Friday, October 20, 2006

Mind Games (Part 2) (Marvel comics)
Spider-man Ep. 13 When: August 2003
Why: Steven Kriozere & Audu Paden How: Neil Patrick Harris & Michael Dorn

The story so far...
The Gaines Twins are the product of shocking KGB experimentation which killed their parents, but resulted in granting them fantastic hypnotic and telepathic abilities.

When Spider-man intervenes in their escape, the twins manage to psychically manipulate him through a fantasy into believeing Kraven the Hunter killed his beloved Mary-Jane.

With rage now seething through his veins, Spider-man takes up a vengeful mission to kill Kraven on the behalf of the twins. Revenge for Kraven's involvement in the capture of their parents on the KGB's behalf.

Previous Form:
Spider-man (#2): Spidey has one-on-one victories against Man-Ape and the Tri-Sentinel.
Kraven the Hunter: Kraven has not yet been featured.

Tale of the tape...
Strength: Spider-man 5 (Super Strength)
Intelligence: Spider-man 5 (Professor)
Speed: Spider-man 4 (Olympic Sprinter)
Stamina: Spider-man 4 (Trained Athlete)
Agility: Spider-man 5 (Cat-like)
Fighting Ability: Kraven 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy Powers: Kraven 4 (Arsenal)

Kraven the Hunter! What a fantastic villain!
Generally I don't like to feature a character twice in one month, but lately I've been on a bit of a Spidey kick, and I guess Kraven won the Spidey-villain lottery thanks to MTV and Mainframe.

I guess in many respects this match-up is comparable to Wolverine/Silver Samurai. That is to say, it's the extraordinary hero, against a villain who is the at the very maximum of ordinary.

For the most part Kraven is a human begin who honed his skills as a supreme hunter. A hunter so efficient, he would prefer his own hands over the use of additional weapons. Although, that said, Kraven has been known to have various tool at his disposal.

Like a Captain America, Kraven has enhanced strength, which makes him more than a match for Spider-man, whose own strength tends to fluctuate depending on the scenario and writing staff. We'll at least consider them comparable equals, although, I personally lean toward Spidey having the superior strength.

While Spidey has his spider-senses to give him a preternatural edge in combat, Kraven the Hunter has his own supremely trained senses, which work hand-in-hand with his training and experience to give him a comparable edge.
Likewise, both are extremely agile men, although again Spidey has a definite advantage here.

After defeating Spider-man, Kravinoff ends his life. Apparently he forgot the other hundred-thousand characters in the Marvel universe...Sergei Kravinoff took his own life during the Kraven's Last Hunt storyarc, having reached what he felt was the epitomy of his career after not only besting Spider-man, but also replacing him while he was buried alive.
This was one of the harshest defeats handed out to Spider-man, but it did come after decades of the Spider getting the best of the hunter.

Overall: Draw 28
The Pick: Spider-man

What went down...
Waiting on a meeting at the docks, it doesn't take Kraven's keen senses as a hunter to recognise the trademark webbing that holds his goons pinned to smokestacks.
Spidey charges into battle, shunting Kraven across the roof whilst promising to "rip him apart."

Kraven tumbles into the warehouse below, finding his way to walkways dangling high above the floorspace. Spidey follows hard, but Kraven is fast enough to avoid the strike.

The two exchange blows, with Kraven blocking for the most part until Spidey uses his agility to nail a Bruce Lee style sommersault kick.

Kraven lands, and narrowly avoids Spidey's follow up, bringing his bodyweight down from a high leap. Kraven matches Spidey's agility, perching on a walkway handrail, before springing away to avoid another savage punch.

Kraven wipes blood from his mouth, and observes the ruthless shift in Spider-man's tact. Spider-man leaps infront of him, taking a challenging stance.

Spidey goes for the webbing, but Kraven cuts it with a dagger, and then uses the dagger as a projectile weapon.
Spidey ducks out and shoots out webbing, weaving it around Kraven's hands and throat.

With Kraven dangling from the ceiling, Spidey swears vengeance for Mary-Jane, but out the corner of his eye he spies a discrepency in his history. A neon sign that had fallen and injury Harry Osborn, now quite prominent in the skyline.

Connecting the dots, Spider-man quizzes Kraven further to make sense of the timeline. Kraven reveals their last meeting as having been months previous.
When the police arrive, they corroborate Kraven's story, and although he has been the unwitting pawn of the Gaines twins, having lived a fantasy since first encountering them, Spidey does defeat Kraven.

The hammer...
The winner, and late charge for the top spot: Spider-man!

The MTV Spider-man series was a funny kinda situation. I heard a bit about it via a lot of second hand information, and I have to admit to not being terribly excited by what I was hearing.
With names like Rob Zombie being tossed around for the voice of the Lizard, it was sounding a lot like a gratuitous way to cram MTV properties into the blossoming branding of Spider-man: the movie.

The series perhaps gained some credibility with the inclusion of Brian Michael Bendis as a producing influence, although, connections to Ultimate Spider-man only further turned me off of the series. How wrong I was.

I really expected to dislike this series, but an impulse purchase with a mindboggling reasonable price tag turned all of that around. Now I'm a tragic fan of the Mainframe CG animated series, and desperately hope rumors of a second series prevailing over cancellation, are true.

I was a fan of Mainframe's early animation work on Reboot, and Spider-man really succeeds in showing just how far they've come since the mid-nineties.
Certainly a lot of the Mainframe traits are there, and anyone familiar with a series like Reboot will spot familiar quirks, but at the same time, they seem to willingly give themselves over to established iconography and ideals of the Spider-man character.

Of course, this is only half of the puzzle, and a huge part comes from the writing on this series. Much like conventional television, budgetary concerns restrict the bredth of cast and locations, but as Mainframe build a backlog of reusable sprites and scripts, the world populates itself intelligently and densely.
Even with Morgan "VIP" Gendel in a prominent position on the writing staff, the series crafts itself around restrictions, perhaps turning them into advantages. Character interaction is dense and intelligent, as are the scripts on a whole. Storylines pack plenty of characterization, but unlike the Ultimate variety of the comic, does not sacrifice this for fast-paced action, and thrilling adventure.

This show is in many ways everything The Batman isn't.
Like Batman, this series was projecting itself into the shadow of previous successful cartoon shows as well as feature film success. The team handling MTV's show managed to embody elements from all sources including comics and film, whilst still producing it's own energy. This is in direct contrast to The Batman's utter failure to entice existing fans of comics, or perhaps even the Timm/Dini animated series prior.

This series wasn't without it's problems, and certainly it would've been nice to see more of the recognisable rogues like Kraven the Hunter. Villains who are always among the high points of any Spider-man story, but that said, even the original or derived characters unique to the series were highly enjoyable. Something series rarely succeed at creating.

For example; characters Shikata and Talon owe their origins to Kraven and Black Cat respectively, quite obviously. As nice as it would've been to see these characters in those stories, the creative team here still manages to make both characters intriguing and individual.

I could go on and on, and I'm really skimming the surface, but on my Spidey kick I just had to feature an episode of this series. It's fantastic. I hold out hope that the rumors of a character-packed second season might somehow manifest.

Another negative? They say gulag an awful lot in this episode!

The Fight: 4 The Episode: 6

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