Many years ago…
On national television, Angel, Beast, Cyclops, and Marvel Girl – four members of Charles Xavier’s X-Men – engage in a no-holds barred battle with the Hulk in Las Vegas amidst the hostile armed forces of the United States National Guard. “Thanks to the timely intervention of our armed forces, there were no fatalities,” the newscaster narrates. “But the incident has once again raised the question, what is to be done about the mutant menace?”
The X-Men watch the broadcast from their living room, essentially reliving their recent encounter. Bobby Drake, the team’s youngest member, cannot believe the bias coming from the news report. It was the army who fired on the Hulk in the middle of downtown Las Vegas, he says. The X-Men were trying to lead him out of the city! Hank McCoy reminds his teammate that this particular program hardly qualifies as a beacon of journalistic integrity. This particular broadcast likely contracted its slant from its guest, The Daily Buglepublisher J. Jonah Jameson.
On air, the host apologizes for only having one guest this episode. The other intended guest, Charles Xavier, had to decline the invitation due to an illness. “Not to worry, Jackie,” J. Jonah Jameson says while chomping on his trademark cigar. “J. Jonah Jameson is all the guest you’ll ever need.” The newscaster segues into the interview with a simple, pointed question: how great of a threat are mutants to the general public?
Of all the X-Men watching at home, only Hank and Jean seem to care about the contents of the news show. The rest of them discuss trivial matters. Cyclops tells his teammate Warren he should go back to using his old Angel costume because it covered more of his face; his current outfit makes him far too easy to identify. “Relax, Scotty. As fast as I fly, the Angel’s just a blur to the cameras,” Warren says. “Besides, covering up this face would be a crime, right, Jean?” Jean playfully folds her arms and scoffs at their conversation. Jameson is on TV spouting anti-mutant propaganda to sell newspapers, yet they’re arguing about fashion? Iceman agrees with Marvel Girl’s analysis; what have mutants ever done to J. Jonah Jameson, anyway? Doesn’t he usually harass Spider-Man?
Onscreen, Jameson continues his bigoted rant. He calls each and every mutant in the world a walking, breathing, unregulated weapon. He advocates for government supervision, starting with registration, which would at least make these supposedly dangerous individuals responsible for their actions.
Spider-Man catches the latter part of this rant while peering in the funky apartment window of a New York City hipster. He breathes a sigh of relief that Jameson has his sights on someone else for a change. The X-Men certainly don’t deserve to be targeted, but admittedly, Spider-Man could use a break. He swings away from the window and continues on his way back home, his mind focused on more pressing matters, such as convincing his girlfriend Gwen Stacy that he does indeed care about her. She has a hard time believing it, though, considering how often he sneaks away for hours on end without explanation. I should just tell her I’m running off to fight psychos like Dr. Octopus and the Sandman, Spider-Man thinks. I mean, she’s trustworthy. And face it, Pete, she might just be the girl you want to spend the rest of your life with.
Spider-Man returns home and changes into his civilian clothes, reverting to his alter-ego Peter Parker, while catching the rest of the news show on his TV. He tells himself to stop stressing out about Gwen; at this rate, he will end up with an ulcer. He vows to not wallow in self-pity tonight. After all, he’s got a terrific girlfriend who, for some baffling reason, actually wants to be with a perpetually broke shlub like him. Even on his worst day, he still has Gwen Stacy.
A familiar face on the TV screen suddenly catches his eye and interrupts his train of thought. It seems the news program has a new guest for the evening – Kraven the Hunter, the world-famous adventurer! Jackie the host jumps right into to the tough questions. Kraven was only recently released from prison, wasn’t he, she asks? “Regrettably, yes,” Kraven answers. Acting out of his best intentions, he sought to capture the outlaw Spider-Man, whom he considered the most dangerous game of all. Kraven admits he went too far in his pursuit. He broke laws and made mistakes. However, he has paid for these mistakes. He does not expect absolution just yet. He wishes to now prove his good intentions by finally and lawfully apprehending Spider-Man, and by doing so, take a dangerous menace off the streets. “Not just any menace,” Kraven says, “but one who I have discovered is a mutant.”
This declaration elicits simultaneous gasps from both Peter Parker and the X-Men. In Westchester, Bobby Drake is the first to express his confusion. After all, they know Spider-Man isn’t a mutant; Professor X proved it. Cyclops concurs, but says it doesn’t matter right now. Regardless of its veracity, Kraven’s statement will make Spider-Man a target for mutant-haters anywhere. The X-Men have to find him and warn him immediately.
Warren asks why they should bother. At the very worst, Spider-Man will just have to learn to deal with the problems mutants face everyday. Hank reminds his compassionless teammate of the severity of those threats, such as the Sentinels and Sauron. Even Magneto might attempt to recruit Spider-Man to his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Jean concurs; she can only imagine what Spider-Man must be going through right now. At least the X-Men have each other for support, she says. Warren strokes his chin in contemplation. “Hmm…yeah, you’re right,” Angel says. “The poor kid must be totally freaking out.”
Quite the contrary, Peter Parker beams as he strolls down the street, arm-in-arm with both Mary Jane Watson and his girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. He wouldn’t even dream of putting on his Spider-Man outfit on a night like this, he thinks. Kraven can search for him all he wants, but he will find nothing even as helpful as a stray web! Mary Jane, meanwhile, tells Gwen to stop shooting her the evil eye; she’s only trying to keep Peter warm. Besides, if Harry Osborn sees her hanging onto another guy, it certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world. Gwen shoots an insincere smile back at her red-headed rival and agrees that no, it wouldn’t be the end of the world…but only if MJ were honest with Harry instead of constantly playing mind-games with him. Peter listens to them bickering and basks in the normalcy of it all. It’s exactly what he needs to keep his mind of off his life as Spider-Man.
The three young adults stroll into sub-street level hangout called the Coffee Bean. Unbeknownst to them, perched atop a building across the street, Kraven the Hunter examines some remnants of Spider-Man’s signature webbing. By the presence of the un-dissolved webbing, he deduces this must be Spider-Man’s neighborhood. No doubt the masked menace is somewhere nearby in his civilian clothes. For Kraven, who never forgets the scent of his prey, pinpointing Spider-Man poses no problem.
Nearby, Hank McCoy, Bobby Drake, Scott Summers, Jean Grey, and Warren Worthington III cruise in Warren’s bright-red convertible Mustang through the same neighborhood in New York City, hoping to detect a telepathic reading from Spider-Man. Unfortunately, Jean acknowledges her own telepathy in no way measures up to the professor’s, who is still too sick to help. She feels like Spider-Man is somewhere in the area, though. Good enough, Warren says. He decides to park his car. He asks Hank to get out and clear away a gas-guzzler occupying two parking spots so he can park his own car.
After parking, Warren leaps over to the passenger door and chivalrously opens the door for Jean. What is he doing, Scott angrily asks? Somewhat dismissively, Warren informs his teammate to think about their task for a moment. They know that, beneath his superhero identity, Spider-Man is a kid their age. To find him, they need to check out local hot spots for the city’s youth. Maybe Jean will pick up a stray thought that way. Jean concurs with the idea, as does Scott, albeit rather reluctantly. He reminds his team to be inconspicuous. “Inconspicuous?” Hank asks. “A rich playboy, a man with ruby-red sunglasses, a fellow built like a gorilla and a gorgeous redhead?” Bobby reminds him they’re in New York City; nobody will even look at them twice.
They X-Men enter the Coffee Bean and find it bustling with activity. Jean immediately senses Spider-Man’s presence somewhere in the room, but can’t discern exactly who he is. The X-Men survey the coffee bar. A couple of girls dressed in miniskirts, sleeveless tops and peace-sign belt-buckles dance unashamedly next to the jukebox. The barista, a beatnik-looking man with dark shades and a soul-patch, whips up a couple of chilled coffee beverages for two chatty customers. At a table near the entrance, Peter Parker, still arm-in-arm with Mary Jane and Gwen, greets his friends, Flash Thompson and Harry Osborn. “Hey, Hef,” Harry says to Peter, “why don’t you let me take one of those ladies off your hands before you get a hernia.” MJ tells her boyfriend to relax; she is only trying to make him jealous. “I’d be more relaxed if you weren’t always trying it with the same guy,” Harry says.
Flash, dressed in his finest military duds, tells his friends to fight it out amongst themselves. He just spotted another beautiful redhead walk in the door, whom he intends to greet. He gets up and waltzes amiably over to new arrival Jean Grey. He arrives in the middle of her conversation with Hank about the slow return of her suppressed telepathic abilities. Flash interrupts by telling Jean he has only two days before the Army drags him back to base. If he can share just one dance with her, he will surely go with a smile.
Enraged, Scott lurches out of his seat and gets in Flash’s face. In case he hadn’t noticed, Scott says, the girl is with them. Flash, undaunted, says he’d like to hear that from the girl’s mouth. Jean asks Scott to relax. While she stands up to accept Flash’s offer, she telepathically relays to Scott that a dance might be a good way to locate Spider-Man. Twirling around the room will let allow her to discretely move through the crowd; if she gets close enough, she might detect his thoughts more accurately. Reluctantly, Scott concedes the point and allows her to go.
“I feel for you, Scotty. But the best way to take your mind off a girl is with another girl. And since soldier boy moved in on Jean,” Warren says, “turnabout’s fair play. Am I right, fellas?” Scott scowls, but Hank agrees; he tells Bobby Drake that flirting with other women will take his mind off of Lorna.
“Hey, if you get dumped by a girl like Lorna, you don’t forget just by—” Bobby begins. He stops mid-sentence when he gets a glimpse of bombshell Gwen Stacy. “—that blonde’s legs go on forever, don’t they?”
Warren proceeds over to Peter Parker’s table and addresses the two beautiful ladies sitting by themselves. He admits he can’t help noticing their dates would rather argue with each other than pay attention to them, a slight that Warren considers a crime. “Now, you can probably tell I’m fabulously wealthy, so I have the means to treat you like the queens you are. Whoever buzzes in second can have her pick of my friends,” he says, gesturing toward Hank and Bobby. “What do you say?”
The girls are surprisingly receptive. “Well, you’re right about our boyfriends acting like jackasses. But mine’s already rich, and I’m tired of it,” Mary Jane says, smiling. Gwen, on the other hand, confesses she happens to have an affinity for broke shlubs. The two gorgeous gals grab Hank and Bobby and drag them onto the dance floor, much to Warren’s dismay. “Face it, tiger – you can’t always hit the jackpot,” MJ says as she begins dancing with the X-Man known as Beast.
Meanwhile, the inconsolable Harry Osborn pleads with Peter Parker to leave his gal alone. Peter reminds Harry he is not only his roommate, but his best friend; he would never do anything behind his back. Harry disagrees. According to his father Norman, it’s those closest to him who will hurt him the worst! The two bickering boys finally snap to attention and notice their respective girlfriends dancing with other guys. Harry asks if he is hallucinating, but Peter tells him no, he isn’t. They’re having the same nightmare.
The two cuckolded teenagers storm the dance floor to reclaim their honor. “Hey bigfoot, she’s with me,” Harry says to Hank. Henry McCoy points out that Mary Jane seems to have decided otherwise. MJ concurs, claiming it’s just for one dance…unless Harry keeps acting this way. Peter tries to diffuse this situation, as well as the one escalating between Scott Summers and Flash Thompson. Scott grabs hold of Flash’s wrist and tells him to watch it. In defense, Flash says he doesn’t see a ring on Jean’s finger, and tells Scott to sit down unless he wants trouble. Jean, standing only a short distance away, finally picks up Spider-Man’s unique psychic imprint. He must be nearby, she relays to Scott!
Suddenly, Kraven, dressed in his leopard-skin pants, tiger-mane jacket, and horned belt, bursts through the front door and shouts for Spider-Man to reveal himself. He knows he is in the room somewhere – he smells the unique stench of his cowardice! He picks up a nearby beatnik and hoists him up by the collar of his shirt. If Spider-Man doesn’t reveal himself, Kraven threatens to snap the man’s neck like a twig. “Dude, not cool. You need to mellow out,” the hipster says. “How about a nice herbal tea?” Kraven orders the dolt to remain silent.
Amidst the confusion, Peter Parker slips into the bathroom and locks the door. He intends to give Kraven what he wants before anyone else gets hurt. Unfortunately, by occupying the bathroom, he puts out the entire team of X-Men, who intended to use it to don their own superhero costumes. Scott asks Jean to plant a mental suggestion in everyone’s heads to look away from the five of them for a moment. Jean doesn’t think that will be a problem; all eyes are currently on the developing hostage situation. “This is your last warning, Spider-Man!” Kraven shouts. “Identify yourself, or I’ll slaughter this fool like a pig!” The beatnik just scowls. That’s harsh, he says.
“He’s got a point, Kraven. You need to chill.” Kraven feels a blast of ice on his arm and looks over to see all five of the X-Men coming his way, with Iceman leading the charge.
“Methinks our frigid friend is thrilled to face an opponent who hasn’t already heard his repertoire of cold-related puns,” Beast says. Kraven finds the arrival of the X-Men completely unsurprising. He suspected they might emerge to help out their fellow mutant, and as such, made sure to retain the services of an ally in advance. He tells them to say hello to his large friend, the Blob! On cue, the Blob appears in the doorway, completely blocking the exit with his mounds of blubber. He hopes he can at least get a brownie at this coffee shop; he’s starving.
“Ah-ah, big boy. A moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.” A packet of projectile webbing suddenly hits Blob in the face, sealing his mouth shut. The X-Men turn to see Spider-Man has joined them in the fight. Spider-Man gleefully says hello, but states they can catch up later; for now, they need to take the fight outside before someone gets hurt. Cyclops agrees. While ordering his X-Men to attack, he hits the Blob with a high-powered optic blast, propelling him through the wall and into the street. Once outside, Spider-Man, Beast and Cyclops engage the Blob in battle, while Iceman, Marvel Girl and Angel make Kraven their target. Iceman tauntingly tells Kraven he’s out of his league. After calling Iceman an arrogant pup, Kraven informs his opponents of the skills he learned through hunting, and the first thing a hunter learns is to eliminate the most dangerous opponents first. He flings his bola at Marvel Girl and it connects with the side of her head. The impact even draws blood. Jean falls over, unconscious.
Cyclops gasps when Jean falls. He completely ignores Spider-Man’s current entanglement with the Blob. Iceman tells Scott not to worry; Jean will be fine, which is more than he can say for Kraven. He creates an icy cocoon over Jean to keep her out of harm’s way. Kraven, meanwhile, leaps up onto a nearby canopy and activates two powerful heat rays that emanate from the eyes of his lion’s head-vest and fries Iceman. The quick change in temperature puts Iceman’s body into shock, and he reverts to his human form. Kraven leaps down and slices into his arm with his hunting knife.
Coming to Iceman’s rescue, Angel dive-bombs toward Kraven at an impressive speed. Kraven watches with anticipation. Calmly, he unsheathes a collapsible spear from behind his back and hurls it at Angel, hitting him in mid-air. The spear cuts a swath across his torso. Kraven then turns to the attacking Beast and slices him across the chest with his sharpened talons. Angered, Cyclops decides the time has come to put a definitive end to the fight. He knocks Kraven to the ground with a powerful optic blast.
The Blob sneaks up on Cyclops from behind and clobbers him over the back of the head. Spider-Man, meanwhile, checks in on Iceman. Bobby reports he’s getting better; at least now, he can ice up again. Good thing, Spider-Man tells him, because the Blob is much too hard to injure. The Blob laughs. Of course he can’t be hurt; he can’t even be moved! Spider-Man tells his flabby foe they have no intention of moving him. In fact, they want him to stay right where he is. Iceman, picking up on his cue, encases the Blob with a thick, rocky layer of ice, but graciously leaves his head exposed. The Blob complains the ice is making his shorts wet. Iceman, meanwhile, folds his arms and admires his work. He does wonder what the police will do with him once the ice melts. “That’s their problem,” Spider-Man says. “Ours is Kraven.”
Spider-Man looks around for their remaining foe but sees him nowhere in sight. “He’s chosen the better part of valor, Spider-Man. With his corpulent comrade out of the fight, he doesn’t seem to care for the odds,” Beast says as Kraven climbs to the rooftop. Angel tries to follow him, but can barely lift his own head due to blood loss. Cyclops says they can let Kraven go; they’re all injured and should worry about themselves first. Spider-Man shrugs and says he can certainly catch Kraven later, if the cops don’t. Speaking of cops, Spider-Man hears sirens in the distances and suggests everyone leave immediately.
Before he goes, Cyclops extends him an offer to join the X-Men, even though they know he isn’t really a mutant. He should be around people his age, with similar powers, who know what he’s going through. Spider-Man shrugs and tells him not to worry about it. The perception of being a mutant certainly can’t make him any more hated than he already is, and besides, he has never been much of a joiner. Could they really imagine him on a team? As he swings away, he prepares his excuse for Gwen in advance. “Sorry we got separated, Gwen. When the trouble started, those weird kids you were dancing with trampled me, running for their lives,” he thinks. Heh. Ain’t I a stinker?
Meanwhile, Jean regains consciousness and sees Scott tending to her injuries. She notices a cut on the back of his hand. He tells her not to worry about it. In fact, he didn’t even notice he had it. He is far more worried about Jean.
In a dark alleyway, a shadowy figure holding the morning newspaper approaches Kraven from behind and jokes about his eventful evening. Kraven gasps. He is not used to being caught by surprise. “How did you find me?” he asks. The tall, cloaked figure admits he is not an expert tracker like Kraven, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his own, equally effective methods.
He tells Kraven he read all about his exploits in the paper; the news of his failure is everywhere. “Yes…my ‘failure’,” Kraven says, holding out glowing test tubes. “As per our agreement – blood samples or skin scrapings from all five of the X-Men. My plan to lure them into my hunting ground worked perfectly.” Excellent, the dark figure says. He assures Kraven the agreed-upon sum will be deposited into his Swiss bank account immediately.
Out of curiosity, Kraven asks the man what he intends to do with this DNA. “I’m sure I’ll think of something,” Mr. Sinister says. In the meantime, he admits Kraven’s performance impressed him very much, and offers him yet another lucrative proposition, this one involving Kraven’s DNA.