Poor Mark Allen. He always thinks the next big bet is a sure “lock”. Unfortunately for him, this lock traps him into the guise of the firey Molten Man. In order to free himself from the change, he must kill Spider-Man. Will Mark succeed? Let’s hope not!
Written By Nicole Dubuc
Directed By Kevin Alteri
Music by Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion
Animation By Dongwoo animation
THE PLOT: Spider-Man is being bashed left and right by Mark Allen, now know as Molten Man in a firey battle in Montana’s Bar which includes Liz and Mary Jane caught between the crossfire. As we flashback we learn how he came to gain his powers and why he’s fighting Peter.
LONG STORY SHORT: Spidey manages to gain control of the battle with Mark. Goblin allows him to be arrested which devastates Liz and Mary Jane. They use their sorrow to fuel their performances for the A Midnight Summer Night’s Dream play.
MY THOUGHTS: I have to say that this is most downbeat, depressing story the show has done up to this point. When dealing with Spider-Man, sad endings to occur often. “Growing Pains” ended on sort of a downer with what happened to Colonel Jameson. But in this episode, it was just downright sad to see every character react to what was going on. I felt bad for Mark, I felt bad for Liz, I felt bad for Peter, I felt bad for Connors, I felt bad for nearly everyone who wasn’t a bad guy. Everyone gets screwed here, and “Subtext” serves as a very “Life ain’t fair” type of story.
This episode also serves to once again cement my love for the Liz Allen character. We’ve seen her character grow and develop throughout the show, but here we really get an explanation for why she’s acted the way she has in the past. Having a screw up, loser of a brother explains why Liz would go towards Flash and his clique and why she would be attracted to Peter. On the one had you have a group who welcomes you without the emotional baggage of a troubled background, unlike Mark. On the other hand you have an attractive and intelligent young man who proves to be a good guy, unlike Mark. Its that type of character depth that really gravitates me towards the character, and its something that the show does with a lot of their characters. But I particularly enjoy Liz’s interpretation here, because she’s a character in the comics who’s more of a tertiary foil put in the background. Granted the storylines with her attracted to Peter and her relationship with Mark are indeed taken from the comics, but even still it can seem like background noise at times. In this show, we’ve seen her from all angles and can now take claim as to what makes her tick. When you have that three-dimensional of a character, it’s really something.
But Liz isn’t the main character in “Subtext”, it’s Mark. He’s the definition of a tragic character. He suffers from a gambling addiction, and ruins his life because of it. He has been shown to be a good person at heart, but is stupid enough to listen to shady people tell him the mysterious hyperdermic they’re sticking him with is safe. He agrees to kill Spider-Man as it appears to be his only way to regain his normal life. It’s all the shortsightedness of a man who has not learned to take responsibility, but a man in desperate need to regain control over his life. It’s a damn shame that the entire episode just showcases his downfall. You can feel the almost hysterical panic in his voice once he first transforms into the Molten Man. You feel it again when he involuntarily does it at the race track, grabs the nearby cop and screams “IS IT OFF?!!” Its just sad and sounds like the screams of a victim, but you have to go back and realize that he did it to himself. Of course, Mark has the misplaced mentality that he can’t lose so it’s a vicious cycle as he begins to attack Spider-Man. It’s pathos at it’s most bitter, and another testament to how the show plays for keeps when writing its villains.
Speaking of villains, the one’s shown here were absolutely discpicable. Miles Warren is the worst offender, as his design constantly shows a smooth look of assurance and utter non-interest or even pleasure in other people’s misery. We knew he was scum from almost the moment he first appeared, but he’s beyond redeemable at this point. First agreeing to ruining a young man’s life, then blackmailing the man who gave him a job is pretty damn low. Goblin was no better in his blackmailing of Mark and just taking utter joy in it. I know it’s their character’s and I am not admonishing them for it, but you know they’re villains when you outright hate them and what they are doing. Both Goblin and Warren seemed like stand-ins for the Devil when they had scenes with Mark, and it made said scenes entertaining in an almost perverse way. I really wanted at some point for Spider-Man to knock one of the guys’ teeth out, but unfortunately Mark was the only person he fought.
Speaking of the fights, they were classically brutal in this episode. They were rather short, as Mark went from fighting Spidey to trying to help him, to back to fighting him, but it was engaging watching Peter try to take a guy who’s on fire. The Molten Man’s one of those characters from the comic where you aren’t 100% sure exactly how the powers are supposed to work. Initially it just made him very solid. At one point he did burn it like he does in this episode, but he’s not Johnny Storm. I felt they portrayed Allen’s powers pretty well here, where every step he took sounded like an anvil hitting the floor but he still burned people. I love the part where he bear hugs Spider-Man who can’t stand to touch him. Again, the fights were short but they were indeed good.
One last thing to say is that I found it very telling how Harry brushed off Gwen when he went to talk to Peter about addiction. One, I found it funny when he said that he couldn’t help overhearing when he was clearly yards and yards and yards away from Peter and Liz. But Really, they way he shoved off Gwen had a very Sean Connery-era James Bond feel where he might’ve just said “Man talk dear.” and slapped her on the rear to send her off. I dunno where he got that way to talk to women (I’m not his dad, I don’t care), but it’s interesting nontheless. I can’t imagine Norman Osborn being a perfect gentlemen, so even if Harry is indeed supposed to be a good guy he has some serious flaws as other characters do in this show. We’ll see…
Other than that, there isn’t too much else to say about this episode. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good. But depsite the constant flashbacks, it was fairly straightforward; so much that perhaps it didn’t need to do the flashbacks. I also felt that Mark’s puns were kinda stupid. The animation was a little cartoony at times, but overall still fairly strong. It was a solid, sad episode which really brings home how depressing the whole situation was when Spidey beat Mark by stringing him up like a pinata and having the girls express their pain through their performances. Heavy stuff indeed.
*Best Line Contender- Spider-Man: ” Aw, you can shoot fire now? Man, I so need a power upgrade.”
All images taken from marvel.toonzone.net