Since this volume of Amazing Spider-Man began, Kraven the Hunter has been pulling some schemes in the background. At long last, we see the size and scope of his plan as we look towards the “Hunted” storyline. The bulk of Amazing Spider-Man #16 is focused entirely on Kraven, giving us a rundown of what he’s been up to since he came back to the land of the living. Don’t worry. Peter Parker shows up in the backup story and everything ties together.
I will admit that Kraven has always seemed like a joke to me. I never really “got” the character. Writer Nick Spencer has changed that with this issue. He has catapulted Kraven up the ranks in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery to a major player. We dig into just how far this man is willing to go and it’s absolutely diabolical.
This story is told mostly in third person narration. I was a little put off by this at first, but it works to add to the legend of Kraven. It adds a mythical quality to it, like this is a tale passed down from generation to generation about a heartless warrior that sacrificed his own family for his cause. Letterer Joe Caramagna delivers these caption boxes in a story book manner which works well with the content.
What really drives home the sinister quality of Kraven is his psychopath-like manipulation of emotions. Artist Ryan Ottley brings a suave nature to him at times, like he’s the kind of guy you’d want to get a beer with. That can disappear in an instant, leaving an uncaring beast of a man. The full array of this is shown when he sees the results of his son’s missions. It’s a chilling scene made all the more so by his strange reaction to all this bloodshed. Inker Cliff Rathburn captures this natural charisma in Kraven, from the scruff on his chin to the small wrinkles in his forehead.
The colors for this sequence play with these emotions too. They’re brought low and dark during a somber moment and then brighten up like the sunrise with the twist. I’m not sure who handled these pages as Laura Martin, Brian Reber, and Carlos Lopez are all credited as colorists in this issue, but not for specific pages.
Kraven’s new quest is a little unsettling as he’s actually targeting something that everyone should be against: rich people hunting endangered animals for sport. That’s something that we can all probably agree on, right? While his intentions seem pure, his methods are questionable. That creates an uneasy feeling.
In addition to Kraven’s story, we get a reminder that Peter Parker is a great dude. He’s under the weather and should be in bed resting, but he suits up to help find the Lizard’s son, Billy, who has gone out for a night on the town. I love how Spencer has seeded this story for a few issues only to have it neatly tie into Kraven’s tale.
Artist Alberto Alburquerque handles this backup story and he brings a humanity to the Lizard and his family. They may look like hideous monsters, but there’s love behind those scales. Some of the human characters look a little off, like their joints are messed up. The Connors clan and Spider-Man more than make up for this.
Amazing Spider-Man #16 is a great example of how to kick off an event. It simultaneously serves as a solid jumping on point and a pay-off for some plot threads that have been building for some time. It helps that it redefines a classic villain, setting him on a much higher bar and upping the stakes considerably. If this is what Kraven is willing to go through in preparation for a battle with Spider-Man, imagine what the actual fight is going to be like.