Spectacular Spider-Man: the animated series #13-“Nature vs. Nuture” Review


Never forget upon leaving a Thanksgiving dinner to always snog the host

Never forget upon leaving a Thanksgiving dinner to always snog the host

It’s Spidey vs Venom in a knockout, drag-out fight that’ll leave both men calling this the best Thanksgiving ever. As the first season ends with Peter’s friends and family at the mercy of Eddie Brock, can anyone hope to survive?

Credits
Written by Kevin Hopps
Directed by Victor Cook
Music by Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion
Animation By Dongwoo animation

THE PLOT: After agreeing to work for Spidey’s former employer hopeful in Tombstone, Eddie Brock and the alien symbiote, now calling theirselves “Venom” proceed to assault Peter Parker a.k.a. Spider-Man as he’s never been attacked before: personally. Going after his aunt and his friends, its a violent game of catch-up as Peter desperately tries to keep Eddie from ruining his Thanksgiving by killing his loved ones.

LONG STORY SHORT: Peter manages to trick the symbiote into going for him, only to trap it and stick it under a glob of wet cement. Aunt May arrives home from the hospital and Thanksgiving dinner is saved by the Stacy family coming over with their food. The season ends with Peter getting an early Christmas present in the form of Gwen showing her affections by kissing him before leaving with her dad, leaving our hero saying nothing short of “WOW…..”

 

"Hey kiddies...want some candy?" SAY NO TO STRANGERS KIDS

“Hey kiddies…want some candy?” SAY NO TO STRANGERS KIDS

 

 

MY THOUGHTS: After what I thought to be a pretty big mess of an episode, it must be said that I really do enjoy this episode here. This serves as a solid season finale, wrapping up pretty much every plot thread left dangling when it started. The animation was stunning, just as good as in “Group Therapy” and I loved the characterizations of most of the characters that were at the brunt of the show here. Peter, Gwen Aunt May, Mary Jane and Flash were written so well and their scenes added to my overall enjoyment. However, the most curious thing about this episode and the one person that I have been dying to discuss in terms of treatment and characterization is the supposed “main character” of “Nature vs. Nurture”.

Eddie Brock. Its going to be difficult to fully assess what went right here and what went wrong, because this version’s Eddie Brock draws on both the original Marvel 616’s universe as well as Ultimate Spider-Man. But even with that in mind, this version is truly unique in his personality and goals. He’s easily the most developed supporting character in the entire series at this stage, and that leads to my biggest problem and question that I have for the episode. Why was Venom given the “villain of the week” treatment?

Understand that when I say “most developed supporting character” that I state that as a fact. Beginning specifically with the second and third episodes, we were shown that not only were Eddie and Peter extremely close friends since a young age when their parents were still alive, but Eddie himself was something of a hero in his own right. We saw him stick with Max Dillion when Dillion was gradually losing his mind after first becoming Electro, and tackle the Lizard when that could’ve easily gotten him killed. He even followed Connors to give his wife up-to-date reports on him. Eddie was truly a good person with courage and intelligience. He was also fiercely loyal to his friends, so when he became outraged at the thought of Peter selling out the Lizard story by taking pictures, we understood it completely. It wasn’t out of character, and it didn’t feel forced. Even after that, Eddie was still Peter’s friend.  

I guess Peter came the wrong way since he wouldn't be able to read that.

  

Eddie’s next appearances are pretty much dedicated to pave the road to villain-hood, as he’s visibly shown upset by the fact that Peter inadvertantly hurt Gwen’s feelings by showing up to the Fall Formal with Mary Jane. This is something that I’ll come back to, but Eddie doesn’t go over to Peter and ask “What the devil are you doing here?!” He’s clearly angry, but he seemingly forgets it for the time being. The last straw was when Peter published photos of the ESU lab break-in, and that was before the evil Martha Connors fired him due to lack of funds. So Peter, Eddie’s longest friend who he’s always looked out for, now suddenly appears to be a complete tool. And its not hard to see how he got there. Heck, its mentioned in the pilot that Peter didn’t see Gwen or Harry all summer since they were both away. Peter probably spent zero time hanging out with Eddie due because he might’ve been exploring his newfound abilities. So as the new school year starts up, Peter seems like a jerk. And due to this jerk’s actions, Eddie’s fired from his job which helps pay his way for him to attend college, so he now has to drop out. This is how the character’s motivations are presented through the show, so why after bonding with the symbiote did he completely turn evil? This is what else we know: the symbiote turns the host’s mind around so that they can believe that they need the suit with them at all times. Eddie saying that he had no one is really just the symbiote’s voice in his ear. We also can understand why Eddie goes to Tombstone at the beginning looking for a job, so he can continue to pay for college. That’s justifiable, and Peter wasn’t far away from doing the exact same thing in the last episode. But think about this: Who really makes the decision to attack Peter’s loved ones? Eddie or the Symbiote? In the comics, Eddie’s twisted morals kept him from physically harming Peter’s family. Though Venom started out killing people who got in his way, he eventually gets to the point that Spider-Man is really the only person he wants to see dead. Anyone else who minds their business is “an innocent” as we never heard the end of in the early 90s. That’s not the case here. Venom was explicitly shown about to open the window and do God knows what to Aunt May before Spider-Man got to him. Now we can say to ourselves that he probably was just going to threaten her or reveal Peter’s identity. But even then, he knows she’s there because of a heart attack, and the shock really would most likely be fatal. So I ask, was going to Aunt May’s hospital bed Eddie’s idea, or the Symbiote’s? After seeing this girl in a band uniform covered with alien goop, no wonder Peter never gave her a second glance

Going back to the first fight between Venom and Spider-Man, (which slightly reminded me of the fight in the Parker’s backyard between Peter and the Green Goblin from ASM #39) we get the traditional plan from Venom that since he knows who Peter really is, he’ll go after who he really cares about. So it’s established in case it wasn’t clear before that Eddie knows all of Peter’s previous thought processes from when he had the symbiote. The symbiote showed Peter leaving to play crime-fighter when they first bonded. So wouldn’t that make Eddie realize what Peter was doing when he thought Peter was just being a jerk? This is question that can only be addressed for this interpretation, because in the comics Eddie didn’t know Peter Parker before becoming Venom. And in the movies, Peter acted of his own volition by humiliating him and getting him fired. The movie version of the symbiote didn’t really seem to have THAT big of an influence on the hosts anyway. So this Eddie should know now why Peter did what he did in the past. We were shown that he does know. Which is why I ask if the Symbiote is going after Peter’s loved ones more than Eddie is? Of course, Venom never outright said “You know Aunt May? Yeah, I’m on my way to eat her brains.” He could have just been threatenting her. But that’s not an applicable reason, and here’s why.

Venom tries to kill Gwen. He strings her up with flimsy webbing and when Spider-Man tries to save her, he prevents him from doing so. Gwen really would have died if it weren’t for the heroics of Flash Thompson and his Mustang Avengers. But consider this, did Eddie Brock have strong feelings towards Gwen? This goes back to the dance where upon hearing that Peter told Gwen he wasn’t going to attend, Eddie offered to take Gwen. Now, this could just be a perfectly platonic show of generosity and friendship. Even still, there’s a lot of body language that goes on whenever he’s with her. When Peter’s fired in “Natural Selection”, Eddie takes Gwen by the shoulder to walk away from Peter. He also puts his hands on her shoulders when he offers to be her date. And this isn’t a move to horn in on Peter’s love, as he doesn’t know Peter has any feelings for her until he bonds with the symbiote. Remember, he first thought Peter liked Mary Jane. 

So Venom striking at Gwen is odd to me. Peter even remarks that Eddie “always liked her”. And this, while possibly being my biggest reach, is the biggest hint that Eddie is at least somewhat sweet for Gwen. Venom then remarks that “Oh, you’d love that! To be her hero…but you’re the VILLAIN here!” If we are to assume that Eddie is like his original interpretation where Venom is pretty much Eddie Brock using the symbiote instead of vice-versa (because it must be noted that the symbiote originally did not alter the host’s personality at all), than this line can be seen as Eddie remembering all the times Peter’s hurt Gwen’s feeling by being Spider-Man. The “villain” remark just sells that idea because not only does it apply to how Eddie sees how Peter got him fired and how the Symbiote sees Spider-Man who nearly killed it, but it also applies to how Eddie feels Peter’s treated Gwen by hurting her feelings while being Spider-Man. Also, even though Venom remarks condescendingly that Peter wants to be Gwen’s “hero”, calling him the “villain” switches the metaphor back on Eddie.

SO WHY DOES VENOM TRY TO KILL GWEN?!

I really can’t figure it out. Is it the symbiote doing whatever it feels necessary to tear down Spider-Man? Did Eddie go insane and use whoever he deemed important to Peter to hurt him? Looking at how Peter acted when he had the symbiote, while he still acted with animosity towards his friends, he still reasonably could’ve acted that way without the black suit. Its not like he went and tried to kill Jameson for making Spider-Man look bad, or Aunt May for giving him a curfew. The suit made him more agressive while still keeping him reletively within character. What makes it act differently with Brock? Eddie’s not a bad person as established during the season. He has a lot of hate towards his own life and Peter which makes him more susceptible to the symbiote’s influence. But would that really make him try to murder Aunt May, who he visited in the hospital last episode? Or Gwen, who he’s “always liked”? 

 

Oh no she DINT!

 This is also a huge problem because not only are the means to Peter’s end exactly unclear, but because of this Venom is treated like a “Freak of the Week” type character. Eddie’s development has been reletively big in the background of the season, and to throw him under the bus in this manner does the character injustice. Because he was shown to be a good guy at first, his motivations for becoming one of Spider-Man’s deadliest enemies should’ve been earned better than just the “they used to be best friends” angle.

Oh, and the way in which Peter beat Venom was redonkulous. Oh jeez…look, I understand what they were going for in that the symbiote feeds off of negative energy based off of a sense of lonliness. Thats why Eddie was bonded so immediately, I imagine. So the kids showing concern for Peter gave him a reason to reject the symbiote in theory. But still, why the heck is the chemistry teacher in the “Wall of Justice”? Why is Hobie Brown there despite the fact that he’s a mute and has done EXACTLY nothing this whole show? Why is Sally at the very front of the wall right next to Gwen and Uncle Ben? It still doesn’t make any sense, and it bugs me. The trick that Peter used was cool in that it was a move he used against Venom before in the Todd Macfarlene era of ASM. But really, a sentient alien organism being defeated by a sixteen year old’s thoughts of his BFFs is mind-meltingly stupid. This is also a thing I have had going back to the 90s series. Venom is one of those characters who was introduced fairly late in Spider-Man’s history. Spidey was a professional crime-fighter by the time Venom first appeared, and in the comics it was made clear that the only chance he stood against Venom was his experience in fighting people much more powerful than he. Having him appear when Peter just got his powers sort of jobs Venom something fierce. Especially with the way he defeated him here.

Now for the positives, and there were a lot. First off, along with the great animation in this episode there were some great body language moments. Specifically near the beginning with Gwen and Liz talking to Peter. Its obvious that Liz has the hots for Peter by now, and the look she gives Gwen when Gwen puts her hand on Peter’s shoulder is awesome. Not to spoil to much, but I love how this is played in the next season. This show’s version of Liz is easily the best, and I adore how they write her character.

Speaking of the animation, I was mistaken when I said that “Group Therapy” had the best fight scene of the season. This episode brought it hardcore in that it was violent and nasty and so much fun to watch. Venom is one of Spidey’s best villains due to how personal their fights get when he threatens Peter’s loved ones. Watching them literally beat the crap out of each other made of for the hand slap that other shows made their confrontations out to be. This show brought the pain, as Venom held nothing back when pummeling Spider-Man. He smacked him, socked him repeatedly in the face, threw him through water towers, buildings, slammed him on the ground, busted his ribs and all around brutalized the guy. Spider-Man brought it as well, specifically when he was slamming his fist into Venom’s elongated face as they fell from Aunt May’s hosptial window. This was what I was waiting for in a Spider-Man/Venom fight on-screen, and in terms of action I was not let down one bit. 

 

This is the difference between the MTV Spider-man's season finale, and this show's finale

I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the kiss at the end. I remember first watching this, and waiting for something big to happen. Again, I was not let down, and after wating the entire season to see something like to to happen, we had to wait another season to see it develop and the aftermath. Nevertheless, it was a very sweet ending and the guts Gwen showed (because it was pretty gutsy) reafirrmed why this version of the character is better than the comic book version. Though the treatment of Venom left me scratching my head, this was an awesome finale to the first season. Can’t wait to dig into the next season.

4/5 webs

Best Line Contender-Tombstone: “I really should start locking those windows..”

All images taken from Toonzone.net

 

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