Death to Spider-Man! That’s the song the newly re-formed Sinister Six are singing, as they crash an evening skate in the city of which the students of Midtown Magnet are partaking in. With his tongue already burned, will Spider-Man manage to overcome the Six’s power?
Written By Andrew Robinson
Directed By Micheal Goguen
Music by Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion
Animation By Dongwoo animation
THE PLOT: Christmas Eve in New York. All of Peter’s imprisoned arch-villains are sprung from their respective cells by the mysterious Master Planner. The new Sin-Six replaces Doc Ock and Shocker with Kraven and Mysterio. They plan to weed out Spider-Man using their new found teamwork. Peter meanwhile happens to be attempting headway with Gwen as the Six start attacking.
LONG STORY SHORT:Spidey manages to defeat the Six, but only Mysterio is apprehended. The rest were somehow sprung by the Tinkerer who was observing the battle with the Master Planner. Doctor Octopus in the meantime is kidnapped from Ravencroft by the animatronic tentacles.
MY THOUGHTS: Three episodes in, and this season is already revealing itself to be vastly different from the previous season, although just as strong in quality. This isn’t soley unique to this show as the 1990s animated series had its season specific plotlines, and Spider-Man: UNLIMITED and the MTV Spider-Man shows were different with their seasons in that they were never made. But this show’s strong point third episode in is that the overall plot is consistant, strong, and at the forefront of the character’s minds. It plays on a sense of real time, and logic is always a factor. Some might complain that with the first episode featuring Mysterio and the second episode featuring Kraven the Hunter, the third episode was too soon in bringing them back, but I disagree. Mysterio’s not shown to be that deep of a villain in this iteration, and Kraven was immediately recruited at the end of the last episode. It’s all meant to tie in with the overarching plot that always leads to something else. Granted, the Sinister Six have always been formed for the sole purpose of getting revenge on Spider-Man but here it’s still served as a means to an end. The Six, while not bickering like total nimrods, clearly don’t really like to be around one another (save for Sandman and Rhino) and they see their goals as being reached only after Spider-Man is destroyed. He was the guy who kept them from their goals before. So with this group there’s always an underlying sense of “Let’s get this over with” that permeates the atmosphere when they’re together. Exactly why they didn’t break Shocker out and formed a Supervillain Seven out of jail isn’t really explained, and even questioned by Spidey himself. But there’s still a sense that once Spider-Man was out of the picture, the villains would split off and do whatever they wanted by themselves and probably never form again. So while the basic actions of the Six is pretty much the same from “Group Therapy”, it’s still a perfectly fine reason to get them together. If nothing else, it gives way for excellent fight sequences.
The other side of the plot continues to progress nicely as Peter finally decides to try and take action with both Gwen and Liz. I will admit that Liz did come off a little bad here when she bluntly sidelined Peter to spend time with Flash. I still chalk that up to being an emotional teenager, so I refuse to count that against her character. Interestingly enough, Flash seemed to like the show of affection despite not really wanting much to do with Liz before and after she gave the proverbial hand to Peter. Rounding out our moments of self-indulgence, it was fun seeing Peter think like a typical red-blooded teenage boy when Mary Jane was talking to him. I can’t remember ever reading in the comics Peter completely blank out what an attractive girl is saying as he stares in awe of her looks. It was a pretty funny moment, and reminds us that Peter’s still a everyman type of character. What guy hasn’t had his focus disrrupted by beatiful women, even when they are directly talking to them? Moments like these were nice scenes of progression in the love triangle storyline. It started out showing what we’ve seen before with Liz flirting with Peter and Gwen heart-achingly watching from afar. At this point in the season I started to question how Liz was always finding Peter and how Gwen was always finding the two of them together. It came off a little funny at first in this episode, as did Mary Jane’s sudden teleportation whenever Gwen and Peter are around. But we get progression, and that’s always great.
But this is just the background. Is this a good episode? Does it merit from progressing the subplots by itself are were there other aspects of the plot that made it enjoyable to watch? I have say that I found this another really really good one under the series’ belt, and there were several things that made it great for me. First and foremost, the fight scenes were downright vicious. I talk in the past on how Peter gets his butt handed to him by the likes of Venom and Kraven, but here it was just a back-alley beating. The entire episode in general was violent and not just pertaining to Spider-Man and his fights. The scene where the kids get electrocuted on the ice is just amazing. Its something you never expect, and while they aren’t all completely fried (even though they really should be) its a moment that doesn’t shy away from itself as Flash realizes that he’s safe from the shocks thanks to his rubber-ended crutch. But the violence isn’t wanton fist fighting and glass breaking. It sets the tone what kind of situation is taking place. You have six super criminals, two at a time all attacking Spider-Man throughout the city. The villains don’t care who get in they’re way, and they shouldn’t. They are all going through the trouble of breaking out and teaming up so they can kill someone. There’s a part in the Sandman/Rhino/Spidey fight where the scene suddenly cuts to Sandmand slamming a car at the ground in an attempt to hit Spider-Man. Due to the sudden action of the cut and the mad-on the two villains have for Spider-Man at this point, there’s no reason to think that the driver isn’t still in the car when it hits the ground. Going back to the fight on the ice rink, there’s another great scene after Spidey saves Flash from the falling Christmas Tree where Mary Jane is on laid out on the ice looking completely bug-eyed at the fallen tree. After seeing her get shocked by Electro, you immediately get how scared she is for herself and by her surroundings. She’s no stranger to super villain attacks (Re. “Reaction”, “Nature v. Nurture”) but those times she wasn’t in the middle of all out war between super powered fighters. It was great because throughout the show we’re shown how smart and cool Mary Jane is at the best of times. She’s pretty much the “cool kid” archetype of the show. Seeing her freaked out by what was going on brought home the sense that this series isn’t bound by certain tropes just because it’s a “kid’s cartoon”. Now MJ would most certainly need to see a therapist after being witness to all this crap, but that’s besides the point. The violence was used as a means to increase the threat and pull the viewer into the moment, and it succeeded SPECTACULARLY in that regard. Go figure.
Another strength of this episode was, despite evidence above to the contrary, NOT being all rampant violence. Peter realizes that he’s never truely beaten the Sinister Six on his own, as he should, and is forced to really use his head to take them down. Every single time a member of the Six was beaten, it was because Peter outsmarted him, and I love that. You tend to hear moments where Spidey uses his intelligence to defeat the bad guys now and then, but he just does it constantly in this episode. And they weren’t videogame-esque, obvious solutions to go about beating them either. He used observation, experience from previous fights, and applied them all to his settings. After not being able to beat the Sinister Six on his own even with the black suit at the time, (first time) you feel the sense of desperation Peter feels as he takes on these guys. He’s not freaking out in his head, but there’s still a feeling of urgency. Another great moment is after he beats Electro, he says a quip and then sort of limps out of the alley and starts breathing heavily. Its great in that you know his fight has only just started and at that point he’s beaten merely 1/3 of the team. Several great moments follow including Sandman hand-slapping Spider-Man around (which looked like it hurt a lot), Spidey being pitched through a bus AGAIN (which looked like a hurt just as bad as it did last time that happened) and Rhino’s realization that he was tricked and saying as-a-matter-of-factly “I hate you. So very much.” It was just great fun all around.
Other sprinkles in this hot chocolate of an episode were the little things shown throughout. The Cletus Kasady cameo at the begining was great. Spider-Man fighting with a burnt tongue was just plain funny. Half the time I really could not understand what he was saying, but that was the whole point. I also liked hearing Peter’s inner thoughts being differentiated through his clear voice so we now are 100% positive that he’s a thinker, not a talker. Its one of those things where you always want to assume, but are never 100% clear. I liked the way Spidey beat Kraven, because it was much clearer than the defeat in the last episode which I still don’t fully understand. And Flash saving Liz’s life was a great moment because Flash is now presented to us as a fully rounded out character. He rags on Peter but has no real hate for him. He’s honest with Liz but enjoys her preferring him over Peter. And here he’s shown, once again, to be a guy with a heroic streak in his heart. He would’ve died if it weren’t for Spider-Man, so it was cool to see a genuine good-guy being presented in the show indirectly.
The one thing I’ll say against this episode is that I really don’t care for this kind of animation. It was the same animation team that did the first episode and “Catalysts”. It wasn’t bad, but it looked too cartoony for my tastes and that tends to bug me. To recognize it, compare the animation here with the animation from the last episode “Destructive Theory”. In that one, the characters all had believable body language, and the models looked more fully formed to mimic real human expressions. Here, I mainly see it where the action starts. Spider-Man tends to bend his knees and arms a lot and people make a lot of open handed gestures. I’m not saying it completely took me out of the episode, but I do perfer the more realistic type found in the last episode than this type. And that’s interesting considering that every episode’s animation is done by the same group, Dongwoo. It’s not ever done by Madhouse, or TMS or KOKO so there’s no real extreme difference, but I can still see one. Again, not that big of a deal.
As I said, continuing the plots from the beginning of the season and having a real sense of danger throughout makes this a terrific episode. This felt like a real Spider-Man story, as opposed to just a cartoon that happens to be about Spider-Man. That probably doesn’t make any sense, but I’m basically saying I liked it. A whole lot.
5/5 web heads
Best Line Contender*-Mysterio: “A bit too soon to gloat Spider-Man!”
Spidey: “Well you are the expert on premature gloatilation..!”
All images taken from marvel.toonzone.net