Spectacular Spider-Man: the animated series #18-“First Steps” Review

firststeps It’s like Spider-Man 3 but without the crying!

Written By ?
Directed By ?
Music by Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion
Animation By Moi Animation

THE PLOT: Flash turns 17. Harry comes back. Sandman steals things. Hammerhead calls him a “mook”. Ocean Liner in danger.

 LONG STORY SHORT: Sandman saves lives and seemingly dies in the process, but doesn’t really. Harry flirts with Gwen. The episode ends and…OMGVENOMLOLZ! 

Looks like this fight's a WASH!........sorry.

MY THOUGHTS: In the aftermath what what turned out to be a four episode arc instead of the usual three, we get the fallout of the Master Planner’s machinations as well as Peter’s social life, which is always nice. Peter and Liz are now a couple which infuriates Sally, annoys Mary Jane and depresses Gwen. The Sandman returns, solo, to go back to his comfort zone of robbing banks which I like because its soon after the Sinister Six fight where I wondered what happened to him. Captain Stacy teaches at the school to keep a closer eye on Gwen, and Flash now eyes on a pretty minor character from the comics in Sha Shan Nguyen. Some background on Sha Shan, as she never had a surname in the comics as far as I know. Nguyen is a Vietnamese name though, which is fitting since Flash met her when he was in Vietnam during the Lee/Romita days.

Along with continuing plot threads we’re introduced to new ones as Harry returns and sets his eyes on Gwen, St. John Devereaux is re-introduced from “Group Therapy” as the ridiculously cliche drama teacher, and Liz’s older brother Mark comes to the school with a checkered past and a gambling addiction alluded to. Most awesomely, Eddie Brock is back with a vengeance having suckered Peter into revealing where the symbiote was hidden.

These are the aspects of the new staus quo that the show will be dealing with in the episodes to come. They’re the plot elements which we will be most interested to see develop and will hopefully prove to be as interesting as they’ve been introduced here. It’s due to these parts of the story that the episodic “B” side to each episode has a little more to live up to and work at to get the viewer invested. I’ll rephrase; kids won’t care because they’ll love seeing Spidey beat up stupid bad guys. But to the snobby, elitist comic book nerds like myself, the action-oriented parts of the plot will have to bring their A-game if they want to continue the high quality of the show. Its completely different from last season because we have the basic elements of the characters introduced and established. Its just like the comics when the writers are faced with the question “What else can be done that hasn’t with the Sandman?”


Right now Rand's thinking "When's Mandy Batavides going to be introduced into the show?"

Right now Rand’s thinking “When’s Mandy Batavides going to be introduced into the show?”








 That’s the main thing about this episode, and its the same thing I had with the season premeire that introduced Mysterio. I like watching Spider-Man fight bad guys and spout jokes at their expense, but after a while in this type of medium there needs to be a certain elevation of the usual. Its infinetley better when there’s a greater stake in the battles as the last episode proved. However despite Greg Weisman’s attempt to inter-connect everything into the mythos, that’s still not entirely possible with each fight. I’m not saying, AT ALL, that I would even suggest something to the likes of Sandman being the doofus who shot Uncle Ben for the sake of personal feelings coming to the forefront of the fights in the show. I’m merely bringing up an inherent obstacle in every serialized super hero story. The Sandman’s, sans the powers, is just a guy with a single striped shirt who robs banks. Even with the powers, the abilites can get fairly redundant. Seeing him turn into a giant and form hammer-hands becomes familiar more than the writers seem to realize. So after the inital introduction to the character and team-ups with other villains, where can he go? The solution presented in this episode is not entirely spectacular, nor is it original. But it is adequate, and works within the context of the story. Again, a not-so entirely well known facet of Flint Marko’s character is that he’s not really a bad guy at heart. He’s just dumb. In the comics, he worked with the Avengers as a reserve member for some odd reason. In Spider-Man 3, the movie bent over backwards to shown that Marko was a misguided thief who just stole to help his dying daughter. So its not surprising that the first solo Sandman outing after his inagural episode has him redeemed as a character by the very end. Really, what else could be done with him? The Frightful Four is out of the question since the rights to the Fantastic Four in the show would be murky at best. Honestly, they way Sandman was redeemed was organic to his established character and it did make for a decent climax to the episode. Its almost what the entire episode became about after the second half. Could more have been done to make his redemption hit closer to home? I think so, but again that’s not what the episode was truly about. This episode was like “Blueprints” in establishing the new troubles in Peter’s life.

Hmm...Harry's in deeper shadow, and his coat is darker. Symbolism, much?

 One thing I did really like about this episode is that when Peter was at school, his mind was on his worries as Spider-Man, and when he was webslinging he was thinking about his personal life. The show probably has pulled that trick before, but it felt more intentional here. Peter’s storyline in general was pretty strong in that his life is going great, yet he still can’t sit still. That’s not the Parker Luck, that’s his character and I liked it. He was also trying to convince himself that he liked Liz solely because they were together and forget about Gwen but couldn’t help himself. My favorite parts were the scenes with him freaking out over the possiblity of Venom coming back. The Venom plot is brilliantly done here, and I especially liked when in the heat of battle when he just stopped and though he saw Venom as his Spider-Sense warned him of Sandman’s sneak attack. It was shock, inexperience and believability all done in that one moment and it was another great example of the quality writing when it comes to the characters. My personal favorite Peter moment was a very simple superhero trope, when the civillian identity hears of trouble and then sneaks off to fight crime. Ethan Van Sciver said once in an interview that one of the best things about super heroes are when they rip off their suits or done their masks as its a simple yet instantaneous transformation into a completely different character, and the very act of donnning a costume to jump into action is always iconic. While we don’t see Peter changing into his suit here like we have in the past, the grim look on his face as he looks around to see if anyone is watching and his jump off-screen worked just as well.

He's not going to suffocate Spidey with sand or throw him really far, no no. He's gonna punch him a lot.

The use of the characters talking into the camera during Flash’s birthday party is something I can see people not liking for one reason or another, but I liked it. It was a little pointless in that we didn’t get any revelations on the characters besides learning that Peter and Flash were friends in Pre-School, but it was a neat framing device to open and close the show with. Its another interesting thing that leads back to the comics when it was revealed that Peter and Flash knew each other for a long time. In the opening credits, the featured players are Peter, Spidey, Gwen, Harry and Flash. Those plus MJ were the main characters in the Romita-era issues, and Flash was the one guy who knew Peter longer than anyone. Its a very small, useless bit of information but its there in the episode. As for Flash himself, there’s not too much to say that wasn’t apparant in the episode. We see his attraction to Sha Shan and his embarassment at being childhood friends with Peter which is all cute. I still like Flash, but his storyline’s more comedic in tone than Liz’s is. Not much to go on, but still nice.

But hands down, the best part of the episode was the ending with Eddie Brock’s return. Ben Diskin stepped up his voice acting as he delivers an absolutely chilling performance in his very few lines at the end when he talks to himself after finding the symbiote. I like that he was shown to be completely ripped physically, whereas you couldn’t see much of his physique with that jacket on last season. I loved the fact that he had webshooters which can be explained in a number of ways as to how he has them. I can’t wait to get to the Venom showdown, as this episode showed that Eddie’s still just as savage as he was last season.

This episode was very much a type of season opener in the sense that it started up a new type of…continuity shall we say for the next few episodes, even more so than last season did. That was really its purpose, and while it certainly can’t be called a filler episode, it almost didn’t feel too significant despite several important things occuring. I think that was due to the rapid pace that they were being established in, but again the Eddie Brock ending made up for it. Still, its a solid episode.

Never before has a frat guy looked to awesomely evil

 4/5 webs

*Best line Contender- Sandman: “What, do you have some sort of spider…sense?!”

Spidey: “Well it’s funny you should mention-“*gets hit*

all images taken from marvel.toonzone.net

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