"In The Hands Of The Hunter!"
Written by Stan Lee
Drawn and inked by John Romita
Lettered by Sam Rosen
Drawn and inked by John Romita
Lettered by Sam Rosen
Hold on tight because we kick off with one of the most confusing openings in the history of the strip, as the Green Goblin gleefully watches Spider-Man slugging it out with Kraven in a flashback to a story that never happened. Defying everything we were told at the time, it turns out that, on the previous occasions when Kraven fought Spidey, he wasn't doing it for the glory. He was doing it for money - the Green Goblin's money.
Cue yet another flashback, this time to a meeting after that unsuccessful first fight, a meeting between the Hunter and a stooge of the Goblin, at which, Kraven's told he'll only get the money if he actually defeats Spider-Man. His nose out of joint, our villain follows the Goblin's stooge and discovers that he's none other than Norman Osborn. Of course, if he wasn't too mean to hand over 12 cents every month, he'd have known what we know, that Osborn wasn't only the Goblin's stooge, he was the Goblin himself. Regardless, determined to get the Goblin's money, Kraven has another go at Spider-Man, gaining only his customary hiding and a one way ticket to the nearest penitentiary.
Now, his debt to society paid, Kraven's out for revenge on Spider-Man and, more importantly the money he thinks the Goblin owes him. Why he thinks the Goblin owes him, when he's singularly failed to fulfill his agreed mission of defeating Spider-Man is anybody's guess but Kraven clearly doesn't see it that way and, with the Goblin dead, he decides Osborn's the man to stump up the cash.
And where's sometime super-villain Osborn? Why, he's visiting the apartment his son Harry shares with Peter Parker. Oh the irony of it all, that the man letting Pete live rent-free was once Spider-Man's deadliest enemy.
Meanwhile, Kraven turns up at Osborn's office, only to be told he's out of town. Undaunted, he returns to his somewhat camp HQ and, in a fit of talking to himself, unveils his latest weapon, a device that will shoot what seems to be lightning from his nipples and remove Spidey's speed, leaving him vulnerable to Kraven's next attack.
Not that Peter Parker knows about any of this. He's back at ESU, where gorgeous Gwen Stacy's busy doling out invites to Flash's draft party. It seems, from what we're told, that she's now going out with Flash and she tells Pete to bring MJ with him. This instruction to bring MJ strikes Peter as proof that Gwen's not interested in him.
But Kraven's still not given up his hunt for Osborn. He shows up at the zillionaire's mansion and demands the butler tell him where the owner is. The butler tells him the same thing as he was told back at the office, that Osborn's out of town. It has to be said that, for the world's greatest hunter, Kraven seems to be having an awful lot of trouble tracking down a fairly high profile individual.
If Osborn's out of town, Peter, meanwhile, is out on the town - or at least, he's about to be. As he gets ready for Flash's big do, it's revealed - only a few pages after we were reminded that Flash is going out with Gwen - that Harry's going out with Gwen. Frankly, it's getting difficult to work out just who Gwen's going out with. Whoever it is, it's not Peter and frankly this bothers him.
Arriving at the party, it's clear there's been some sort of policy-change on behalf of Lee and Romita because Gwen's acting in a manner she's never been seen behaving before. She's acting like MJ, the life and soul of the party, firing off one-liners left right and centre and stealing the limelight with her somewhat unrestrained dancing. The boys are impressed. MJ isn't. The living embodiment of the swinging 60s is actually been out-partied by another woman.
And then? Fa-Thoom, Kraven smashes his way in through the wall. He still can't find Norman Osborn but he knows how to get him, by kidnapping his son. How he knows where to find Harry is anybody's guess but find him he has. He grabs the hapless boy and, quick as a flash, Flash Thompson rushes forward to help him. Kraven swats him aside like a fly and then, virtually everyone at the party descends on the hunter to give him the hiding he's asking for. Needless to say, such puny youths are no match for a man who boasts he can stop a charging bull elephant in its tracks (How does he know that? How would you first discover you could do such a thing?).
Seconds later, Spider-Man and Kraven are all over a semi-constructed building, trading blows. The truth is, it's clear that Kraven's outclassed by a foe who's better suited to clambering all over buildings than he is but Kraven's nothing if not a cheat and, just as it seems Spidey's going to mop him up like gravy, Kraven lets him have it with his nipple lightning. Zapped, Spidey can't get his body to move fast enough - or, in all honesty, at all and Kraven takes to giving him a good pounding as our hero lies on the floor helpless.
But then, as so often happens when a super-hero's about to get totalled, fate intervenes as, concerned for his son's welfare, Norman Osborn arrives. Kraven spots him, lassoes him and pulls him up onto the building. He demands his money but Osborn professes ignorance of what he's talking about. Kraven, like most super-villains, isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer but his jungle instincts tell him Osborn's telling the truth; that he really does have no knowledge of any deal struck between Kraven and the Goblin. We, of course, know that he has no knowledge because he has no memory of ever having been the Goblin. Kraven, however, still hasn't spent that 12 cents and still knows nothing of this. For no noticeable reason, he declares himself triumphant and departs, leaving Spider-Man to make a full recovery. Our hero's about to go after him him but, in struggling to free himself of Kraven's lasso, Osborn falls from the building.
Well, of course, he's not doomed at all because Spider-Man's around to swing down and catch him, saving his life. How ironic these few panels are, bearing in mind the circumstances of the much later death of Gwen Stacy.
But that's for the future. The excitement all over, Spidey quick-changes back into Peter Parker and rejoins the ex-party-goers, concocting a lame excuse for his disappearance that seems to fool everyone, including Flash Thompson whose hand he shakes as he wishes him luck in the army.
How the strip has changed. Once Parker and Thompson were deadly enemies. Now Parker's wishing him luck. The strip's not the only thing that's changed because Marvel's changed. As he walks home, Parker speculates on the all too real possibility that Flash may never come back from the army. That he may be going to Vietnam purely to die. In Marvel's early years, Vietnam, when it was mentioned, was used as nothing more than a backdrop for gung-ho adventure and a place for Marvel's heroes to go when it was time to smack up a commie. But this is the late 1960s and the reality of that war has seeped through even into the world of comic books.