As one of the most recognisable superheroes in the world, Spider-Man has a distinctive cast of enemies. Each villain has tested the web-slinger in different ways, either through strength or psychological warfare. A character that’s done both is Kraven The Hunter. Driven by an obsession to hunt Spider-Man, Kraven developed into a villain that dedicated himself to a singular pursuit. I’m looking into the history of the character to see why he’s become one of Spider-Man’s most memorable enemies.
Law of the jungle
Before he was Kraven The Hunter, Sergei Kravinoff grew up in a Russian family that fled to America. His father, a Russian noble, came to the US to escape the February Revolution. From an early age, Kraven felt he had something to prove, which led to him becoming a big game hunter. He saw himself as the greatest hunter in the world, using his hands to kill his quarry. Kraven travelled the world and discovered a set of herbs that allowed him to brew a magical serum. The potion prolonged his life and gave him superhuman strength and senses.
After being contacted by his half-brother Chameleon, Kraven launched his first attack on Spider-Man. He fought the web-slinger in Central Park, only to lose. This first encounter caused Kraven to be fixated with his foe. He saw Peter as the ultimate prey, defining himself by killing the wall-crawler.
Despite hunting Spider-Man relentlessly, Kraven was unable to complete his mission. He might have developed into a one-note character if not for the acclaimed 1987 story Kraven’s Last Hunt. During the arc, Kraven had grown frustrated with his age and failure. He set out to hunt Peter for a final time. After capturing Spidey, Kraven drugged him and buried him alive. Then, he set out to prove he was Spider-Man’s superior by impersonating him. Kraven managed to capture Vermin, a villain that Peter had never been able to defeat on his own.
After Spider-Man escaped his grave, Kraven set Vermin free. Spider-Man went after Vermin, giving Kraven the chance to leave behind a final confession of his crimes. Satisfied with his life, Kraven committed suicide, seeing the act as a warrior’s fate.
Kraven’s Last Hunt has been widely regarded as one of the greatest Spider-Man stories to ever be told. It provided a brand new take on a character that had been dismissed as bland. Writer J.M Dematteis explained his decision to kill Kraven off, likening him to a character that Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky would write.
“As I was getting ready to work on the story, I was sitting in my office and looking through a Marvel Universe Handbook and came across the entry for Kraven the Hunter. To this day, I don’t know if this was something that was established in continuity, or if whoever was writing the Handbook entry made it up, but they mentioned that Kraven was Russian.”
“For me, a total Dostoyevsky fanatic, the idea that Kraven was Russian and had the same tortured, Russian soul that the great Dostoyevsky characters had, unlocked this door in my head and suddenly I had a new understanding of this character. I thought about Kraven and the forces that had driven him to be who and what he was. This was a character I had never had any interest in whatsoever. I always thought he was one of the stupidest Spider-Man villains ever, but suddenly I had this whole new take on the character.”
Kraven remained dead until Grim Hunt, where the Kravinoff family set out to bring him back to life by sacrificing Spider-Man. However, the ritual went wrong, as they used the blood of Peter’s clone, Kaine. Kraven displayed great anger towards his family, beating his children and abusing his wife. He saw his resurrection as a curse, calling it ‘unlife.’ Due to the nature of the ritual, Kraven could only die by Spider-Man’s hand. Peter refused, reigniting the animosity between them.
Since his revival, Kraven has appeared in several stories, continuing his mission to be known as the greatest hunter in the world. In my opinion, Kraven’s appeal as a villain is down to Dematteis’s influence. He was able to add depth to the character and turn Kraven into an enduring member of Spider-Man’s rogues gallery.
Spider-Man has a number of deadly enemies and Doctor Octopus is among them. The most recent Spider-Man game featured an engrossing portrayal and you can find out more by reading this article.