WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Amazing Spider-Man #17 by Nick Spencer, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, Edgar Delgado and VC's Joe Caramagna, on sale now.
The black is back! Peter Parker will once again don his classic black costume in the Amazing Spider-Man's "Hunted" story arc as he contends with the return of Kraven the Hunter. Of course, Spider-Man and Kraven both have a brutal, shared history with the black suit, and we're not referring to the alien symbiote currently bonded to Eddie Brock in Venom.
While it's fun to see the black costume with the white spider chest emblem in Spidey's rotation again, the reunion is all a result of Kraven's machinations. He is responsible for Spider-Man once again donning the black costume, but the true reason behind it is all a part of the villain's mind games with "the Spider" and a crucial moment from their rivalry.
Kraven's Last Hunt
Spider-Man and Kraven squared off in the cult classic "Kraven's Last Hunt" story arc in 1987, which ran through Web of Spider-Man #31-32, Amazing Spider-Man #293-294 and Spectacular Spider-Man #131-132. Written by J.M. DeMatteis and illustrated by Mike Zeck, "Kraven's Last Hunt" saw Kraven defeat Spider-Man. Thinking he's dead, Kraven buried the wallcrawler and began impersonating him while wearing the black costume. However, Spider-Man was still alive and clawed his way out of his underground tomb, ultimately besting Kraven, who refused to fight back. Believing his hunting days to be behind him, Kraven committed suicide but would be brought back to life by his family. Now wishing to return to the Afterlife, Kraven can only be killed by "the Spider," and we all know Spider-Man isn't a killer.
Amazing Spider-Man #17 borrows heavily from the beginning of "Kraven's Last Hunt," from a naked Kraven stalking around in the dark among his animal trophies to Spider-Man starting to feel sick from a cold. Writer Nick Spencer is obviously paying tribute to DeMatteis and Zeck's original story, with editor Nick Lowe mentioning "Hunted" was the first story Lowe pitched when he got the Amazing Spider-Man gig. And with the black suit featured prominently in "Kraven's Last Hunt," it shouldn't be a surprise to see it pop up here.
Back In Black
After being beaten by Kraven's cloned son, Spider-Man wakes up to find himself in Central Park wearing his old black costume. Though he's surrounded by some of his fiercest enemies as part of Kraven's evil scheme, there is more than meets the eye to the suit's return. Why would Kraven go to all of the trouble to put Spider-Man back in it?
It stands to reason it all has to do with the curse that says only Spider-Man can kill Kraven. The Hunter has a growing need to relieve that moment in time when he bested Spider-Man in "Kraven's Last Hunt" where he even wore the black costume for a short amount of time. Kraven has a walking death wish, and is looking to homage his "greatest hits" before he forces Spider-Man to strike the fatal blow to put him out of his misery.
We originally learned Spider-Man's black costume would return last April when Marvel Comics' Editor-in-Chief C.B. Cebulski showed interior pages to Amazing Spider-Man #800 at the publisher's retailer summit at Chicago's C2E2 convention. Cebulski also revealed the costume would carry over into the series' relaunch as a part of Marvel's "Fresh Start" initiative. Though fans had to wait a few months, we now finally see the black costume again in all its glory.
The only question is how long will it stick around once "Hunted" has concluded.