Amazing Spider-Man #636

Spider-Man doesn't really make much of an appearance in this issue, unless you're talking about the Spider-Man who is pinned to the Kravinoffs trophy wall with a spear through his chest.

Through arcane rituals, Sergei Kravinoff has been restored to life, and his family couldn't be happier. In order to bring Kraven back, Spider-Man was apparently killed. Only there's a hitch (or two) that would spoil some of the action and suspense in this issue if I spelled them out for you here. Let's just say all is not as it seems, with Spider-Man, with the Kravinoffs, with New York City.

Checchetto's art is dark and brooding, drenched in shadows and pseudo-photorealism. It's a strong and suitable appearance for this story that focuses on the cyclical nature of life, death, and resurrection. The setting of the interior of Kraven's mansion is mired in shadows and makes some of the transition in action and scene seem odd and jerky. Some of the figure interplay is just as jerky, from Kraven's interaction with his daughter and his wife to the sudden appearance of Kraven as his son, Vladimir, is attacking Araña.

I've always found Kraven to be an interesting character to read, but as his "pride" surrounds him and numbers a half dozen, the appeal of the character slips away. This is further accentuated as Kraven comes to realize that his existence now might not be for the best. Through his violent outbursts against his family, Kraven's behavior and stability is questioned by the Chameleon.

It's a true testament to the lunacy of the characters involved when the Chameleon is the voice of reason.

The back-up story by DeMatteis, Rios, and Fiumara sets some background for the unspoken stories alluded to by Kraven in the main story. It's a story of battle and vengeance that adds some history between Kraven and Kaine, but stops there.

The final two pages of the issue, written by Stan Lee with art by Marcos Martin contain a story that is a fun mixture of the Spider-Man newspaper comic strip and an installment of the "Family Circus" as we see Peter take a path throughout his apartment quite like Billy did with some frequency in "Family Circus." It's a light-hearted piece to end an otherwise dreary and dark issue.

Kraven's wife mentions a need for the herd to be thinned out, placing the burden on Kraven's shoulders. That struck me as quite odd, with the vast number of ancillary characters in this story, from Madame Web to the children of Kraven. I expected "Grim Hunt" to be a little more hunt-filled and slightly less jumbled than this issue seems. With Kraven's return, the character loses a bit of nobility, becoming a berserk shadow of his former self. Sure, that's part of Wells' and Kelly's story, but it's flat and uninspired. I don't care about Kraven's sons or his wife, and Ana has become a shadow of the character she could have been.

The highlight of the "Grim Hunt" story -- the true fight between Spider-Man and Kraven -- is still to come, and, hopefully, will outshine this weak issue.

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