AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #20 gave us some answers to the lingering questions of writer Nick Spencer’s “Hunted” arc. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21 aims to take the arc even further, in a somewhat profound manner — but unfortunately, the execution falls flat.

“Hunted” has been fairly hit or miss for me. On the one hand, the action has been consistently tense and dramatic, and the stakes are clear and palpable. On the other hand, there are questionable storytelling choices, some of which make sense, and others that leave you scratching your head. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21 falls somewhere in the middle of all that.

Luckily, what doesn’t fall flat this time around is Gerardo Sandoval’s artwork. His pages are as exciting and sharp as they were in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #19. Couple these pages with colors from Edgar Delgado and Erick Arciniega, and you’ve got yourselves a wonderful looking Spidey issue.

Kraven’s Goals are Revealed in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21

We’re already aware that Kraven’s trying to kill all the false hunters and put the costumed villains through the wringer. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21 deepens Kraven’s goals by (finally) revealing his plans for Spidey himself.

Kraven arrives to apparently aid Spider-Man, as he’s being swarmed by a pack of Vermin. Before we get to the why, though, we cut to the villains who are taking the fight to the hunters. Of course, as we know now, should those hunter drones die, so too will the operators.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21 page 9. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Later, we see Spidey wake up in a cage, adorned in a fresh black suit and with a collar around his neck. Curt Connors is also there, appearing in human form, not as the Lizard. Curt shows Spidey the monitors in their cell, which are tracking the Black Cat and Curt’s son, Billy. Billy reveals to Cat that he remembers how his father killed him way back when as the Lizard.

With this revelation in mind, and with Kraven’s son having tracked down Black Cat and Billy, Curt knows there’s only one way to save them: Spidey has to yank out Curt’s inhibitor chip so they can properly set the Lizard loose.

Reluctantly, Peter accepts, nearly killing Curt in the process. But now, the Lizard is free. How will it turn out? We’ll have to wait and see.

A Sensible Goal with Lousy Execution

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21 mostly follows Kraven’s thoughts. This is about what he wants from Spider-Man; he wants him to grow stronger. As far as motivation for Kraven goes, this makes sense to me. As does everything else he’s trying to accomplish in “Hunted.” It’s interesting to see Kraven adopt this modernized mentality to counter a modern problem, only for him now to once again adorn his typical attire and take on the problem himself.

The problem with AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21, however, lies in the means by which Spidey becomes stronger, at least in Kraven’s eyes. Kraven observes Spidey rip out Curt’s inhibitor chip, and at that moment, he proclaims how he’s proud of Spider-Man, and that the Spider is now even stronger. But this catalyst comes off feeling surprisingly impersonal. While there is absolutely a ton of weight behind the Lizard coming back properly, we haven’t had enough time with stabilized Curt to really care about him going full-blown Lizard again.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21 page 11. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Nick Spencer tries to inject this moment with a lot of emotion, but I found it difficult to get hooked on the situation. I found myself confused regarding why Kraven deemed this Spidey’s defining moment of strength. Why does something so simple make Spidey stronger? Because he almost killed a man? Because he unleashed the Lizard? The connection doesn’t track well at all.

That being said, I’m happy to get some more hints as to what Kraven’s ultimate goal is. Now that he’s finally planted himself in his own game, the finale will likely have much more weight to it. At least, I hope it does.

The Grizzly Art of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21

Thankfully, Gerardo Sandoval, Edgar Delgado, and Erick Arciniega’s pages don’t fail to impress. From the onset, these guys grab your attention with the harsh, action-packed images of Spidey fighting against the Vermin horde. And Kraven’s intro is a wonderful standout page.

Otherwise, AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21 feels fairly tame. Sandoval’s pages are appropriately flashy, while also remaining composed and consistently fitting the tone. I still love how he draws black suit Spider-Man. He’s always had a flair for drawing Venom, so it’s no surprise this version of Spidey is just as good, if not better.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21 page 19. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Delgado and Arciniega have a very understated job in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21. Their colors aren’t nearly as flashy as Sandoval’s pages. Instead, they work to keep everything in check, tonally speaking. We see the Vermin swarming Spidey in deeper tones, transposing the sense of Spidey losing the fight onto the reader. This is really the only moment something like that happens in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21, but following that, the rest of the color work is just as impressive and fitting.

So, while the story tone in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21 seems to lose its footing, the artistic tone is consistent and uniform throughout.

The Finale Awaits…

With AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21 wrapped up, we’re left waiting for one more issue in the “Hunted” arc. The Lizard is free to save his son (or so we hope), Kraven is back in the fight, and Spidey is, apparently, now stronger than ever before. We’ll have to wait to see how everything plays out.

As for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21, it cleanly sets up the looming finale, and works well to continue the story with some firm pacing. The only significant hiccup is Kraven’s scheme to make Spider-Man stronger, at least in his own eyes. Luckily, you’ll have plenty of nice pages to look at, which should hopefully distract you from some of the storytelling problems.

What consequences await Spider-Man at the end of this bloody conflict? The anticipation’s got me excited.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21 by Nick Spencer, Gerardo Sandoval, Edgar Delgado, and Erick Arciniega
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Characterization
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Summary
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #21 continues "Hunted" in a gritty fashion. Despite how cleanly it dives into Kraven's mindset, it still feels jarring and disconnected. On a more positive note, though, there's more than enough beautiful art here to keep you interested.
85 %
Intense, Yet Confusing

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