Friday, 6 March 2009

Amazing Spider-Man #49. The Vulture vs Kraven

Amazing Spider-Man #49, Kraven and the Vulture, John Romita
(The Summer of Love completely bypasses Kraven and the Vulture. Cover from June 1967.)

"From The Depths Of Defeat!"

Written by Stan Lee
Drawn and inked by John Romita
Lettered by Sam Rosen


For the second issue running, a man lies dying. For the second issue running, that man's having flashbacks. Clearly, however, Spider-Man's had a slightly more interesting life than the Vulture because, where that feathery fiend had flashbacks only to his battles with Spidey, Spider-Man's flashbacks include his friends, his Aunt May, his boss, the Vulture and Kraven the Hunter. Quite why he'd be having flashbacks to Kraven the Hunter is anyone's guess but Kraven features in this issue and so flashbacks to him, he must have.

But, it seems we've been misled because, suddenly, our hero, still lying on the snow-covered rooftop where the new Vulture left him, starts to move. The freezing weather that should have finished him off has in fact revived him. Cagily, our hero starts to move and, even more cagily, he makes his way down a nearby ladder.

Making his way home, he rips off his mask, just as he hears flatmate Harry Osborn about to enter the room. Quickly, he leaps into bed, pulls up the sheets to cover his spider suit, and poor old Harry's left suspecting nothing.

Meawhile, flashback gate-crasher Kraven's annoyed. When isn't he annoyed? His wonderfully silly TV (framed by bamboo, to let us know it's a jungle TV), is now labelling the Vulture the deadliest menace in town. Kraven hits something and smashes it. It's not fair. He defeated Spider-Man before the Vulture did. He should be considered the biggest menace in town. Frankly, it doesn't reflect well on a man's psychology that he wants to be considered the biggest menace in town. And, just to prove how big a menace he is, he heads down into his cellar and does what we all do when we're a bit fed up. He beats up a tiger.

Having been flung around a bit, the tiger walks off, frankly not looking that bothered about its ordeal. maybe it's a bit on the docile side, or a bit lazy, or maybe it's just got bored with its, presumably, regular flingings around. Kraven doesn't care. He's got a Vulture to pulp. It does pose the question of why we've never seen Kraven go after a fellow super-villain before. After all, if he fights the deadliest prey of all, then you'd have thought super-villains would have been high on his hit-list.

Back at the Parker pad, Aunt May decides to turn up and be annoying, fussing and fretting over Peter, who's still in bed and still in his spider suit. Not convinced our hero isn't doomed, she calls Dr Bromwell, and Peter is stuck in bed until he gets there.

Across town, the Vulture decides he's going to attack a helicopter. He does this by flinging himself at it. Now, if you or I flung ourselves at a moving helicopter, we'd break every bone in our body but, in this case, the impact does our villain no harm at all while sending the chopper spinning out of control. The pilot manages to regain command of the whirlybird but the Vulture makes it clear that, if they don't hand over the bagfull of diamonds that're on board, he'll fling himself against the craft again - and this time bring it crashing down. Again, this raises the question of strength. How can the Vulture, just an ordinary man with wings, possibly have such an impact on a great mass of metal like a helicopter? The only conclusion you can draw is that his Vulture suit must contain some kind of exo-skeleton that boosts his strength and durability but, if it does, no mention's ever made of the fact.

From a lofty perch, Kraven squats watching.

Back at the Parker residence, Pete's still in bed, and Gwen and Mary Jane arrive to cheer him up. Gwen and Mary Jane then leave without ever having seen him. The two women, previously seen as rivals, now seem to be genuine friends, indulging in friendly teasing and banter with each other. It does come across that Gwen seems to be slightly the older of the two. If she's eighteen, like Pete, how old would that make Mary Jane? Sixteen? I'm not sure the issue of Mary Jane's age is ever explored in the strip at this time but, if she's a couple of years younger than the others, it might explain her seemingly less mature mindset.

Is our hero ever going to get out of bed this issue?

Elsewhere, it's time for action as, flying high above the city, talking to himself, the Vulture finds his ankle suddenly snared by a rope. It's Kraven! The attack's begun! Kraven leaps at the man-bird and they go crashing through the skylight of an exhibition hall.

Hearing of this on his dinky little radio, Peter Parker can stand no more. He doesn't care if the doctor's on his way, he's got to risk it. He's got to climb out of bed and deal with the pair.

Fortunately, he's now completely over his virus and, within moments, he's at the exhibition hall, where Kraven and the Vulture are still going at it. He gives them something else to think about by launching himself at the pair. In the next couple of pages, Romita's gift for simple but effective composition really shows through in a series of beautifully conceived panels. Romita was never the flashiest of artists but he knew how to tell a story in pictures.

Spidey tangles with Kraven. Kraven repeats his trick of a couple of issues ago and tries to zap him with his nipple lightning. This time, however, Webhead's ready for it and leaps over the twin blasts. The Vulture's not so alert, gets the blasts full force and hits the ground, taken out of the fight. Spider-Man's on Kraven, knocks him to the foor and tears apart Kraven's wiring, wrecking his nipple-zapping capability. Kraven doesn't care. He knows he has the strength to whup Spider-Man.

No he doesn't, because Spidey lets him have it, whumping him in the solar plexus with a punch that we're reminded once wobbled the Hulk. After a moment's pause, thump, Kraven hits the floor. Spidey ties the two unconscious wrong-doers together with webbing, gets a snap with his trusty camera and heads back home. He gets there just in time for the arrival of Dr Bromwell who declares him to be in perfect physical condition and, for once, a Spider-Man tale ends on a happy note.

It won't stay happy.

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