The Amazing Spider-Man #17 pit Spider-Man against a deadly new foe, the Last Son of Kraven the Hunter, who is actually a clone of Sergei Kravinoff, the self-professed greatest hunter in the world.
Kraven’s son is one of 87, and is the last-surviving of the lot: in following his father’s footsteps, the Kraven clone slaughtered his 86 counterparts when proving his worth as the true heir of the resurrected Kraven the Hunter, who is cursed to remain among the living until he dies by Spider-Man’s hand.
Kraven and death-machine architect Arcade, along with a cadre of wealthy big-game hunters and costumed mercenaries Taskmaster and Black Ant, have captured numerous animal-themed individuals from Spidey’s life, including once lover Felicia Hardy, a.k.a. Black Cat, Billy Connors — the half-transformed son of Kurt Connors, the Lizard — and villains such as the Scorpion and the Rhino.
A feverish Spider-Man swings through a rainy New York in search of the missing Billy and Felicia, who left Spider-Man a spider tracer just barely pointing towards their direction through a garbled connection. As Spider-Man hunts for the missing Billy and Felicia, she’s furious to learn she’s bait to lure Spider-Man into a trap.
While searching, Spider-Man’s growing headache proves almost overwhelming when he’s assaulted by a green, gaseous chemical. As Spider-Man collapses, he can hear only the incessant pounding of jungle drums.
Then, stepping forth from the gas is who Spider-Man believes to be Kraven — just one who is somehow younger-looking. And bigger.
“Definitely faster,” Spider-Man thinks, as he narrowly evades a powerful punch. Spider-Man experiences double vision and is quickly overwhelmed by sickness and the green mist.
Meanwhile, the real Kraven meets with Arcade. A ballroom filled with their guests, an assemblage of big game hunters, are growing restless.
“They will wait. We have one more coming... one last trophy to collect,” Kraven says, as Kraven’s son handedly defeats Spider-Man. The weakened superhero puts up a last-ditch effort, but he’s thrown off by a horrific vision of Mary Jane Watson dying a bloody death.
The Kraven clone says the mists can induce what are believed to be not just hallucinations, but visions, warnings of “terrible fates” in our futures. Spider-Man sees himself in a living room, stood over Mary Jane’s body, and is savagely beaten by the Kraven clone.
Upon passing out, Spider-Man is dumped in Central Park while Felicia, Billy, and other prisoners are transported under the watch of Taskmaster and Black Ant.
“The hunt begins,” says a watching Kraven, as Spider-Man stirs awake, now dressed in his retired black suit. He’s surprised to be confronted by the Scorpion, and then the Tarantula, and numerous other animal kingdom-themed familiar faces, including Rhino, Vulture, King Cobra, Stegron, Man-Bull, White Rabbit, Kangaroo, Puma, Lady Octopus, and Owl, among many others.
Spider-Man points out Kraven went to the trouble of rounding up everyone not because he wants Spider-Man dead, but because he’s after all of them. While fending off an attack from Scorpion, Spider-Man is rattled by a massive explosion. Then, gunfire opens into the crowd.
White Rabbit yells for everyone to break and run as a pack of robot hunters emerge from the trees, some wielding machine guns, other wielding crossbows — all of them dangerous and on the hunt for the kill.
In The Amazing Spider-Man #18, it’s learned the Kraven-looking robots are synthetic android hunters modeled after Kraven, crafted by Arcade, who boasts the robots are nearly indestructible and wield augmented reflexes, superhuman strength, and advanced targeting and tracking software. The robots are controlled with a virtual reality device that connects to the flesh-and-blood hunter’s cerebral cortex, allowing Spider-Man and others to be hunted from the safety of a ballroom.
One rich volunteer steps up and slays the Iguana, and Spider-Man and his foes are quickly overwhelmed by the hunters.
Mary Jane watches the news and finds the Avengers attempting to crack a force field perimeter blocking access to Central Park. As other foes are cut down and killed, including Bison, Mad-Dog, Constrictor, and the Gibbon, Spider-Man is resolved to prevent more deaths.
He realizes the hunters are remote VR-controlled robots from an offsite location, and finds the Vulture sermonizing to the huddled pack of the last surviving prey. Vulture, who sacrificed Gibbon to escape the hunters, spins a tail of heroism but is interrupted by Spider-Man.
Spider-Man tries to rally the survivors into developing an escape plan and bringing down the force field trapping them within Central Park, but he’s attacked by the Rhino, was captured by Taskmaster and Black Ant when Spider-Man — who previously tried to save Rhino — was forced to abandon the hulking super villain when Aunt May was caught in the crossfire.
Vulture calms Rhino, telling him there are only two sides here: the hunters and the hunted.
As Felicia works on freeing Billy from their captivity, Taskmaster presents Arcade with his trophy: the Lizard. Spider-Man continues to be plagued by visions of MJ in peril as she’s unknowingly watched by an unidentified creature, and he suddenly finds himself confronted by Black Ant, who was betrayed by Taskmaster — because ants belong to the animal kingdom.
Deeper inside the park, the Lizard is free and on the prowl for Billy. Kurt is met by the Kraven clone, who seeks a “great prize.” The Kraven clone attacks, but Lizard doesn’t fight back: he’s inhibited by a chip in his spine. Calling his lack of viciousness blasphemous, the new Kraven vows to find the Lizard’s son and tear him limb from limb, and he’ll do it as the Lizard watches.
Black Ant tells Spider-Man Kraven stuck the hunted in the park to get killed by the hunters as just part of the plan. But the only people Kraven hates more than the costume types, Black Ant says, are the hunters, “soft, rich impostors who wanna imagine themselves as killers on the weekends. He wants to show them what being an apex predator really means.”
As the hunted close in on a defeated robo-hunter, Black Ant reveals Kraven wants them to learn the dangers of the hunt the hard way, and that they’re not safe in their remote location as originally advertised.0comments
Because the VR visors are wired right into the wearer’s brain, if you die in the “game,” you die out there. Spider-Man realizes Kraven is “going to kill them all,” and Black Ant points him towards the zoo.
There Spidey is confronted by Arcade, who sicks a pack of Vermin on the outnumbered superhero. To be continued!