Spider-Man's Deadliest Marvel Villain Won't Kill Him

Kraven the Hunter returns in The Amazing Spider-Man #79 to hunt down Ben Reilly while Peter Parker is in a coma, and continue the villain's long and complicated history of tormenting the wall-crawler. After being decisively defeated by Morbius, Spider-Man encounters a renewed Kraven, who's poised to test Ben's sanity and force this Spider-Man to make impossible choices.

The reappearance coincides with a renewed interest in Kraven across comic books, movies and video games, largely rooted in the 1987 storyline about the villain's relationship with Spider-Man, "Kraven's Last Hunt," by writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Mike Zeck. This frequently reprinted story not only is a compelling character arc, it offers lessons in how to adapt Kraven for a wider audience.

RELATED: Marvel: Spider-Man's 10 Biggest Failures, Ranked

Originally printed across Web of Spider-Man #31–32, The Amazing Spider-Man #293–294 and Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man #131–132, "Kraven's Last Hunt" is arguably the character's finest moment. After many defeats at the hands of Spider-Man, Kraven seemingly kills and buries his longtime foe. Other villains might have reveled in their accomplishment, but Kraven instead takes up Spider-Man's identity to further prove his superiority. The charade ends when an enraged Peter Parker finally shakes off the effects of Kraven's tranquilizer dart and frees himself from the grave to confront the mad hunter. Rather than turn himself in, Kraven retires from hunting and takes his own life, content in the knowledge he outmaneuvered and defeated Spider-Man.

The story remains a classic because of its mature storytelling and artistic sensibilities, as well as its commentary on the true measure of a hero. Kraven's lack of a moral center proves effective at first, but ultimately prevents him from adhering to Spider-Man's strong ethical boundaries. Spider-Man's death isn't Kraven's true motivation, though; rather, it becomes a means to an end. He wants to teach Spider-Man, because Kraven believes they make each other better. We see this warped dynamic over and over again, going back to Kraven's 1964 debut in The Amazing Spider-Man #15, by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko.

RELATED: Marvel's Spider-Man 2 Could Be This Kraven's First and Last Hunt

Writers and artists repeatedly play up Kraven's inherent nobility and strong sense of purpose. He doesn't have a personal vendetta; Spider-Man is merely a measuring stick for his own self-worth, a characteristic that makes Kraven stand out among the hero's rogues gallery. The pursuit and defeat of Spider-Man is all that remains for Kraven to prove. That motivation stands in stark contrast to some of Peter Parker's rivalries with foes like the Green Goblin or Venom. Kraven's M.O. against the Ben Reilly iteration of Spider-Man is a natural extension of that rivalry. Ben's recent corporate sponsorship reignites Kraven's sense of righteousness and feelings of superiority.

Kraven is widely rumored as the primary antagonist of the video game sequel to Marvel's Spider-Man, while Sony Pictures is developing a Kraven film, starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Those adaptations would do well to follow the comic book precedent. The character arguably works best as a strategic adversary. Over his long history of battling Spider-Man, Kraven's tracking and combat skills are unmatched; he uses firearms when necessary, but he prefers direct confrontations. His meticulous planning, use of hallucinogens and decided sense of honor make him an ideal video game antagonist and film protagonist. Insomniac Games and Sony could mine these qualities to make him into a formidable, constant and compelling presence across different forms of media.

KEEP READING: Spider-Man: J.M. DeMatteis Reflects on Kraven's Last Hunt, 30 Years Later

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About The Author
Sebastian Mercier (1 Articles Published)

Sebastian has been a Comic Features Editor since 2021. His favorite titles include Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America, and the Punisher. Sebastian parlayed his lifelong interest in comic books and superheroes into a History Ph.D.

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