"To Stalk a Spider!"
Words by Gerry Conway.
Art by John Romita.
Lettering by John Costanza.
For the first time ever, an issue of Spider-Man has no writing credit for his creator, as Stan Lee steps down to be replaced by Gerry Conway who, by my reckoning, can have been barely more than a foetus when he started writing the strip.
And how does he do?
Pretty well. The truth is that, this early on, it's hard to spot the difference between his writing and Stan Lee's. Clearly his own style developed as it went along.
One thing that does seem to be typical Conway though is the idea of Kraven using the Gibbon as his pawn. "Scheming villain using a more malleable villain/character for his purposes," is a theme Conway returned to repeatedly throughout his stint on the strip. Remember the machinations of the Jackal and Dr Jonas Harrow?
Something odd appears to be happening to time in this tale. For Spider-Man, the gap between his meetings with the Gibbon seems to have been just a few hours but, the way Kraven and Blank are talking when they're back at the hunter's lair, it seems like they've been working together for weeks, with Blank talking about the training Kraven's given him - and the seemingly lengthy course of herbal draughts. Clearly Kraven's the kind of man who'd tear up a "Learn to Play Guitar Like Jimi Hendrix in Three Days," book because it was taking too long.
Also interesting to see Kraven's latest attack on Spider-Man being motivated by a desire to avenge the death of Gog, showing a "moral" side to the man that we've never even had hints of before. So, perhaps, "the man who killed Gwen Stacy," is already starting to impose his own ways on the strip after all.
On the art front, John Romita's busier style of these stories is starting to grow on me. I'm never, I think, going to like it as much as his simpler work of the late 1960s but it's more appealing than I once thought.