"The Thrill of the Hunt"
By Lee, Ditko and Rosen.
I’m a little jealous of Sean for getting the opportunity to review ASM #33, widely regarded as one of the iconic moments in Spider-Man’s publishing history, right up there with Amazing Fantasy #15, Mary Jane’s first appearance and Gwen Stacy’s fateful excursion to the Brooklyn Bridge.
So iconic in fact, it’s been converted to an animated gif. Pretty neat.
But onto the issue #34. The issue continues with several ongoing sub-plots including Gwen Stacy’s integration into the main cast and as a potential love interest for Peter. But since this is a Spider-Man comic, Peter assumes Gwen’s out of his league, and Gwen thinks Peter hates her. And everyone at Empire State hates Peter.
The Empire stuff leads to some far-out slang in this issue, dig? Harry Osborn tells Peter he’s “as popular as Mao Tse Tung.” Because of this, Peter realizes that everyone at Empire thinks he’s “high-hating on them,” and in turn this makes him feel like the “the prize crumb of the year.”
Betty’s increasingly toxic relationship with Peter begins to seep into her subconscious as she dreams about Peter revealing that he is Spider-Man. The sequence has a nice creepy feel to it, especially when Peter hits the ceiling and the reader sees look on his face in the final panel.
|That gum you like is going to come back in style, Betty.|
Betty comes to her senses though, and realizes that “Whatever Peter’s secret is…whatever he is hiding from me…it can’t be..that!” And then she decides to quit the Bugle.
Finally rounding out our subplots for the month, Aunt May is on the mend after nearly dying of Spider-Blood Poisoning. If Aunt May knew the hellish cycle of senility, sickness, death, rebirth, more sickness and more death she has ahead of her for the next 666 issues (yep, thats the number as of December 2012) the shock of realization would kill her like the guy outside of Winkies in Muholland Drive. Only to return three issues later, of course.
The main plot revolves around Kraven the Hunter returning once again the claim the most dangerous game of all: (Spider)Man.
Kraven might be my favorite Spider-Man rogue for a couple simple reasons:
- His costume
- His insane code of honor that allows him to beat animals to death with his bare hands, but not shoot them with guns or bows
- He’s Russian
- And in this issue, he suplexes a damn lion as a warm up for Spider-Man:
So, Kraven hits New York City and dresses up as Spider-Man and begins harassing JJJ. This leads to JJJ publishing all manner of anti-Spider-Man stories in The Bugle, which in turn draws out Peter. All of New York City is fooled as well, which is pretty funny since it’s a heavily accented, muscular, three hundred pound Russian man impersonating Spider-Man. I was chuckling for a couple minutes thinking about that.
Eventually, Spider-Man defeats Kraven, and because Kraven is honor-bound he owns up to the impersonation and Spider-Man’s reputation gets cleared up, or as good as our wall-crawler's rep ever gets in NYC. Peter goes home to think about what to do with Betty Brant and he decides that as long as he's Spider-Man, then Betty is pretty much dead to him.
Overall, a fun issue, but not perfect by any stretch. There are so many subplots that start off the book (so much so that Lee apologizes for it in a panel where Aunt May is serving him snacks on page seven), that it slows things down a lot.
Something about Ditko’s art felt off in most of this issue, I think some of it has to do with the pacing of the fight scenes which didn't feel like his usual kinetic style. They felt kind of awkward and flat. The facial expressions didn't seem right as well (which I think is usually one of Ditko's stronger suits). For instance, on page nine where it appears that Peter Parker has taken an entire strip of acid while he watches television with Aunt May.
In contrast, I thought some of the better scenes in the book were when the color palette was limited to only two or three shades for when Peter is alone studying or in his lab. Ditko uses this moody feel to finish strong as Peter is conflicted about whether or not to reveal his secret life to Betty.
The pencils, shading and the color perfectly convey Peter’s isolation. One of my favorite things about Spider-Man is when Lee and Ditko (and later on Roger Stern and John Romita) channel that street level melancholy where you can almost hear some really sad jazz song in the background, (like this or something like this if you're more of traditionalist I guess) and it just clicks.
In fact, I feel like one of the final panels of the last page really shows how well the "Stan Lee Style" of comic script writing can work. In my mind, Stan Lee saw the art that Ditko was turning in for the final pages of Spider-Man and he realized that he would have to churn out some really good heartfelt prose to accompany the art here. I love the way the silhouette's are placed on his back and it accents his tired posture. Its this combination of pictures and art that really sincerely shows Peter is a "complex, sensitive, and anguished youth."
But before we can get too downtrodden, the last panel lets us know that HOLY SHIT! THE MOLTEN MAN RETURNS!
|Molten Men don't cry!|
Finally, a couple non-ASM #34 related things: If you're interested in what's happening in Spider-Man's world in the current Marvel Universe, then go read issues #698-700 (which incidentally is the final issue of Amazing Spider-Man, until they start up the numbering a year or two later). Without getting into too much detail, the story involves Spider-Man and Doctor Octopus and it is bat-shit insane and fun (and I bet my left pinky finger that its temporary) thing to do with the Spider-Man franchise. Go check it out and let your heart be consumed with rage, or maybe delight.
This isn't Spider-Man related, but it's comics related. A guy sent this as an art submission to Marvel in the hopes of scoring a penciling job. He didn't get the gig, but he probably should have been made their lead writer for all of their X-Men, Avengers, and Spider-Man comics based on just this page as well as Editor In Chief for life:
It has nothing to do with Spider-Man, but its still pretty freaking great. Happy New Year everyone!