Amazing Spider-Man #634 variant coverThe Gauntlet of Peter Parker may be winding down, but the Grim Hunt of our friendly neighborhood web-slinger has only just begun. Starting this June in Amazing Spider-Man #634, Joe Kelly and Michael Lark will take Spider-Man to the edge, as the Kravinoff family makes their move to take down our hero.
"Since November, we've been watching a slow attack on Spider-Man via the Gauntlet. He's been run down on every level, emotionally, spiritually, and physically... in other words primed for the Grim Hunt," said writer Joe Kelly. "In the background of those stories, The Kraven family has been gently nudging aspects of Spidey's life so as to maximize his desperation and fatigue, just like some animals force their prey to tire themselves out before actually attacking. The Grim Hunt is the culmination of Sasha Kraven's months of planning."
Series editor Stephen Wacker agreed, explaining that "this actually goes back to our first year on Spidey with a story called Kraven’s First Hunt by Guggenheim and Jimenez, where we introduced a bunch of story elements to set up what has become Grim Hunt. I guess in its most simple terms, Sergei Kravinoff’s family is unhappy with the work DeMatteis and Zeck did on my personal favorite Spidey story, the seminal Kraven’s Last Hunt."
The Kravinoffs' plan has been brutal, as they've helped outfit revitalized and redesigned versions of Spidey's rogues gallery, with an all-new Rhino and Vulture hitting the web-slinger around the same time as a recharged Electro, an ambitious Mysterio and a mentally-fractured Sandman. "No Sinister Six plans, though several of the members may cross paths at some point," Wacker said. "When they do get together the villains will certainly have different personal situations and motivations that may actually make any bond stronger. So it’s sort of wait and see." Yet solicitations for Grim Hunt make an even more deadly promise: "Kraven will live!"
Of course, with the legacy of Kraven reaching through his family and children, the identity of this returned "Kraven" is still unknown -- and the Webheads sure aren't telling. When asked what this development might mean for seminal Spider-Man stories such as Kraven's Last Hunt -- the story in which the original Grim Hunter took his own life after burying Spider-Man alive -- Wacker played coy with giving many more additional details.
"[Kraven's Last Hunt is] one of my personal favorite Spidey stories ever," Wacker said. "Simple as that. Once you see the real solicitation, you’ll see just how deep the connection that story goes." Indeed, according to updates from Marvel, not only will Spider-Man's creator Stan Lee be paired with his Amazing Spider-Man #600 collaborator Marcos Martin for what will be the first of fourteen two-page "Spidey Sunday" back-up features, but Last Hunt writer J.M. DeMatteis will be teaming up with Max Fiumara for back-up stories through the entirety of Grim Hunt, chronicling a confrontation with his murderous clone Kaine that promises to have ramifications for the overall primary storyline.
Kelly, meanwhile, said "I’ve enjoyed the moments in Grim Hunt when we see Spidey through the eyes of the Kraven family. Go back to [Kraven's Last Hunt] and see how obsessive Kraven is with "The Spyder," how little he cares about what's under the mask. Sasha needs SPIDERS for the spiritual/mystical healing of her family... the rest are just distractions."
Amazing Spider-Man #634 variant coverBut what about this creative team? With Kelly's humor and swift pacing teaming up with Lark's moodier, heavier style, was Grim Hunt a swashbuckler, or one of Peter Parker's legendary "long dark nights of the soul"?
According to Wacker, the tone of Grim Hunt is definitely some grittier fare than Kelly's other recent issues, such as a trash-talking battle royale between Spidey and Deadpool in Amazing #611. "Joe is much more than guy who can write some funny one-liners for Spidey," Wacker said. "He can wear that hat when it fits the character, but Joe is a real chameleon as a writer able to easily wear the skin of whoever he’s writing about and put us squarely in their world. There are moments in Grim Hunt so creepy I had to turn the lights on (Don’t ask me why I was reading in the dark)."
Artist Michael Lark said that the tone of the piece was all relative. "Obviously, nothing I do in this book is going to be as 'heavy' (as you say) as the work I did in Daredevil or Gotham Central, or even the bits I did in Captain America," Lark said. "But I'm not sure I'd agree that Spider-Man has traditionally been a 'lighter' book. I think there has been a whole lot of darkness in the history of the character. That said, I think this story is going to be one of the darker ones, in terms of tone. Which, of course, suits my particular style really well."
In terms of the art style of this storyline, Lark said that "so far, Grim Hunt has an almost Mignola-esque feel. I've drawn more rain, lighting, blood, and rotting flesh than I've ever had to do on any other series I've worked on! So, I'm not really “lightening” my style at all – in fact, quite the opposite. I have found myself adding more blacks than I expected, trying to make everything fairly dark and spooky, which seems to be the atmosphere that the story is calling for."
"Mike is an artist’s artist. I had actually wanted him for an earlier Spidey arc but his schedule was too booked up so it didn’t go anywhere," Wacker added. "The work Lark (along with his art cohorts Stefano Gaudiano and Matt Hollingsworth) has done on this story is very specific, very expressive and very creepy. This may sound weird and it’s hard to put this into words, but in all of Michael’s books I can feel the weather and the environment in my bones. Whether it’s rainy, cold or warm, he really puts you in a specific place and that’s a rare gift. We’re lucky to have him."
Amazing Spider-Man #634 variant coverOf course, with the thrice-monthly nature of the series, juggling creators -- especially after the redesign-heavy nature of the Gauntlet -- can still be a bit scary for Wacker and his assistant editor Tom Brennan. "Getting the notes from the various writers and editors every week is the most harrowing part of the process. It requires a lot of time compiling everything for our letterer and production guy Joe Caramagna who clearly has the worst/best job in the business and has the nigh-thankless task of making all of our changes," Wacker said. "For Grim Hunt itself, we’ve had a couple places where I had gotten the wrong art reference to Mike and where we needed to rethink some beats related to some other Spider characters making an appearance, but it’s all been pretty normal…so far."
When asked about anything he was excited to see hit the printed page, Kelly said that the Kravinoff family's violence and rage could boil over with some deadly consequences. "Mama Kraven's trying to make her family whole again... but she's not gonna be able to do so without some key experiments first. It's going to be the nastiest family reunion ever," Kelly said, before giving a final eerie tease of the storyline:
“They’re Hunting Spiders.”