“They said my mother was insane.”
So you’re 10 years old and your only real impression of Spider-Man is that he used to show up on The Electric Company to throw a ratty-looking net on some doofus named The Sack or whatever. You remember that you liked that cartoon he was in with Iceman and Firestar. You remember that you used to pretend to be Spidey because you had a freckle on your wrist and that was your web shooter and you’d practice THWIP!-ing your two middle fingers into your palm, in the precise Spider-Man/”I love you” fashion. This is, more or less, the sum of your Spider-knowledge.
So you’re 10 years old and you’re at the 7-11 down the street and you see a Spider-Man comic, only this cat’s all dressed in black. This is new. You remember that’s his costume now because your friend had the Secret Wars figure, but that still doesn’t explain why he’s crawling out of a grave. Why? You must know. Now. So you plunk down your 75 cents because “This ain’t a library, kid.” and you get it home and you go to your room and you open the cover and there’s this:
And within the next two pages he’s talking to his dead friend who disintegrates and there’s this Kraven guy who’s killed Spider-Man and buried him, only Spider-Man’s really alive and now Kraven’s going around dressed like Spidey and there’s a rat-man in the sewers and Peter digs his way out and there’s spiders everywhere everywhere and lightning flashes and torrential rain and oh my goodness the rat-man licked that lady cop’s face and this is the best comic you have ever read. Ever.
Over the next few weeks, you make sure to get the final two issues of the story and manage to find the second and third parts (you’ll never find the first part; sorry, kid.) at a different 7-11 because this is you now: you’re a kid who goes to different 7-11s to try and piece together storylines. Face facts, True Believer: you’re hopeless.
Years later, with your critical, grown-up eyes on, you can clearly see that Kraven’s Last Hunt is kind of a riff on The Killing Joke and that sort of dark, gritty story doesn’t really work with Spider-Man but once in a blue moon. Still, I’ll be damned if J.M DeMatties and Mike Zeck and Bob McLeod and all those other names in the credits boxes didn’t craft one of the best, creepiest mainstream superhero stories of the 80’s. And certainly one of the best comics that a certain 10-year-old had ever read. Ever.