What’s left for Spider-Man after the hunt ends?
Warning: this article contains spoilers for the ending of The Amazing Spider-Man #22!
The cover to The Amazing Spider-Man #23 bills this issue as an epilogue to the recent “Hunted” storyline, and that’s exactly what readers should expect from the contents. This is very much a transitional chapter of the series, tying up loose ends from “Hunted,” bidding farewell to a major Marvel character and laying some crucial seeds for stories to come. It’s not the strongest or most well-rounded chapter of the series, but it serves as an entertaining conclusion all the same.
Writer Nick Spencer brought a fitting end to to the story of Sergei Kravinoff in issue #22, with Kraven’s own son being tricked into beating his father to death. The most compelling material in this issue is centered around the fallout of the death, as Kraven’s lone family member and tiny circle of friends pay tribute to a fallen villain. It helps that Spencer takes a mostly silent approach in these scenes, allowing artist Ryan Ottley to focus on bringing out the younger Kraven’s pained emotions. Ottley even pays direct homage to Kraven’s Last Hunt in the opening of the issue, which definitely helps send the character off right.
The only concern with the Kraven portion of this issue is that it’s unclear how much of a net change the franchise will experience from Kraven’s death. Obviously Spencer has been positioning the younger Kraven to take up his father’s mantle all along, but by the time that process is completed here, it’s as if the original Kraven is alive and well all over again. There’s certainly nothing to distinguish the two versions visually. Should Spencer tackle Kraven again in the series, there needs to be an emphasis on defining the son outside the shadow of the father.
The somber Kraven scenes are balanced out by the relatively goofier focus on the fallout of Arcade’s failed death trap. Plenty of bad guys get a well-deserved comeuppance here. There’s also a terrific little moment involving Black Ant and Taskmaster, one that reminds us yet again just how much Spencer excels when working with the underdog villains of the Marvel Universe. A handful of pages devoted to the Conners family, meanwhile, serve as a chilling reminder of the true victims of this latest Spider-Man epic.
The only real weak link in this montage of characters and plot points is Spider-Man himself. Early on, his mad dash to return home and check on Mary Jane lends the book a welcome touch of urgency. But once it becomes clear there’s not much payoff to that particular subplot, the air pretty much becomes sucked out of the room. It’s past time the series started using MJ in a more integral way again. Hopefully issue #24 and its promises revelations about the mysterious shrouded villain lurking in the shadows can accomplish this.
Ottley’s energetic, expressive art, paired with Cliff Rathburn’s precise inks and Nathan Fairbairn’s attractive colors, help tie this montage of scenes together in a cohesive package. In terms of the bigger picture, though, this series definitely ha some problems. The current volume of Amazing Spider-Man has no real sense of consistent visual identity. The regular transition from Ottley to Chris Bachalo to Humberto Ramos makes that impossible. With that in mind, the decision to cap off a story rendered by Ramos and Gerardo Sandoval with an epilogue issue by Ottley is downright strange. The tone and style of this issue is completely unlike what came before in “Hunted.”