The Amazing Spider-Man #22 ends the six-part “Hunted” with the latest death of longtime foe Kraven the Hunter, whose resurrection following Kraven’s Last Hunt allowed him only to die at the hands of the Spider.
Kraven has employed the twisted tech genius Arcade to transform Central Park into a hunting ground for Spider-Man’s animal-themed villains, where Black Cat, Curt Connors, and mutated son Billy are among the lives endangered by prowling Hunterbots.
Also on the loose is the Last Son of Kraven, the only clone-slash-“son” to survive Kraven’s culling. Kraven’s scheme involved embedding an inhibitor chip in the captured Connors’ spine, which he begged Spider-Man to remove — even if the impromptu operation killed him. The Lizard’s healing factor meant Connors survived, but it unleashed the rudderless reptile now on the hunt for his son.
At the zoo, Kraven frees the captured Spider-Man, who is horrified to discover a trail of corpses in the Lizard’s wake. Confronted by Kraven, the villain says the body count is inconsequential; the only kill that matters is Spider-Man’s.
Kraven’s curse prohibits his death by anyone but Spider-Man, who refuses to kill Kraven and end his suffering. Spider-Man previously rejected Kraven’s pleas to be killed when the Kravinoffs resurrected him during the events of The Gauntlet, and Kraven now knows begging for release was a mistake.
“You were right to deny me. Because the true hunter does not kill out of rage, or cruelty — he is above such things,” Kraven tells a bloodied and woozy Spider-Man.
“He does it to maintain the balance in nature. For sustenance. For safety. Too thin the herd. All of these, necessary. He hunts and sees his place within the hunt. He honors the animal’s sacrifice. There is no sin in this. Only something beautiful and noble! This is my calling now — so that I may know rest. So that Kraven can finally die. I must show you the necessity of the kill.”
Kraven taunts Spider-Man about his decision to nearly kill the Lizard when freeing him from the inhibitor chip embedded within his spine. He twists the knife further, blaming Spider-Man for the dozen dead guards slain by the Lizard. An Arcade hologram says he’s under orders to halt the Hunterbots and end the ordeal if Spider-Man kills Kraven, who is savagely beaten by an enraged Spider.
But he notices the dead guards and stops. Their bodies are covered in fine cuts made in just one row at a time, indicating they were killed with a knife. Realizing Kraven’s manipulation, Spider-Man forces the hunter to watch as the Lizard attacks the Last Son of Kraven, rescuing Billy and Black Cat. The battle is ferocious, but Lizard’s human side prevails when he spares the villain. His paternal instincts take over, and he comforts his frightened son before wandering off alone.
“We’re here to help one another. Care for one another. Lift each other up. We give ourselves to other people — no matter what it costs us,” Spider-Man tells Kraven. “Believing that doesn’t make us naive, or weaker than you — it’s what makes us stronger.”
With that, Spider-Man tells him they’ll never be the same.
Kraven then has a horrifying realization. He slaughtered his family. He was the beast. Unable to overcome his great sins, Kraven had but one prey — one that would always elude him. He could never defeat the Spider, and now he knows why. He laughs. Kraven admitting he finally understands confuses Spider-Man, who is surprised when Kraven orders an end to the Central Park bloodshed.
Spider-Man has given him a great gift, a somber Kraven says, telling the superhero to leave. When Spider-Man says he won’t just let him go, Kraven says he’s no longer a threat.
“I am a man of my word. I made you a promise once, and I kept it for the rest of that life. Do you recall? ‘I will never hunt again,’” Kraven says. “Today, I make you that same promise. For this lifetime, and all the others.”
The last time he said that, Kraven committed suicide by shotgun.
“You beautiful creature... so majestic. Caring even for your deadliest enemies,” he says. “But remember, my fate is no longer my own. The curse of Kraven still holds... only the Spider can kill me.”
Alone, Kraven approaches an opened coffin.
Elsewhere, the black-suited Spider-Man is savagely attacked by the bloodied Last Son of Kraven.
“For you, there will always be more battles. You are the eternal night. The demon. But behind the mask, you are also a man,” Kraven narrates as Spider-Man is brutalized.
“I always saw him there, but he seemed the lesser. The inferior. I understand now.”
At the coffin, Kraven holds a shotgun.
“You are more than your power. More than your strength. It is the heart that beats inside you that makes you worthy of the spider. The heart of a good man. A hero, even.”
Kraven studies a photograph.
“And so I freed the prisoners. Spared their lives. Spared the guilty. Because that is your way. You see, what I said was true. All things must end.”
The Last Son of Kraven delivers blow after blow to his prey, choking the life out of the Spider.
“But the curse said only the spider could kill me. So once again, like all those years before — I became the spider.”
Kraven’s son looks above as Spider-Man swings away. Then he looks at the crumpled form beneath him.
“This time not just in body — but in spirit as well. Your mercy. Your kindness. Your nobility. Your sacrifice.”
Kraven withdraws the black Spider-Man suit from the coffin and slips it on. In present time, the Last Son of Kraven removes the mask and is met with the face of his finally dead father.4comments
In Kraven’s den, the shotgun rests within his opened coffin. Delicately placed atop it is the photograph, showing Kraven the father posed happily alongside his ten sons.
The Amazing Spider-Man #23 releases June 12.