Fearful Symmetry: Kraven’s Last Hunt (October-November 1987)

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I remember when Kraven’s Last Hunt came out. I was eight or nine. Marvel advertised it something fantastic. I was a regular Spider-Man reader, but mostly from collections and it wasn’t like there were a lot of collections in the late eighties. Almost thirty years later and I still can’t think of a better Spider-Man story, not an eighties or later one.

J.M. DeMatteis writes Hunt for new and regular readers, which is in itself a little strange. When I think about eighties comics, Marvel and DC alike, it was always very hard to jump on. But in Hunt, Spider-Man had just gone through a lot of unusual publicity–he’d gotten married–and the story immediately follows the wedding. It was also a cross-over between the three Spider-Man books, which might have been a new thing? I can’t remember.

So, in other words, DeMatteis is working a lot on character. He’s introducing not just the guest stars–Vermin and Kraven–he’s also introducing the regular cast, as he needs them for this story. Peter and Mary Jane are going to have a very rough six issues and DeMatteis forecasts it. When it seems like he’s hit the limit on foreshadowing, he pushes further because he’s trying to make sure the reader knows what’s coming.

And the relationship with the reader is important. DeMatteis wants a lot of trust–he wants to jump around in place, he wants to use a whole bunch of narration–Kraven, Spider-Man, Mary Jane, Vermin–Last Hunt is ambitious. For an eighties Marvel comic, it’s through the roof ambitious, but it’s ambitious in general because DeMatteis is treating Spider-Man as the icon.

Even in the black costume, he’s an icon. I think he was just still wearing the black costume (and might eighty-six it as a direct result of this storyline), but DeMatteis uses it to establish what makes the character. It’s not hard to do a good Spider-Man story and it’s sometimes not even hard to do a better than good one, but it is hard to do an ambitious one.

DeMatteis succeeds in no small part thanks to Mike Zeck’s art. Last Hunt isn’t fantastical, it’s realistic, it’s depressing, it’s scary. DeMatteis and Zeck have a story about four people who are afraid, all the time, all to varying degrees. They’re afraid of themselves, of each other, of the world. It’s awesome.

I haven’t read the comic in ages; it holds up really well.

CREDITS

Writer, J.M. DeMatteis; penciller, Mike Zeck; inker, Bob McLeod; colorist, Janet Jackson; letterer, Rick Palmer; editors, Jim Salicrup and Tom DeFalco; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 5 (October-November 1978)

Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #5

It’s a pointlessly double-sized issue. The extra pages give Conway time to get in fight scenes between Firestorm and both villains–and the art on the fight with the Hyena does have a great double page spread–without having to sacrifice the character development.

Ronnie and the girlfriend, Doreen, go on an actual date. There are big problems with the date, both in them walking into a supervillain fight and in now Conway forces too much ominous foreshadowing, but it’s at least a scene between two people where they exhibit personalities.

There’s some really good stuff with Professor Stein too. Conway roams a lot as far as protagonists for a scene. It’s too omniscient to let the comic have a personality, but it’s definitely effective for engaging storytelling.

The problem is there’s just too much in the issue and it ends without having accomplished anything. It’s inflated but empty.

C 

CREDITS

Again: Multiplex!; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Al Milgrom; inker, Bob McLeod; colorist, Jerry Serpe; letterer, Clem Robins; editor, Jack C. Harris; publisher, DC Comics.

Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 3 (May 1978)

Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #3

I don’t know how best to make the remark without it sounding like a slight but McLeod inks the heck out of Milgrom’s pencils this issue. There are maybe two questionable panels, otherwise the art is first-rate.

And it’s first-rate art on an excellent comic. Conway doesn’t do a direct sequel to the previous issue, he jumps ahead a bit and starts with Firestorm being juvenile. There’s a lot in the issue about the dynamic between Ronnie and the Professor when it comes to being Firestorm and the maturity required for it (Conway wants to say the great power line and does come close).

There’s also quite a bit with Professor Stein on his own, which is cool. And the villain introduced is Killer Frost. I should have punned.

No, I shouldn’t have.

The issue’s very strong thanks to the emphasis on Stein and the villain. Very strong.

B+ 

CREDITS

Kiss Not The Lips of Killer Frost; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Al Milgrom; inker, Bob McLeod; colorist, Mario Sen; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Jack C. Harris; publisher, DC Comics.

Firestorm, The Nuclear Man 2 (April 1978)

Firestorm, The Nuclear Man #2

I don’t want to spend time griping about Milgrom’s pencils. If his composition were better, I might even let it pass, but the composition–and how he handles the costumed stuff–is a real problem. Conway gets in a lot of scenes and Milgrom handles the transitions awkwardly. His figures in superhero motion are really awkward, especially the flying. Superman guest stars too so lots of flying.

This issue picks up the day after the previous issue with more superhero stunts from Firestorm. He gets a villain–Multiplex–and Conway works a little bit on the character stuff too. Conway succeeds at making teenage Ronnie Raymond simultaneously a star athlete and a kid with low self-esteem. Right now, it’s all in broad strokes. Conway’s hinting there’s more depth.

As for Professor Stein, the other half of Firestorm, Conway doesn’t give him much space.

The issue’s likable, but very problematic.

B- 

CREDITS

Danger Doubled Is Death; writer, Gerry Conway; penciller, Al Milgrom; inker, Bob McLeod; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, Ben Oda; editor, Jack C. Harris; publisher, DC Comics.

Marvel Treasury Edition 28 (July 1981)

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Was Jim Shooter paying himself by the word, because I don’t think I’ve ever read more exposition in a comic book. It’s terrible exposition too, but I suppose the sentences are grammatically correct. For the most part.

But what I can’t figure out is the artwork. The combination of John Buscema on pencils and Joe Sinnott on inks produces one of the worst eighties comic books I can remember seeing. Superman’s figure is strangely bulky, with a little head. But the facial features on everyone are awful. It’s a hideous thing to read.

The story concerns Dr. Doom trying again to take over the world, which is boring. The interesting stuff is Clark working at the Bugle and Peter working at the Planet. They should do a series. But not by Shooter, who makes Peter constantly horny.

Interesting to see the black chick after Clark though.

It’s an awful comic.

CREDITS

The Heroes and the Holocaust!; writers, Marv Wolfman and Jim Shooter; penciller, John Buscema; inkers, Joe Sinnott, Terry Austin, Klaus Janson, Bob McLeod, Al Milgrom, Steve Leialoha, Walt Simonson, Bob Layton, Brett Breeding, Joe Rubinstein and Bob Wiacek; colorist, Glynis Wein; letterer, Joe Rosen; editor, Milgrom; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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