Let Kraven out to hunt! Adapt Kraven’s Last Hunt, the classic 1987 Spider-Man story by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck, one of the darkest and most provocative stories in Marvel Comics, and then sit and watch box office records get shattered again. Heck, look to the 1990’s Saturday mornings cartoons, the action figures, Kraven’s first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #15 (1964), look at everything! But please, just make Kraven the next Spider-Man movie villain.
Here’s why this is the next logical step.
With Spider-Man: No Way Home finally out in the wild and getting a deluge of praise, fans got to see Peter Parker reckon with his responsibility, attempt to right wrongs brought forth by a botched spell that almost broke the multiverse, grow his relationship with MJ, and fight a loose version of the Sinister Six all while trying to get to college. By the end of it all (and perhaps one of the greatest triumphs of the latest sequel), Peter Parker grows up and must learn to live with the fact things will not always happen the way he wants them to.
No Way Home’s resolution, in a nutshell, is about rude awakenings. Peter is rapidly becoming an adult and so his life is about to reach a point in which he must deal with his successes and failures on his own, especially with their consequences.
We already got to see how this plays out in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, in which Tobe Maguire’s Peter Parker moves out of Aunt May’s house to live on his own dime (or lack thereof), experiencing the struggles that come with being a poor college student trying to make it in the Big Apple while also trying to keep the city safe from his rogues’ gallery.
Kraven the Hunter emerges as the perfect threat in this stage of Peter’s journey. He’s a villain that is relentless and unwavering in his mission to hunt Spider-Man down, thus representing a major disruption in Peter’s attempts at leading a normal life. He’s a step up in evil as his intentions make him an obsessive presence that is constantly aiming at the hero rather than planning bad things in the hopes the wall-crawler doesn’t swing in to put a stop to them.
Kraven brings the fight to Spider-Man rather than try to avoid him. He’s not gathering parts to build a doomsday machine or robbing banks to fund his unethical experiments. Kraven hunts.
This has been true of the character since his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #15. Kraven comes into the scene as a flamboyant hunter fresh off an African hunting trip whose only interest in traveling to New York City is to capture Spider-Man.
Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, Kraven’s creators, modeled the classic Spidey villain after Count Zaroff from Richard Connell’s short story “The Most Dangerous Game.” The story follows two big-game hunters who get stranded on a Caribbean island where a Russian aristocrat (Zaroff) hunts people for sport, people being what he refers to as “the most dangerous game.”
Count Zaroff’s backstory and personality are lifted quite generously from the story when it comes to Kraven’s own personal history. Fans of DeMatteis and Zeck’s Kraven’s Last Hunt will know that Kraven comes from a family of Russian aristocrats themselves, disgraced and pushed out of their station in life as Russia became Soviet and the aristocracy fell from their ivory towers.
Kraven even goes as far as to refer to humans who live in big cities, or “urban jungles” (as he prefers to call them), as the most dangerous game. In essence, Kraven is Spider-Man’s Count Zaroff, only this Count wears leopard print pants and a vest made of lion fur.
The character’s visual design is so extravagant, though, that I would push for having it transfer over to the movie world entirely. Marvel movies and series are already going back to the original costumes in some cases, with Wanda getting her Scarlett Witch costume in WandaVision and even (MILD SPOILER) Spider-Man opting for his classic comic book suit by the end of No Way Home.
Storywise, I believe DeMatteis and Zeck’s Kraven’s Last Hunt should be the basis for the character’s adaptation to the big screen. The classic six-part story stands as one of Spider-Man’s darkest and most mature in the comic’s history. Kraven seeks to become Spider-Man in order to conquer him, to show everyone he’s the superior being. He only wishes to fill in the role momentarily to prove this point, but his tenacity frames his actions in a very twisted way that sets him apart from other supervillains.
The comic is also drenched in deathly undertones, something that always seems to follow Spider-Man around. Zeck draws every character involved as if they carry an existential weight everywhere they go and DeMatteis’ script gives Kraven a very self-destructive introspective feel that makes him feel even more dangerous.
Spider-Man is put through the wringer, but it’s actually more of a Kraven story first and a Spidey story second. It has a controversial ending that I don’t see Marvel ever committing to, but the comic’s emotional arcs and the ideas pushing Kraven towards this particular run-in with Spider-Man are enough to make for a considerably different superhero movie that takes our hero and the audience outside their comfort zones.
Certain rumors have already been circulating around Aaron-Taylor Johnson (Quicksilver in Age of Ultron) playing the Hunter, and it has been suggested the character was going to feature in the third Holland Spider-Man movie before it became No way Home.
Regardless, Kraven is the future. He has to be the webhead’s next big baddie and he must be allowed to be in his element entirely. Marvel should commit to the costume, the darkness, and the hunt. Spider-Man has to enter into the arena, embrace the most dangerous game, and face Kraven the Hunter in the inevitable sequel to No Way Home.