35 Books in 30 Days 2: Kraven’s Last Hunt by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck

Spider-Man: Kraven\'s Last Hunt Premiere HC (Variant)

Trivia question: Who is the best Spider-Man writer not named Stan Lee?

  1. J. Michael Straczynski
  2. Paul Jenkins
  3. Gerry Conway
  4. Howard Mackie

BZZZT! None of the above!

The answer, my friends, is J. M. DeMatteis. And it’s not even close. His run on Spectacular Spider-Man in the 1990s with Sal Buscema was a personal favorite of mine, and his work was so good Marvel trusted him to write the death scenes of two key characters in the Spidey mythos, Harry Osborne and Aunt May.

But this, this is the good stuff.

In his introduction, DeMatteis talked about how this story demanded to be told for years. At first, he thought it would be a good Wonder Man story, or maybe a Batman story. But after years of rejection, he used it here, and cast Kraven as the villain once he realized Kraven was Russian. DeMatteis has a soft spot for Dostoyevsky, you see.

Mike Zeck’s the artist on this book, and wow. DeMatteis writes of his cohort, “I’ve been playing this game long enough to know that writer/artist chemistry can’t be created or forced: it’s either there or it’s not. With Mike, it was there…and then some.” No argument from me- Zeck gets Kraven perfect here. That’s not an easy job- in this story, Kraven emotions run the gamut: wiry, confident, mad, ecstatic, emotional, depressed, mirthful. Zeck gets them all, and he does it through Kraven’s eyes. Take a look:

Kraven is angry!

Kraven is sad!
Kraven is scared!

Kraven is resigned!

Young artists, take note. This book doubles as a manual for drawing eyes.

DeMatteis adds a lot of richness and depth here by playing off symmetry; the book’s actual title is “Fearful Symmetry”, and there’s lots of it here. Example- at the beginning of the story, Spidey attends the funeral of a street thug and gives money to his funeral, asking for “a decent box and a piece of ground.” After his first encounter with Kraven, that’s what he gets- for himself. Funerals, spiders, light- all are motifs played extensively in this story, but not for repetition. Each time we see a repeating theme, the stakes are raised, and the tension builds.

There’s an unexpected bonus here: the lettering of Rick Parker, one of the medium’s most underrated artists. Parker’s actually a cartoonist, most noted for his work on the Beavis & Butthead comic, but he was always fantastic on letters. Unfortunately, when the industry moved to digital lettering, there wasn’t a lot of need for hand letterers, and I haven’t seen a Rick Parker credit in a comic for a while. Let us know if you’re alive, Rick!

This edition is the first in Marvel’s new Premiere Classic editions, hardcover reprints of classic stories. The reproduction’s a tiny, tiny bit wonky at times, as you can tell that the trades department at Marvel worked overtime to make this book look as good as it could. I actually had a copy of the previous hardcover reprinting done in 1989, and Marvel should be proud of the work they did. The linework’s much stronger, there’s a great intro by JM, and they reproduce two issues of Zeck’s original pencils.

I only wish they had included Stan Lee’s introduction from the 1989 volume; after all, how often do we get a book with work by the two best Spider-Man writers of all time?

DeMatteis and Lee;
Ah, to be joined in one book.
Still, buy this Last Hunt.

Buy this book at Amazon!

Disney’s Comic Strip Artist’s Kit

From Boing Boing: This fascinating link of Disney animator Carson Van Osten’s Comic Strip Artist’s Kit.

There’s some fantastic advice for the young comic strip creator there. I’d love to see this in print. Many moons ago, I worked in a comic book store (it’s long gone now), and we would get tons of requests for books for kids who wanted to learn how to draw comics. I’d usually recommend How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way for the youngsters, and a Scott McCloud or Will Eisner book for older teens. With the boom in graphic novels, more instructional material wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Holy misogynistic aardvarks, Dave Sim’s got a blog!

It’s over here. He doesn’t have a PC, but apparently he’s getting it done somehow. I guess now Void women everywhere won’t be getting as uppity and stuff. Long live Male Light!

Note to those who haven’t read Cerebus: this is what we in the intarwub blogosphere call sarcasm. See, Cerebus used to be one of those fantastic comics that was absolutely mind-blowing, humane, really funny, and just all sorts of good comics. And then came Reads and Cerebus #186, where we found he’d been just kidding this whole time and he actually thought women were The Void to men’s Light, incapable of creating art on their own (except for his buddies Teri S. Wood and Colleen Doran). And then he got religious. Not religious then misogynistic, oh no, he went the other way around.

I still recommend Cerebus highly- even when its author decides to look down on half the population, it’s still a great comic with real merit. One day, I’ll do a huge write-up on why it’s great comics, sometime after the 35/30 project. I subscribed to the book for a year when I had significant problems getting it towards the end, and even talked to Dave on the phone. But just watch out for the wimmen-hating, okay?

35 Books in 30 Days 1: Revelations by Paul Jenkins and Humberto Ramos


I want to like this book more than I did.

Paul Jenkins has rarely disappointed in his decade-plus career as a comics writer. He was given the impossible chore of replacing Garth Ennis on Hellblazer and survived with three years of great stories. He not only made the Inhmans interesting, but he revitalized the career of Jae Lee. His run on Peter Parker, Spider-Man with Mark Buckingham restored the Spider-Man comics franchise after years of decline.

Here, we are treated to an occult murder mystery set at the Vatican. A cardinal next in line to become Pope falls to his death. Guards who discover the body, impaled on a fence, also find a bearded man trying to stab the lifeless body while reciting Latin. Detective Charlie Northern, a lapsed Catholic, is brought in from England to investigate the case by a childhood friend, and soon finds himself waist-deep in a conspiracy that threatens to bring down the Vatican- and worse.

Humberto Ramos provides the art, and here’s where we go a bit astray. Let’s say you’re an artist, and your script says, “The bishop falls from a window, trying to hold onto a coin, and is impaled on a fence when he lands.” Would this panel be your choice?

Revelations 1

And then, when you’re asked to show said bishop impaled on same fence, would you draw this?

Revelations 2 I stared at that two-page spread for a while. I couldn’t figure out if the hair on his head was his beard or his crown. These aren’t the only strange choices. His illustrations of Lucille Pelliccia are positively unnerving at times.

Revelations 3

Luckily, we get some good panels along with the bad. Ramos does pull off some interesting sequences at times, and the color work by Leonardo Olea is outstanding. I thought this sequence of Northern swimming was intriguing.

Revelations 4

There’s one other maddening problem with this book. A gent named Bob Harris writes a lovely introduction that really sets the mood for the book. Who’s Bob Harris? You wouldn’t know from the book; there’s no biographical information given for him. Wikipedia listed a few candidates, and it seems this Bob Harris is the writer.

All in all, we’ve got a marvelous thriller with some head-scratching art choices. The strange panel choices made this a chore to read at times, but it does gain steam at the end, and it’s a good read.

Your Official WhyILoveComics.com haiku review:

Revelations thrills
Ramos makes weird art choices
Jenkins rocks again

Buy this book at Amazon.com

I’m not sure what’s funnier today…

Choice A:

The Vampirella MySpace page, with friends like Warren Ellis and The Goon’s Eric Powell (“Well, helloooo, Vampirella! I’ll be in the parking lot waiting to give you hepatitis! *wink*)

Choice B:

The cover for NextWave #11:


Poor Mark Millar. He writes a company-wide mega-hit, and his thanks? This.

If I were him, I’d make Civil War even later. That’d show them.