Things are past getting serious for Spider-Man, trapped in Kraven's Central Park game preserve! It's not just that the villains have finally gotten their act together under the Vulture's self-serving leadership...
But he's being overrun by a small army of Vermins, too!
Spidey finds unlikely assistance in escaping them, though, from none other than his captor!
Bound and trapped by Kraven, Spider-Man is locked in a cage with Curt Connors, A.K.A. the Lizard. Together, they bear witness to a true tragedy about to unfold!
The Black Cat, already seriously injured, is no match for Kraven Jr. Fearing for his son Billy's life, Conners begs Spider-Man to destroy the inhibitor chip in his spine that prevents him from going "full Lizard." But Spidey knows that if he does, he'll possibly be unleashing a bigger threat than anything else facing them this night! What will he do? He has the power, but does he have the responsibility? And how does the Web-Head making this decision at all factor into Kraven's master plan?
You’d be forgiven for not realizing this is the penultimate chapter of “Hunted.” So much happens, yet virtually nothing has been resolved in getting to this point – which means next issue has a ton of plot threads to tie up, and still somehow bring this story to a successful and satisfying conclusion. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but given the lackadaisical pacing of this arc so far, it seems like now writer Nick Spencer wants to race to the conclusion at breakneck pace to make up for lost time. I can’t judge a comic that hasn’t come out yet, obviously, but this issue’s crucial set-up leaves a lot to be desired, as it tries to turn every major plot point all at the same time in a massive effort to make up for spinning its wheels so far.
I wonder what “Hunted” would have looked like if it hadn’t taken on the structure it has, with every other issue being a character-focused villain study. It also bears mentioning that the interludes were far superior to the individual story chapters (both in terms of general focus and overall art). All of them were immensely satisfying reads that ultimately left readers feeling somewhat disappointed that they had to get back to the “main” story next issue.
And what of Spider-Man himself? As I’ve notated before, he’s been a relatively passive observer throughout this entire affair, swinging around with little focus and reacting to metaphorical fires as he comes across them. So for this issue to suddenly throw him in the thick of it with the Vermins and act as though he’s so tired and thoroughly exhausted as a means of raising the stakes not only doesn’t feel true, it doesn’t even feel earned. Spider-Man has for the most part been a guest-star in his own story, and thrusting him into the spotlight now doesn’t feel at all organic. There are also allusions to “Kraven’s Last Hunt” being tossed around all willy-nilly that feel more like contrivances shoehorned in to remind the reader that hey, Kraven and Spider-Man and Vermin were all together in this one historic story that one time! in an attempt to give “Hunted” a stronger sense of gravitas. Instead, it just comes off as shallow callbacks.
I’ve ripped this issue fairly hard so far, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing good in it. Kraven Jr.’s confrontation with Black Cat and Billy carries a noteworthy amount of dread to it, and serves as a great motivator for Curt Connors’ panicked need to protect his son – even if he’s putting his own life on the line to do it. It also puts Spider-Man in a position where he has to question just how realistic his lofty ideals are, especially if it means sacrificing one life (Connors’) to save others (Black Cat and Billy). And Gerardo Sandoval’s art – though not my personal cup of tea – is consistent throughout and conveys motion and energy with vigor. I do wish this story had had more “serious-styled” artists paired with it; “Hunted’s” tone has been ultra-serious throughout yet none of the artists necessarily have the style to properly match it. It’s fine for what it is – I just think it would be better suited to a lighter-hearted tale.
"Hunted" suddenly hits the accelerator as it rockets to its conclusion, giving readers whiplash with all the plot it moves forward at once - yet also leaving them to wonder just how everything is going to wrap up neatly next issue.
Amazing Spider-Man #21: Hunters To the Left of Me, Villains to the Right, and Here I Am Stuck in the Middle With You
Writing - 6/106/10
Storyline - 6/106/10
Art - 6.5/106.5/10
Color - 7/107/10
Cover Art - 7/107/10
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