How did the Vulture rise to power within the Central Park prison created by Kraven and Arcade? Could it be that he’s a conniving villain always looking for a leg up? Or did he have help? Amazing Spider-Man #20.HU looks at the Vulture’s time under fire during “Hunted” and what might be next for him as the storyline comes to a close.
These extra issues of Amazing Spider-Man with the “HU” at the end of the numbering have been hit or miss, often showing information that’s nice to have, but not required. This one shows a piece of the story that is a must have as it reframes the Vulture’s actions in the main storyline. It’s not like he’s revealed to be a hero or a Skrull or anything like that. It’s more that it explains his take-charge attitude and shows that he’s still the manipulative opportunist that we know him to be.
This revelation also shows just how evil the Vulture is as a character. Lives mean nothing to him, even those of people he’s teamed up with. They’re all just pawns on a chessboard to him as he moves them around to stay alive. He’ll sacrifice any of them if it means keeping himself safe. What’s most interesting with this is the Vulture’s own deluded perception of himself. He tells his story like he’s the hero at times, discounting the horrible things he’s done to stay ahead.
Artist Cory Smith captures this very well. You can see a twinkle in the Vulture’s eye, like he’s smarter than the others in the room, or at least, he thinks he is. When he swoops in to seemingly save his fellow animal-themed villains, he’s shown as a noble hero, often framed from below to give him a larger-than-life appearance.
Inker Mark Morales adds to the detail in Vulture, bringing out almost every individual feather on his wings. This creates an impressive amount of texture to his costume and brings out the more sinister nature of the character.
Even the Vulture’s internal narration is framed in such a way as to show him as the hero. Letterer Joe Caramagna guides us through the villain’s memories of his past and this battle like we’re reliving some great general’s glory.
The setting for Amazing Spider-Man #20.HU is mostly the cool blue of the evening which casts a somber shade on the chaos and bloodshed unleashed. Colorist Erick Arciniega makes Arcade’s holograms stand out with an unnatural glow. They don’t belong here and it shows. It’s like one bright light in the darkness, but it’s not carrying hope, just more despair.
Amazing Spider-Man #20.HU also includes a back-up story featuring Vermin, who was recently captured and experimented on. Artist Tyler Crook handles this sequence and his style is a perfect fit for the horrific nature of the character, particularly towards the end as Vermin starts to multiply in a particularly gruesome fashion.
This is the last of the extra issues in “Hunted” and as I look back on this and the others, I have to wonder if they couldn’t have been boiled down to some essentials and included as back-up stories in the main series. A chunk of this issue serves to rehash what we’ve already seen in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man and with a few small exceptions, gives us a deeper look at some supporting characters that doesn’t feel entirely necessary. With how long “Hunted” has run and how the storyline has stagnated a bit, it seems like there would have been room for it.
There are definitely some interesting ideas at work in Amazing Spider-Man #20.HU between the main and back-up story. I’m curious how writer Nick Spencer will play with these concepts spinning out of this storyline and setting up whatever comes next for the wall-crawler.