Monday, February 10, 2014

Spider Monday - Amazing Spider-Man #15

 It's that time again! Unfortunately, I had to miss last week due to a family situation that took priority, but hey - we've got 700 issues to get through! That means I don't have time to miss a week if I want to get this done before dying from old age, so this week there are two reviews! The first one is issue 15, which introduces Kraven the Hunter and brings back The Chameleon, while next week will have the very first team-up between Daredevil and Spider-Man. And, did I mention this is the first "appearance" of Mary Jane Watson? It's true! Let's dive into this issue and see how it goes!

Steve Ditko and Stan Lee continue their winning combination in this issue, with the under-appreciated Art Simek providing the lettering. Seriously, Stan Lee is very, very wordy, so anyone who can keep all those words looking good in tiny caption bubbles deserves the utmost in respect. We're getting to the point where I am appreciating we don't get to have Steve Ditko drawing this comic forever, so I'm appreciating his work all the more for it.
We open this issue with Spider-Man doing his patented Spider Peeping in a window, busting in on a group of people planning a bank robbery. I really like this - it's nice to see super heroes stopping things before a crime happens. This really is something that vigilantes are able to do but never really seem to anymore. Shocked to see a guy dressed in a garish suit staring at them from the window, the four criminals run away but are stopped by the webbing that Spider-Man placed in the door frame earlier.

While Spidey wrangles three of them, the fourth jumps out onto the awning below and uses a special chemical to change the color of his suit. Escaping right under Spider-Man's nose, he heads back to his secret lair and reveals himself to be The Chameleon! You guys will remember him from the very first Every Amazing Spider-Man Reviewed! He decides that Spider-Man is more dangerous and capable than ever and that as long as Spider-Man lives, he will never be safe. (I like the recognition that Spider-Man continues to get better as he goes) After a nice recap, Chameleon declares that Spider-Man is too dangerous for him to tackle and decides there is only one person who would be insane enough to track the Spider, Kraven the Hunter!
 As Chameleon wires Kraven, we see J. Jonah Jameson a week later yelling at Betty Brant about the biggest story of the year breaking - the arrival of Kraven the Hunter from Africa. Sure, there's been a human spider running around for the past two years, but this is the biggest story. Jameson is a very odd editor in chief. Still, he explains that Kraven is a living legend and the greatest hunter of all time, having defeated every type of beast single-handed. Peter shows up to see Betty, but she sees Flash and Liz Allen behind him and assumes that he came with the blonde high schooler. Naturally, Liz throws herself at Peter, putting him in a bad position between Liz and Betty. Jameson bails him out by yelling at him to get pictures of Kraven, as he strides out from the boat.

This guy's look - there's a reason it's never really been updated. It's just amazing. A lion vest, leopard print leggings, sandals, and a belt with tiger teeth on it. Add in black hair and a vicious van dyke, and there is just a classic, powerful appearance to him that can't be topped. Steve Ditko knocked it out of the park. No matter how ridiculous it might look in real life, one look at this guy on a comic page tells you he means trouble.

Jameson tries to corner Kraven for an interview, offering a large amount of money, but Kraven brushes him off, stating that he's only in town to hunt the most dangerous game of all. As they talk, a cage falls and breaks open, letting the animals loose onto the crowd. Peter dashes off to change into his costume, but Kraven is taking care of problems before Spider-Man can even get there.

He manages to grab the cobras by hand, tossing them into a waiting barrel without taking a bite, and then wrestles the two gorillas into submission, using pressure points to weaken them and finishing them off with the tranquilizer dart he keeps in his belt. Spider-Man watches in amazement as Kraven picks the gorilla off the ground to carry it away as Spider-Man decides everything is under control and turns back into Peter Parker.

Jameson is thrilled that they'll have pictures of Kraven's actions, only for Peter to realize he kinda forgot to take any. Oops. Jameson takes that about as well as could be expected. Meanwhile, Liz makes sure Peter's tie is straight as Betty watches in the background with steam coming out of her ears and Flash gets jealous.

Yes, Peter, this is definitely not your day. Not that any of them are, really.

 Peter tries to make nice with Mr. Jameson, but he gets the cold shoulder as Jameson continues to try and get an interview with Kraven. That's when Kraven declares that he is in the city to hunt Spider-Man, which naturally throws Peter for a loop. Jameson has a moment of rationality and points out that hunting to murder someone is probably a crime, but Kraven isn't too concerned as Peter wonders what would cause Kraven to want to hunt him. Betty leaves with Mr. Jameson after emasculating Peter just as Liz emasculates Flash. It's a bad day to be a guy in New York City. I do have to wonder if it was intention to have Liz call Flash a "goop." Seems kinda iffy to me.

As the crowds clear out, Peter sits on a curb and wonders how being a super hero turned from being great in his imagination to such a challenge in real life. Making the matter worse in a beautiful way, the street cleaner barks at Peter to move and stop blocking his worse. It's one of those digs that Stan Lee is just perfect at.

Back at Chameleon's hidden lair, he and Kraven meet and talk about their plans. Chameleon hands Kraven his Spider-Man file as Kraven looks forward to an interesting hunt. Chameleon warns that Spider-Man shouldn't be underestimated, but Kraven points out that he has the strength and speed undreamed of by others by drinking a secret potion obtained by a witch doctor of a hidden African tribe.

Later that night, Spider-Man is on patrol when he hears a shot fired. Seeing a watchman tied up, Spider-Man swoops into action and makes quick work of the criminals, as Kraven watches from a rooftop. He reveals that the criminals actually work for The Chameleon and are there so that he can watch Spider-Man in action.

Subduing the criminals, Spider-Man swings away, patting himself on the back for getting something right for a change, instead of feeling like a walking jinx.
 Unfortunately, that doesn't last very long as his Spider-Sense picks up something evil on a nearby rooftop, and he finds Kraven waiting for him. Declaring this will be Spider-Man's last meeting with anyone, he lunges for the attack as Spider-Man uses his agility to jump out of the way and ask what Kraven is thinking attacking him. Unfortunately, Kraven is fast enough to grab Spider-Man's shin and flip him hard onto the rooftop. Not giving Spider-Man a chance to recover, he stays on the offense and offers another strong punch which Spider-Man blocks with his shoulder, causing it to go numb. Down to one arm, he tries to hold off Kraven and actually manages to get ahead, much to Kraven's shock. Unfortunately, Kraven is prepared for this and manages to scratch Spider-Man with one of his special potions, leaving Peter woozy and with no choice but to escape.

Back at his house, he pulls off his mask and notices that his shoulder is getting better but his dizziness is getting worse, along with his twitching. As he worries about whether he'll feel better in the morning, Chameleon and Kraven sit in their lair as Chameleon smiles about Spider-Man being so capable.

Kraven explains that Spider-Man is exactly the foe he always wanted - one that he would have to become the absolute best to be able to beat. They plan the next step of their caper as Peter wakes up in the morning, seeming to feel okay but his hands are still twitching. He sees Evil Overlord May standing at the door talking to one of their neighbors and tries to eat his breakfast before she sees his trembling hands. He can't get away in time, however, and his Evil Overlord reveals that she has arranged a date for him with a lovely girl, the niece of their neighbor Mrs. Watson.

Peter tries to talk his way out of it, but Evil Overlord May is having none of it. She jabs him with her claw of a finger and tells him that it's time for him to think seriously about his own future. Peter makes his escape, just as his Evil Overlord reminds him to dress properly for the cold.
 A bit later at the Daily Bugle, Peter is glad to notice that the trembling hands have stopped, and goes to try and sweet talk Betty into not irrationally hating him. Betty's not letting him off the hook that easily, though, and teases him about fixing his tie and calls him "Petey." Peter reminds her that he couldn't care less about Liz Allen, but is interrupted when he notices that Kraven is in the office speaking to Jameson. Utterly distracted, he forgets all about Betty who wonders what is wrong with him as he walks off.

Later, in school, his hands start shaking again, causing him to break a beaker and become utterly useless in his science class. As the students look on and mock him, being the understanding people that they are, the teacher tells him to clean up his mess as Flash declares that Peter is finally cracking up and the ladies defend Peter.

After school is out, he sees a headline on the Daily Bugle declaring that Spider-Man's defeat is imminent, before heading hom and Evil Overlord May demands that he go to bed for the night. Once Evil Overlord May leaves the room, however, Peter realizes he can use a Spider-Tracer to track Kraven. Changing clothes, he heads to the rooftop but can't even web from one rooftop to another due to his hands shaking so badly. Frustrated, he ends up leaping from roof to roof.

Kraven is convinced that Spider-Man is coming after him, and drinks his special potion to prepare. As he tells his mysterious plan to Chameleon, Spider-Man is leaping across the city as his Spider-Sense picks up the hunter heading into the park. His Spider-Sense is a bit wonky, though, as if it isn't actually sure of the threat. Confused, he decides to worry about it later and just focus on planting the tracer on Kraven without him knowing it.

As he tracks Kraven, though, another Kraven watches from behind and sneaks up on him. Since Spider-Man has no idea that Chameleon is involved, he has no reason to think his Kraven isn't a legitimate one.
 Spider-Man begins to suspect that something is wrong as he sees that his foe is walking almost like he knows he's being followed, but his reaction is too slow as a net is thrown over him, pinning him. The net is so strong, his Spider Strength can't rip it. Panicking at first, he forces himself to slow down and think through it, and decides that there has to be at least one weak link, which he manages to find, escaping from the net.

As he makes a dash for freedom, however, he's confused by there being two Kraven's, one of them playing drums so loud that it feels as it if is going straight into his brain. Using that moment's distraction, Kraven manages to lock a shackle around Spider-Man's wrist and ankle. Before he can grab hold, however, Spider-Man leaps away from him and lands in a tree. In the tree, he realizes that the shackles are actually magnetic and try to force his hand and feet together, and there are bells in it which sound with every movement.

Kraven taunts him, as Spider-Man tries to make a break for it and find a way to take off the shackles before they drain all of his strength. His Spider-Sense helps him dodge Kraven's net, but he just gets taunted as he continues to run. Luckily, he finds a lamp post with a wiring circuit box, and pulls out the wires to plunge the park into darkness.

 Taking advantage of the darkness, he finally realizes that his liquid spider webbing (not going there) can cover the shackles and free up his arm and leg. He finishes just in time for his Spider Sense to go off again, and launches himself into the bushes, only to reveal Chameleon as one of the two hunters. Spider-Man webs up the Chameleon and shines his Spider-Light (sigh) at Kraven, tossing Chameleon's mask at his feet. Realizing he's lost the advantage, Kraven decides he needs to escape, heading into the woods where he thinks he'll again have the advantage.

Figuring that he lost Spider-Man in the woods, he gloats just before the Spider-Light shines on him, making it the first time that stupid light has ever been useful. Stunned and confused, he tries again to hide, only to be spotlighted again by Spider-Man. Deciding that his Spider Instinct is guiding Spider-Man, Kraven decides he's a fool and instead attacks Spider-Man from a hiding spot, launching everything he has into one powerful punch. Feeling recovered, Spider-Man dodges easily and starts throwing out the wise cracks and infuriating Kraven as he makes mince meat out of him. Kraven knows he has lost and dashes off to escape, only to run head first into webbing that Spider-Man put up between two trees, trapping him completely.

Retrieving the key to his shackles from Kraven, he pulls them off and wonders what he should do with Kraven. Finally, he decides to just leave him for the police, making his own escape and taking a few pictures of the police as they arrest the two criminals.

Jameson is thrilled with the pictures, offering Peter Parker one of his cherished bars of milk chocolate as payment, and Betty Brant is overjoyed to see Peter in a much better mood. She apologizes to him for how she treated him before and offers to go out with him that night, but Peter realizes that he'd promised Evil Overlord May he would meet that Watson girl, and has to tell Betty he can't make it.
Betty decides this is proof that Peter isn't interested in her, and Peter walks off frustrated all over again at his lack of luck in love. Heading home, Evil Overlord May informs him that the Watson girl had to cancel, and Peter jumps at the chance to have his date with Betty. She doesn't answer the phone, though, so Peter decides to call Liz instead, who is out dancing with Flash Thompson instead.

Meanwhile, Kraven and Chameleon are climbing onto a boat to be deported, as Chameleon and Kraven promise each other revenge in the near future when they are more powerful. Spider-Man happens to be at the docks as well, looking off into the distance, and wondering if things will get better for him soon.

And that wraps up the fifteen issue of The Amazing Spider-Man. It was a heck of an issue coming on the tails of a heck of an issue. Kraven really is a different type of villain, using tricks and traps to push Peter to the very edge. Rather than Spider-Man pushing Kraven to be better, the opposite actually happens and Spider-Man learns a few more tricks that he can use in the future.

Later today, I'll be reviewing The Amazing Spider-Man #26, featuring DareDevil, and soon we'll be enjoying the very first Spider-Man annual! Until then, I absolutely give this issue..


John Gaither on February 11, 2014 at 3:51 PM said...

These are the Spidey stories I love the most.

Wes Grogan on February 11, 2014 at 9:52 PM said...

I'm really glad to hear it, John! I've really enjoyed going through these and look forward to many, many more. This was very much magic in the making, and while some issues are stinkers, the vast majority are absolutely incredible!

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