I don’t always know what to think of Nick Spencer. As a storyteller, his concepts and ideas attract my attention, especially given the fact that so much of his work seems to be informed by an acutely attuned social consciousness. His run on Captain America and the subsequent Secret Empire is testament to that. But then there are times when his writing grates on me, a muddied mess of puerile humor and under-developed characters that seem to be little more that two-dimensional mouthpieces for political viewpoints. His recent run on Ant-Man gave me that impression.
Mixed reactions aside, I was excited for Spencer’s return to the wallcrawler when his new volume of Amazing Spider-Man debuted last year. Something, however, wasn’t really working out initially. After the challenging and ambitious dark fairy tale of Empire, this new Spidey arc felt like something that belonged in the Marvel Universe line of YA books. Eye-rolling quips, a reversion to the “Parker Luck” status quo, and art that, while effective, wasn’t altogether interesting.
But I stuck with it because, well, it’s not like I’m not going to read Amazing Spider-Man. And the patience has paid off.
This week’s Amazing Spider-Man #16 is a Spidey-free prelude to this year’s major arc, “Hunted,” which comes on the heels of three very enjoyable stories. “Heist” introduced us to the Thieves’ Guild and gave Spencer an opportunity to vilify soulless, greedy corporations (and bring back fan-favorite Black Cat). “Lifetime Achievement” ably situated the writer’s Peter Parker in a new status quo — one in which J. Jonah Jameson knows his secret and the Kingpin is the mayor of New York. And “Family Matters” explored the ramifications of Dr. Curt Connors’s newly reptilian family unit while setting the stage for Kraven the Hunter’s big scheme.
That big scheme, revealed in this week’s issue, explains why Taskmaster and Black Ant have been corralling a legion of animal-themed supervillains and why Arcade has been engaged to build one of his murder parks for Kraven. It also gives Spencer another chance to attack the obscenely wealthy.
An arena-style story isn’t novel by any means, but it is fun. And in this case, the fun comes from Kraven and Arcade confining these “animals” within Central Park and giving billionaire would-be great game hunters the means to kill them in the name of sport. If it doesn’t get muddy, and Humberto Ramos proves himself up to the task (I wouldn’t bet against it), seeing classic nemeses like Rhino, Scorpion, and Vulture fighting alongside bananaland rejects like Gibbon, Iguana, and Stegron sounds like a fantastic four color party.