearly operating off of a bunch of editorial edicts. The Spider-family was definitely pared down.
Brothers: Pared down and enhanced at the same time. Maybe streamlined is the word.
Uzumeri: Yeah. Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Madame Web, Arana.
Brothers: "Restructured" in business terms. Mattie Franklin and Madame Web were laid off.
Uzumeri: Who I hope Spider-Man will call Spider-Girl for, like, the next ten years.
Brothers: It's just kind of interesting that a story with a pretty simple plot, "Enemy comes back from the dead and wants revenge," (more or less) worked out to be so... sprawling. And without feeling like a sprawl. I've read a lot of Spider-Man comics, but I can think of maybe three comics I've ever seen Arachne in, but it never felt like I needed to know more than they told me.
Uzumeri: Well, I think it's because the story required no lead-up. Within the arc itself, I mean.
Like, issue one wasn't setting up "hey, the Kravens are operating in the shadows!" All the pieces were already on the board. I'm sure it'd be mystifying as a standalone object.
Brothers: I think it'd work pretty well, actually. The Gauntlet stuff is quickly and easily summarized ("Hey Spidey, the last six months sure did suck, huh? My fault! Now die!") and the resurrection and big battles are easy pickings for Spider-Man fans.
Uzumeri: It started out with Peter physically demolished by a cold and Kaine showing up bleeding on his doorstep. It was totally with a bang.
Brothers: I think "deft" is the word we're both looking for. It does just what it needs to do to get the job done.
But hey! Kraven's back and he's mad! But not for the reasons you'd think! Kraven being pissed to be alive again, and functionally immortal, is yet another twist Kelly threw into the mix.
Uzumeri: Yeah, Kraven was fantastic. "But my death story was SO AWESOME! Why are you pissing all over it?" It was kind of the fanboy insertion done right.
Brothers: Yeah, Kraven was definitely a bit of auto-critique as storytelling device. He felt very sad, which was the right note he needed to hit. Kraven, moreso than probably any villain ever, went out on top.
Uzumeri: There was a bit of that Superboy-Prime element - placing the story's detractors in as strawmen - but it didn't feel like strawmen, since it was kind of true, but acknowledging it was true actually elevated the story above... it being true. If that makes any sense. It's so smartly constructed.
Brothers: He went from a joke character to a "Holy crap did you read "Kraven's Last Hunt?" to a fond memory. And now that he's back... he lost what he won in the first place.
Uzumeri: Yeah, but when he comes back, it's going to be a Big Deal. I have to wonder if that'll be Origin of the Species, as the big Sinister 666 thing they teased forever ago.
We've absolutely been spoiled for Spider-Man these past few months.
Brothers: I agree. It's been fantastic. I've been reading Spidey longer than any other comic, all the way back when I was still learning how to read. This story was like giving candy to a pregnant woman with a sweet tooth.
And I don't think Kraven'll be back so soon. After the build up to "Grim Hunt," it seems like the right move would be to table him for now and bring him back a year or two down the line. Family fully refreshed, but hopefully still with the motivation of "I want a spider to kill me."
Uzumeri: I hope he ends up randomly iced again by, like, Black Tarantula.
Brothers: Ha! Or Doppleganger, back from wherever he's been.
Brothers: What was your favorite part of this thing? Overall, what stood out hte most to you?
Uzumeri: Its structure, if anything. I'm a Morrison and Hickman fan, so that should be no surprise, but this was just REALLY tight and made PERFECT sense, while also serving as a lattice on which a whole bunch of great character threads could be woven, continuing the web metaphor to the point of vomitousness.
Brothers: I think for me, it was Ana and everything surrounding her.
Brothers: She's her father's daughter, all the way to the end, but it's also clear that she inherited her grandmother's insanity.
Uzumeri: Like, nothing in it was wasted. Every piece mattered. It not only set up a new editorial direction for the character family, but it did it with style.
Brothers: But Ana's obsession with her new version of "The Tyger," her callous approach to cruelty... she's Damian Wayne gone horribly wrong.
Uzumeri: I like her look way more here. The wild, long hair fits her way better than that ... duck-bill thing she was rocking back in Kraven's First Hunt.
Brothers: Yeah, a bouffant slash pompadour isn't very terrifying at all.
Uzumeri: Lark and Checchetto actually draw her as a wild animal, like the epitome of "crazy eyes."
Brothers: I may be reading too much into what's on the page, but I like how you can extrapolate so much out of just the dialogue and gain a deeper understand, or appreciation, of the book.
Uzumeri: Like, you just look that girl in the eyes, and you go "holy crap, she is crazy, and she is going to cut me."
Brothers: Oh, I just realized that we haven't talked about the art at all thus far. This is about as close as Spider-Man gets to looking like a Daredevil comic, huh?
Uzumeri: You mean by having the last Daredevil art team? And the one that was running at the time? Matt Hollingsworth, you are once again a master of the coloring art.
Brothers: Ha, yes! Maybe that's cheating? But there was no daylight, tons of grime and fog... everyone knocked it out of the park. It was appropriately dark.
Uzumeri: I mean, it was literally all Daredevil artists, which makes sense since Wacker is editing Daredevil now.
Brothers: Daredevil and Spider-Man have an interesting relationship, especially considering that Daredevil's biggest enemy is a distaff Spider-Man villain.
Uzumeri: It was Lark/Gaudiano/Hollingsworth, who did Brubaker's entire run, and Checchetto/Hollingsworth, who did the last arc in Japan.
Brothers: So seeing the art crossover and Spidey borrow DD's look for a few issues was kind of neat, in a meta-textual sort of way.
I think it's interesting that Spidey can borrow Daredevil's style and work out very well, but if we got, say, a Chris Bachalo or Phil Jimenez Daredevil story right about now, or at any point post-Bendis, it'd look weird.
Uzumeri: Yeah, it definitely worked well. It didn't look, or feel, like the sort of comic that in 1971 would have been credited to M. Hands, but it is.
I mean, you had vague "art assist"s and guest artists and even a guest co-scripter the whole time.
Brothers: Yeah, it all blended well.
Uzumeri: With editorial oversight, and all plotted by a seven-man committee. This should have been a complete disaster!
Brothers: Pretty much the dictionary definition of Do Not Read These Comics.
Uzumeri: And yet, I mean, damn, this is a Spider-Man run -- I'm going through my comics this weekend and culling a LOT of issues and marking them for sale (look out on eBay, kiddies!). I can't imagine myself ever letting go of "Brand New Day"-era Spidey, and it's because of stories like this.
Brothers: Kudos to all involved. They pulled off a wonderfully layered, beautifully drawn, great little monster of a story.
Brothers: One last thing I wanted to talk about... the Angry Spider-Man. How'd he strike you?
Uzumeri: I was stunned at first, but considering everything that'd gone on, it worked. It was an interesting counterpoint to Shadowland, that's for sure.
Brothers: When you saw the "I'm coming for ALL of you page," did that float your boat like it did mine?
Uzumeri: Oh, THAT worked, totally.
Brothers: I think why Spider-Man snapping is so much more effective than Daredevil is because Spider-Man is still an everyman. He struggles and fights and wins and loses, so when he loses it, it's a big deal. It's like when we lose it.
Brothers: With Daredevil... that's business as usual.
Uzumeri: I mean, Daredevil's a lawyer. Even without his superpowers, he's already an inhuman outcast.
Brothers: Haha. Two thousand people just started writing a very strongly worded 3000 word comment.
Uzumeri: PAGE 1: BATMAN: LAWYER JOKES WILL NEVER DIE!
Brothers: All right. "Grim Hunt:" Highest marks?
Uzumeri: Yeah, pretty much. One of the best superhero stories this year, that's for sure. "One Moment in Time" should provide an interesting expositional interlude, but Mark Waid's "Origin of the Species" has a hell of an act to follow.
Brothers: Awesome. I think we're through, then.