The hunt grows deadly.
There are many reasons why so many crossover events falter, but one of the most common problems involves poor structure. Too often, the core miniseries delivers the straightforward backbone of the story, leaving it to the tie-in books to add depth and flavor. As “Hunted” has shown us, even smaller-scale events can fall victim to this problem. What should have been one tightly plotted story of Kraven the Hunter launching his most ambitious plot is instead a plodding, overly drawn-out experience.
On one hand, you have to give the Amazing Spider-Man crew credit for making the .HU tie-ins a vital part of the reading experience. These character-driven side-stories have done a lot to enhance the narrative and flesh out supporting players like Black Cat and The Gibbon. On the other, you have to question why that material wasn’t simply integrated into the core storyline. “Hunted” has shown a strange reluctance to progress very far beyond its initial starting point in Amazing Spider-Man #17. Why not at least offset that lack of momentum by making the sad plight of the Gibbon a part of the main Amazing Spider-Man book?
That question becomes especially paramount in this issue. The best sequence in this issue hinges on the reader having previously read Amazing Spider-Man #18.HU. It features the Vulture vaingloriously casting himself as the savior of his fellow captives and comically distorts the events that played out in #18.HU. Without that context, this scene is missing something vital.
Still, it is fun to see writer Nick Spencer dig in with this long-standing Spider-Man foe. One of the hallmarks of his run so far is that the villains stand out as much, if not more than, Peter Parker himself. Vulture becomes a figure of both tragedy and comedy here, one who seizes the chance to elevate his own standing without grasping the true nature of the danger facing he and his fellow captives. Like his namesake, Vulture is just surveying the killing fields and seeking a way to take advantage of the slaughter.
This issue ushers in a change of artist, with Gerardo Sandoval filling in for Humberto Ramos. The result is a fairly seamless transition, as both artists have similar styles and sensibilities. Given how much Ramos’ exaggerated, toothy facial expressions were distracting in the past couple issues, it’s a welcome change seeing Sandoval’s more low-key approach to facial work. And between his powerful, hulking figures and the generally moody, frenetic vibe of his art, Sandoval elevates the sens eof danger driving the story. The plot may lack a certain sense of urgency, but at least the art makes up for it to a certain degree.
“Hunted” is definitely still too sluggish for a story that has now reached its halfway mark. Kraven and his son are barely any closer to executing their master plan than they were when this conflict began. Though to be fair, that lack of progress is becoming a source of friction between father and son. There is also one element that helps improve this chapter over its predecessor. Spider-Man himself has a newfound sense of desperation as he sees his enemies begin to fall. For a man who once vowed that no one would ever die on his watch, being trapped in a dome while robotic drones murder costumed criminals must be akin to psychological torture. That alone gives hope that the payoff to “Hunted” will be worth the slow buildup.