Spider-Man: Spider-Hunt will always hold a special place in my comic book-lovin’ heart as the storyline came out just a year or so after I had started purchasing Amazing Spider-Man regularly. I was only fourteen years old, and starting to wade hip-deep into comic books on a regular basis, when this storyline shook up the Spider-Man books. From a historical point of view, this period in Spider-Man’s history is far from revered, as it was the brief period between the end of the much-maligned Clone Saga, and the beginning of a lack-luster relaunch of both the Amazing Spider-Man and Peter Parker, Spider-Man titles. But for me, it’ll always be the period where I first seriously got into Spider-Man, and started picking up back-issues and trades to further quench my thirst for Spider-Man stories. I was really excited a few months back when both this storyline and its sequel, Spider-Man: Identity Crisis were announced (Identity Crisis came out over a month earlier than this collection, oddly enough), and thankfully the experience of rereading the stories has been an enjoyable one, as the stories still amange to hold tehmselees up quite well.
The basic premise of this collection finds Spider-Man suspected of murder, after a webbed-up criminal, supposedly a catch of Spider-Man’s, is found dead outside of a NYC police station. With Spider-Man the number one suspect, and Spider-Man already having a price on his head due to a recent videotaped beating of Norman Osborn (looking to rehabilitiate his image and claiming he was never actually the Green Goblin), Norman Osborn puts a $5 Million dollar price tag on Spider-Man’s head. Now, suspected of murder, Spider-Man must contend with New York becoming a war zone as bounty hunters come hunting for him, just as Normie Osborn, Norman’s grandson, is supposedly abducted by none other than the Green Goblin. The storyline only gets more complicated as an amnesiac Punisher is set on Spider-Man’s path, as well as freelance government agent Shotgun, and the super-villain Black Tarantula is sent after Spider-Man to deliver a deadly message. This collection features the Spider-Hunt prelude issue Peter Parker, Spider-Man #88, Spectacular Spider-Man #254, the four-part Spider-Hunt story in Sensational Spider-Man #25, Amazing Spider-Man 432, Peter Parker, Spider-Man #89 and Spectacular Spider-Man #255, as well as the Identity Crisis prelude issues Sensational Spider-Man #26, Amazing Spider-Man #433, Peter Parker, Spider-Man #90 and Spectacular Spider-Man #256. It still baffles me that the Identity Crisis prelude issues were included here instead of being in the Identity Crisis tpb, but at least they are now collected in trade paperback form.
Despite taking place during a fairly neglected period in Spider-Man`s history, this is a fairly enjoyable story with some strong writing. What I noticed most about reading these stories again is how the books juggled a great supporting cast, many members of whom have all-but disappeared from the Spider-Man books. There’s the classic members of the cast, including Aunt Anna, Mary Jane, J. Jonah Jameson and Robbie Robertson, but also the Parkers’ neighbour Hope, Hobie Brown (the Prowler), Bugle Reporter Billy Walters, Gwen Stacy’s uncle Arthur Stacy, as well as Gwen’s cousins Jill and Paul Stacy. The books are full of great characterization, as Peter pushes himself to stay alive, so that he can track down the missing Normie Osborn. There’s tons of pathos in this book as well. The Identity Crisis issues represent a lighter tone for the books, as in the wake of Spider-Hunt Spider-Man has some off-beat adventures that convince him to step aside for a while, and take on four different guises in the meantime, to continue being a hero, but without Osborn manipulating him or knowing what he’s up to. This lighter tone sees Spider-Man take on Hydro-Man, tackle Mr. Hyde without the benefit of his costume (resulting in him borrowing a hoodie and using it, Ben Reilly-style, to mask his identity), travel to the Negative Zone, picking up the Dusk costume, and finally, as the bombastic Bag-Man, save the Grizzly and the Gibbon, and help them take down the White Rabbit.
The artwork during this period of the Spider-Man books was actually quite strong, with John Romita Jr. providing the art chores on two books during the Spider-Hunt crossover, Amazing Spider-Man and Peter Parker, Spider-Man. This period during Romita’s career is one of my favourites, as he had a dark, blocky style which was very moody and tense. His artwork on Amazing Spider-Man was actually a bit rushed compared to Peter Parker, Spider-Man, and his regular inker, Scott Hanna, didn’t do his inking on that particular issue of Amazing. Joe Bennett absolutely kills it with his art chores on the double-sized Sensational Spider-Man #25, and Tom Lyle returns to the Spider-books with the Identity Crisis prelude issue of Amazing Spider-Man. The artistic tone on these books was fairly consistent, so that even though these are very different artists, the general consistency of the artwork was strong.
This storyline took the premise of “Spider-Man as a menace” and blew it up, so that Spider-Man would eventually have to temporarily retire his Spider-Man identity, until he could clear his name and move forwards. As such, it’s a great examination of how Peter Parker needs to be Spider-Man, and how he is ruled by his sense of responsibility, no matter how dangerous the job might be, even when an entire city wants to cash in on a huge bounty. The writing is strong, the artwork is fantastic, and the book never fails to entertain. Do yourself a favour and pick up this book, it’s well-worth reading, and holds up surprisingly well. Highly Recommended!