Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt – Neil Kleid (Titan Books)

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The moment I saw Nicholas Hammond, the lamented and oft-forgotten on-screen Peter Parker, scale what, at the time, seemed to be a towering skyscraper on a cinema screen at the tail end of the nineteen seventies, I was transfixed. In that split second of not-so special effects magic, I became a life-long Spidey fan and in my many, many years of wallcrawler worship I’ve read more of my hero’s comic based adventures that I’ll ever be able to remember. However, memory issues aside, there are a number of Spider-Man stories that left a permanent mark on my imagination and psyche, and Kraven’s Last Hunt  is one of those incredible tales.

On the surface, it’s the relatively straight forward story of Kraven hunting and taking Pete, who is on the cusp of exploring the relationship that will define who he is in more ways than one, out of the picture in order to assume his secret identity and become something more than he is.  While the main thrust of the plot plays out, there’s also a pretty significant sub-arc about a cannibal serial killer unfolding, one that will go to play a major part in the closing third of the story. It’s a thrill a minute, adrenalized tale that bears witness to the “death” of more than one major player in the Spider-Verse, firmly establishes MJ’s role in Pete’s life and explores the dark, gory world beneath the streets that Spidey calls home. And like most Spidey stories, following a whole bunch of large scale upheaval, it all sort of works out in the end.

However, when you dig a little deeper, which Neil Kleid does to hugely impressive effect , Kraven’s Last Hunt is actually a heart wrenching ly profound story about the loss of, and search for, identity and the meaning and purpose that it provides.  Using Mike Zeck and JM DeMatteis original story as a springboard, Kleid tunnels beneath the surface of the source material and explores the minutia of each of the characters and all that they are and by doing so humanises and makes the reader care about each of them, villains and heroes alike. His easy to read, gripping and engaging style transforms Kraven’s Last Hunt into a cerebral, full throttle pulp thriller that serves as a testament to the fact that there’s far more to comics than pretty pictures and punches. Kleid has achieved the near impossible with Kraven’s Last Hunt. He’s made one of my all-time favourite Spidey stories even better. Excelsior… Tim Cundle

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