Frame By Frame Review: Spider-Man TAS Kraven the Hunter

01 Spider Logo

These reviews look at a single episode of a show, usually an incredibly silly one, and go through it bit by bit looking at each stupid moment in turn. This time we’re looking at another 1994 Spider-Man cartoon episode, Kraven the Hunter.

Some comic background: Kraven’s never been a Spidey villain that I liked, he just didn’t seem to fit with Spidey’s other rogues, at least in my opinion. Created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko way back in 1964 Sergei Kravinoff was a big game hunter that tried to play “the most dangerous game” with Spider-Man. He didn’t have superpowers he just tried to kill Spidey with traps and jungle animals, although he’d occasionally drink a “jungle power potion” to become stronger (it was the 60s). His most famous story was Kraven’s Last Hunt, where he finally defeated Spider-Man and buried him alive, as far as he knew at least, so he put a shotgun in his mouth and killed himself. That story is considered one of the best Spidey comics and is the reason why Kraven is more remembered by fans more than other such lame forgotten villains (like the Hypno-Hustler). He was also the half brother of Dmitri Smerdyakov, AKA the Chameleon from our last review, because they were two Russian enemies of Spidey so of course they’d be related. In this show that wasn’t the case, in fact we find out in season 5 that Chameleon is the adopted son of the Red Skull and the step brother of Electro. But that’s a crazy story for a time when I’m less sober.

Anyway let’s see what the 90s did to:

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We open on the Hardy Foundation Research Center where Kraven is smashing up a lab as a women yells at him to stop, to “not touch me” and to “stop it, this is exactly why I left!” I think I may have an episode of Law & Order: SVU by mistake here. Then Kraven says, “I came here for one purpose, to take you home.” Yeah I’m getting some bad vibes here, we might be in for a ‘very special episode’ of Spidey. She says she can find a way to cure him if she finishes her research, and at the moment I’m thinking it’s a cure for his desire to wear ridiculous fur outfits.

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Pokeball GO! Arcanine, I choose you!

Outside the room Peter is walking around inner-monologging as usual. “Just nail this interview and you’ll be working at a real research lab.” Which is a nice way to get him involved in the SVU plot since he’s been shown working at his University lab previously in the show. But since that Uni lab is also a Supervillain factory with a maguffin called the Neogenic Recombinator that can do anything the plot demands, but mostly makes villains, I’d say Peter has it better at his ‘fake research lab’ than a real one. I go on about this like it’s going to be brought up again or is anything other than a way to get him outside that door.

Peter sticks his head through when he hears things smashing and Kraven say he thinks there’s another man involved.

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Hey-O, next time put a sock on the door.

Kraven, not liking being interrupted, throws a desk at Peter, blocking the door. He tries to break through, but can’t as the woman goes out the window and climbs the fire escape to get to the roof as Kraven follows. Peter opens one of those really large windows at the end of the corridor, that are never that large or able to open in real life, and climbs out too.

The women, as we find out her name is Dr Mariah Crawford, gets on the roof and stand on the edge as Kraven moves closer saying how much he loves her and doesn’t want to harm her. Yeah I think she got how much you didn’t want to harm her when you were throwing desks around her lab. As Spidey, who’s now on the side of a building, yells at her to watch out she gets startled and slips off the edge. Smooth move hero.

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She’s really falling for him now *I’ll get my coat*

Spidey webswings and catches her, and for some reason swings back to the roof with Kraven on it. Surely it’d be safer for everyone if he put her on another roof while he dealt with Kraven. But what do I know I’m not a full time superhero. Spidey then makes a bad pun about Kraven being a Leo that even I cringed at. He then takes a jump at Kraven that’s so bad he barely has to move to dodge it, ah good ol’ bad animation and directing. Seriously it looked like Spidey get head rush from swinging to catch Mariah and got double vision.

Kraven then says, “Mariah, for his own sake tell him to remain out of our affairs.” You know for a crazy lunatic he seems like the most sensible of the three right now. Anyway the two wrestle, Kraven throws Spider-Man onto the side of a building and then jumps there as well, somehow.

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One of Kraven’s superpowers, or bad animation, you be the judge.

I guess he was supposed to leap on to the side then push off with his feet while grabbing Spidey, but that aint what happened. He’s clearly sticking to it just like Spidey. So as Kraven tackles him back to the same roof he grabs him and holds him over the edge. Saying the standard stuff about spiders being revered as great hunters, but he’s been easy prey. All the standard hunting clichés. Spidey gets free and wonders if Kraven’s a pro-wrestler, saying it would explain the tights. Yes because as we all know pro-wrestlers can stick to walls, although I’m sure the Ultimate Warrior thinks he can.

Spidey then accidentally knocks him off the side of the building, and he disappeared when they look for him. OK I’m calling it now this guys just a drugged up Superman. That’s the only explanation I can think of for the stuff he’s pulling.

Mariah then goes a bit crazy shouting how he’ll be back and that nothing can stop him. Yeah, no. Give me a P-90 and I’ll stop him for ya. But alas real guns don’t exist in this world, only ineffectual laser weapons. No wonder this world needs superheroes. As they swing off Kraven pops back on the roof and follows them.

As they’re swinging away Mariah delivers the backstory. Apparently he’s descended from Russian nobility, was a big game hunter in Africa but when that was outlawed he became a guild. Why was the first fact relevant at all? His nobility never really comes up again and I’d completely forgotten about it until I rewatched this episode. It just feels pointlessly thrown in there for no real reason. Anyway she hired him as a guild to help her find a colleague, Dr James Reeves, who had disappeared in the jungle. After months of searching Kraven and Mariah fell in love because she was “drawn” to him, and that he saved her from snakes. When they find Reeves he’s less Tarzan and more crazy hobo.

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I’m not sure how he managed to find all that hair gel in the jungle

Reeves apparently invented a miracle drug that can cure anything and everything. It just has one tiny side effect, it makes you a feral person. Reeves tested it on himself and became the walking hair gel commercial. He gave Mariah the last of the drug warning her not to use it under any circumstances and wandered back into the jungle. She stupidly followed and got attacked by some hyenas. Thankfully for her Superman, I mean Kraven was there to help. By help I mean fight off the hyenas while getting horribly mauled. And by mauled I mean they rip his clothes with no visible signs of any wounds. Mariah does the only sensible thing, she pours the drug down his shirt.

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I thought you were supposed to be a doctor?

So despite her pouring a drug into wounds that aren’t there Kraven makes a full recovery. He starts getting more “primal, bestial” instincts, which is shown as him running with zebras, fighting lions, and hunting deer in the long grass. That’s when he took the name Kraven, for no reason whatsoever, not even an explanation for why Kraven. He also got his costume in the African jungle, not sure how that happened. He either made it, which is suspect, or he found a clothing shop in the middle of the jungle, which is stupid. So take your pick of which is the least idiotic.

So I’m wondering why did the drug affect Kraven so radically different than Reeves. From what little we saw of Reeves he was a feral person, his mind had clearly regressed and became another animal in the jungle. With Kraven it made him more psychotic and he wanted to be an animal, but he still seems rather human. He makes his own clothes, clearly has some sort of personal hygiene unlike Reeves, and still loves Mariah. So there is still higher reasoning there, even if it is a psychotic one. That’s the problem only seeing Reeves for a few seconds and never hearing him speak, the only impression we got was the George of the Jungle look he was sporting. Compare that to Kraven’s Superman and there’s nothing similar other than the “animal nature” which is clearly different in both of them. Reeves was no Superman, that’s for sure.

Anyway Mariah ends her backstory saying she came back to America to find a cure. Spidey drops her off at a friend’s empty apartment because they’re out of town. Mariah protests saying she needs a lab, but Spidey says this is safer. Not sure how it’s any safer than a lab, unless the apartment is own by Tony Stark. So Spidey brushes her off saying he’s got somewhere to be and when he gets back they’ll get something set up for a lab. We then cut to Kraven sniffing some of Spidey’s web and laughing evilly as he jumps over some cars.

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I’m sure New York drivers are used to this by now

Back at the apartment Mariah hears someone coming to the door and thinks it’s Kraven so she scarpers though the back door, I guess. I wasn’t aware apartments had back doors like that, oh well. She also drops a piece of paper on her way out. And the dramatic overblown music plays and stops as we see Robbie Robertson, Daly Bugle Editor and Jonah Jameson’s right hand man, enter the place. So it was his apartment all along. Hang on a minute; he has a wife and son. We even see them in a later episode. So why is the apartment empty? Oh right, because the writers hadn’t thought to use them yet, so they don’t exist till season 3, I believe. Why would they use something silly like a Series Bible to map out characters, plots, and backgrounds, even ones we don’t see on screen, when they can make it all up on the fly? That’s what all the good series do, right?

Robbie checks his answering machine and Jameson’s left him a message about his vacation being cut short but they have a big story they need him for. I did like how Robbie is probably the only person JJ would apologise to for doing something like that. As he’s about to leave Kraven kicks in the door and demands to know where Mariah is, thinking Robbie is the “other man” that has stole his beloved away. Now what we’ve got here is hilarious unintentional reverse-racism. A while African jungle man wearing tribal gear (or close enough at least) breaking in and threatening a black native New York journalist. Reverse the races and you’ve got a TV/movie from the 50s/60s. Or an episode of the 60s Spider-Man cartoon.

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Thank god his wife and kid don’t exist yet to see this.

Kraven then sees the paper Mariah dropped and all Robbie’s pleas of not knowing her fall on deaf ears. The next day at the Parker house, or at least it’s the daytime establishing shot of the house, Peter’s all dressed up in the tux he wore in the Spider Slayer episode. He’s complaining about it and saying he looks like an undertaker.

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Those are some fancy undertakers he goes to

Yeah I don’t think any undertaker wears clothes like that for work. Anyway MJ’s invited Peter and Aunt May to a fashion show she’s in, animal themed of course because dramatic convenience, and May can’t go for some unspecified reason. Not sure what the point of that was since it doesn’t really advance the plot or characters. Peter’s constant inner-monologue could’ve filled us in on the show just as easily and they’d have time to do something else.

Now its night at the fashion show, so I guess it was just them cheaply and stupidly reusing a daytime establishing shot. Peter goes backstage to talk to MJ before the show and she’s wearing a leopard print dress, because the producers of the series love putting her in ugly clothing for some reason. MJ says she wants to skip the after party and dinner alone with him. Go Peter, that’s a nice intimate dinner, she wants you. Of course this means something’s going to go horribly wrong, having Peter’s love life go somewhere on screen would be unthinkable.

So as MJ struts her stuff on stage Kraven barges in and despite him kicking the door in, shoving people out of the way, and looking extremely out of place in a formal event the only comment he gets is, “look, the guy from Cats!” He just blends right in.

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That guy at the door is totally checking him out

As that’s going on Peter get’s a different surprise, Felicia Hardy. She asks what he’s doing there and he says, “My aunt gave me her invitation.” Ummm no she didn’t. The previous pointless scene established he was invited by MJ, and why would she just invite May. There was nothing to indicate Peter was lying to Felicia so it makes the previous scene contradictory even more pointless. If it was a lie then it’s a pretty feeble one since the question and answer’s the same, “why were you invited?” “My super hot model neighbour friend is in the show.” And this is me thinking about the show much more than was intended, again.

Turns out the fashion show’s a Hardy Foundation event, which is probably something that’d be on the invitation surely so Peter should know this (there I go again), and she wants him to take her to the after party. Peter stupidly says, “Yeah, but…” then she leaves. Could’ve just said, “No I’m busy.” without any real fuss, but he didn’t because he’s Peter Parker. Oh this show really gets the hardships of Peter’s life, going to swanky fashion charity shows, having a hot model/actress/college student and a billionaire’s daughter both after you, such a hard everyman’s life. But I’m not really being fair; MJ’s not hot in this show. She’s supposed to and characters act like she is, but she’s really not, at all. The rest is accurate, though.

Getting back to the episode and Kraven’s finally making more of a fuss to get noticed, at least by Peter. Sniffing table cloths can have that effect. So Peter ducks out and somehow, despite it being a crowded room and he’s dressed almost identically to all the other men their, both MJ and Felicia see him leave. Of course they both get angry at him when as far as they know he could have had legitimate reasons for leaving the room. But to give the show some benefit of the doubt he could’ve ducked out to be Spider-Man a few times to both of them in the past. Which does fit with MJ’s complaint about his “disappearing act.”

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[insert your own animal themed song pun here as there’s too many good/bad ones for me to choose]

Kraven takes to the stage and grabs a microphone, calling out Spider-Man. The people at the event still don’t get it and think its all part of the show. Spidey then shows up at a window and gets Kraven to follow him outside. Which he does by jumping on tables and scaling the curtains to reach the window, and the people still think it’s a show. They even applaud it. Goddamn rich people!

Kraven and Spidey ‘fight’ for a bit, it’s mainly just Kraven throwing Spidey around on the ledge, and then there’s another wonderful piece of animation. Kraven charges at him and he jumps overhead, so Kraven falls off the edge. Then a second later we see Kraven’s hand grab onto the ledge. He somehow suspends himself in midair till the camera cuts back to him so we can see him grab on.

He tells Spidey that he has Robbie and that if he doesn’t let him go then Robbie will die. After that he says he has six hours to being him Mariah or else, and that she’ll know how to find him. Then he jumps off the ledge and vanishes again instead of going splat. I still think being Superman is the most plausible explanation for this.

Spidey swings off doing his patented, “it’s all my fault” lament, and I can’t blame him. Robbie being involved was his fault and he should’ve stuck Mariah in a lab instead of a home of a friend. We then cut to Kraven setting up traps in his hide-out at the zoo, covering holes with grass, trying trees back, the usual stuff. Back to Spidey lamenting while checking over Robbie’s place, to Mariah in some lab doing SCIENCE! and phoning Dr Connor’s asking to use his lab.

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Multitasking SCIENCE!

If it seems like I’m skipping over stuff that’s only because there’s not a lot to talk about. Back to Kraven as he talks to Robbie about his ideology. How he was, “raised in the traditions of nobility, and now I live in the world of the jungle. The codes of conduct that govern both are very similar. If you take what belongs to another there must be retribution.” I’m no anthropologist, but that doesn’t sound right. Plus that doesn’t apply just to nobility as ’actions have consequences’ applies to everyone. And quite frankly there are many that would say nobility does in fact steal from others without any consequences. I suppose he could be talking about his family being ousted from their lands and nobility because of people taking retribution for things they’ve done. Though this never comes up again so the writers must have forgotten about it as much as the audience did.

Cut to Spidey still looking for Mariah in any lab he can think of, and he just misses her in one by a whisker. He then realises he should be hunting Kraven and figures out where his hideout is from a bus ad for the zoo. Well I guess there’s a reason no one calls him the worlds greatest detective. Meanwhile Mariah is still doing SCIENCE! this time on a lab rat and the results are positive, so she grabs the stuff she tested on it and runs off.

Back at the zoo Spidey has finally arrived, he even lampshade hangs how obvious it is that Kraven’s hideout is the African Jungle Exhibit. So he stumbles around inside till he hits a sequence of traps, none of which sets off his Spider Sense. Kraven literally pulls the rocks out from under him and he falls into water below with a damaged webshooter. Then a rhino just rises out of the water to attack him.

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If only he had some sort of warning sense to prevent this sort of thing

Spidey jumps out of the way and webswings on his previously broken shooter into another trap. This time Kraven had set up bombs to make some trees fall on him. Now I can buy him MacGyvering some jungle traps, but where’d he get the explosives? He had a detonator too so he didn’t MacGyver them as well. Whatever, maybe he got them from his nobility, or he’s just Superman.

As Spidey doges the trees he looks over where Robbie is dangling from a cliff, over crocodile infested water no less. Another classic cliché. Spidey pleads with Kraven that Robbie had nothing to do with any of this and should be let go. Kraven responds with the usual, “WE HAD A DEAL” and drops another tree on him. As Kraven drops a pouch that somehow creates a smoke screen Spidey yells, “Your smoke screen’s no match for my Spider Sense!” What Spider Sense? It hasn’t gone off once this entire episode and didn’t seem to be worked a second ago when he dropped a tree on you!

Spidey jumps on him calling him an animal, Kraven responds by quoting Solzhenitsyn. In typical Spidey witty barb, for this show at least, “quoting Solzhenitsyn doesn’t make you human.” Again the episodes harps on that Kraven is an animal when he’s clearly still the same man he was, with all the same thoughts and feelings, it’s just he’s a psychopath now. Or just an abuse, possessive, boyfriend. Or both.

Anyway the fight gets postponed by Mariah who runs in and blunders onto one of the more obvious traps.

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How did she not see that?

That trip wire’s not even slightly covered up. It activates a water canon that blasts her into the lion cage as the line on Robbie’s rope goes slack and he falls into the crocodile water. So was that Kraven’s first plan? Hope Spider-Man comes through the front door? Anyway Kraven jumps in to save Mariah from the lions as Spidey goes to save Robbie. He webs up some crocs before doing a Jackie Chan to escape.

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Bad day. Bad day. Bad day.

As he’s gotten Robbie to safety he unties him and apologises for putting him in danger. And we’re back to Kraven wrestling lions to save Mariah from her stupidity. As they claw at him Spidey runs in and hems them into the back with the cage door he ripped off. He’s been badly wounded, so they pick him up and move him to outside the cage.

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I’m sure moving him those few meters will help so much

If he’s so badly wounded then moving him is the worst thing you can do. And what’s the point of moving him if you’re not going to moving anywhere that’ll help him. So we have that ironic dramatic convenience that Kraven is once again injured trying to save the women he loves. Once again Mariah gives him a magic drug at the last minute to heal him. Except this time it’s the antidote to the previous drug that’s supposed to cure everything. So somehow the cure for the cure all manages to cure all of his wounds. There’s not even a token explanation or technobable for how it heals his wounds. It just does despite the fact that all it should’ve done is make him normal in his final moments. I suppose it’s at least a good thing she made him drink it this time instead of pouring it down his shirt.

So at the end of it all we see Kraven and Mariah on a ship back to who knows where and they’re all lovey dovey.

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Yes I’m sure they’ll be no lasting relationship problems there.

So she’s not at all traumatised by the fact that her boyfriend became extremely possessive and abusive towards her? He’s not worried that she’ll kill him one day with her stupidity? Nope, happy ending folks! Just don’t think about it! Urg.

Spidey finishes up the episode whining about him not getting the girl, how his costume’s ruined, blah blah blah. “Stick a fork in me, I’m done.” Gladly Spidey, oh so very gladly.

Final Thoughts

Well this was a clunker. It’s just so bland because it doesn’t really know what it wants to be. It has the epic romance of Kraven and Mariah, Kraven’s animal side, and his supposed nobility. All of which are extremely underdeveloped. We don’t see their romance, we’re only told about how great it is. We don’t see how Kraven was before the wonder drug so we have no idea how much he’s fallen, so it’s hard to sympathise with him. I think Robbie was thrown in here just so the audience would have someone to care about in the final conflict. The Peter bits where rather pointless and didn’t add anything to the episode. They could’ve been taken out entirely since nothing comes of any of it. It would’ve actually been more tragic if the antidote didn’t cure his wounds and there was a ticking clock for it. So they’d have to choose to either let him heal through the wonder drug that’s still in his system, but remain the psychotic Kraven forever, or given him the antidote and let him die a man. The ‘is life for the sake of life worth it?’ debate.

Sadly that didn’t happen. Kraven will return, hopefully not for awhile though.

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About Reaf

I'm Reaf. I run the Reaf Debrief. I'm from England so I spell things with a U and a sarcastic sense of humour.

Posted on October 15, 2012, in Animation, Comics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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