Spectacular Spider-Man: the animated series #20-“Identity Crisis” Review


identitycrisisYou’re a crime fighter. Your best friend is the boyfriend of the girl you secretly love. Your oldest friend/deadliest enemy has outed your secret identity to the entire city.  What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO???

Written By Andrew Robinson
Directed By Jennifer Coyle
Music by Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion
Animation By Moi Animation

THE PLOT: In the aftermath of Venom telling Jameson that Spidey’s really Peter Parker, Ned Lee (being the stand-up guy that he is) fiercely interrogates eveyone who knows Peter the closest. Meanwhile, Venom and Spider-Man duke it out all across town.

LONG STORY SHORT: Venom tries to have Peter choke down the gene cleanser from the ESU labs, but Spidey reverses it and has him swallow it. The symbiote deserts Eddie, who goes bananas and rants and raves all the way to Ravencroft. Thus, Peter’s identity is secured. 

 

Must have surprised Peter to get him to make that kind of face.

 

 MY THOUGHTS: This episode is awesome. As unprofessional and showing-my-hand as that sounds, I really can’t help but gush over how good this episode is. It’s better than the season one finale; it has quite seriously the greatest Spider-Man/Venom confrontation in any media; and doesn’t hold back in every aspect. “Identity Crisis” takes the idea of a super criminal knowing the hero’s identity and running with it to the endzone. It’s truly the best of all worlds. If Shocker or the Rhino somehow found out who Spider-Man was, you can imagine them putting Peter through the ropes with some kind of cockamamie extortion plan. Luckily we have Venom, who just hates Spider-Man. Hates him nasty. His portrayal here, voiced superbly by the now consistently awesome Ben Diskin was so much fun to watch. The scenes with plain Eddie Brock were some of the quieter scenes since this episode is mostly action, but still very engaging. The sicko look on his face when Peter and Gwen leave the lab is made better by the voice acting. This is a guy who’s so full of vitriol and hate for Peter, but he’s not letting it consume him completely. He’s dispelling it by watching the guy squirm as his life’s ending. It’s great fun.

This episode also cleared up most if not all of my questions I had about the Venom character in this show back from the first season. For starters, I am now convinced that he lusts after Gwen Stacy. It’s still played very subtle, but ever-present as he offers to hang out with Gwen solo, and calling her his “plaything” when he and Spider-Man are fighting in the classroom. Its too much evidence, and while its never blatent, its an awesome idea that now when I think about it could’ve been taken from Spider-Man 3. That version of Eddie Brock had a disillusioned perspective of his and Gwen’s relationship, and if it inspired this version then kudos to the writers. That’s a perfect example of adapting something form the movies and improving on it instead of ripping it off. We also get further exploration of Venom’s motivations as well. In this cartoon, Venom’s just plain evil. He’s not a misguided choir boy like he kind of always was in the comics, and he’s certainly no “Lethal Protector” like he eventually became in the comics either. This guy is just wrong, and now that Eddie’s been shown to have worn the symbiote for several days if not weeks (considering the possible time span between episodes 18 and 19) the suit must have completely bonded with him, thus permenantly altering his mind which is why he’s insane by the end. So I don’t hold it against the character when he threatens the lives of helicopter pilots or Peter’s friends and family. Peter even calls him on it near the beginning, and Venom sees them as collateral damage that Peter is responsible for. Its twisted logic from a twisted man.

Finally at the end, we see Peter still cares for his “bro” when he tries to tell Eddie its over. This needed to happen, because in this show Eddie and Harry are two similar individuals. Both are close friends to Peter, going back many years and both have psychology issues due to being supervillains. Peter showed Harry mercy once he found out he was the Green Goblin, so it always really bothered me that he kind of threw him under the bus in the last season. It did get to a certain point eventually where he just had to let him go and try to save lives, but in this show Eddie’s clearly the closer friend to Peter than Harry is. So having Peter not worry about Eddie now and then always bugged me, and the fact that he tried to help him at the end redeemed some of my earlier complaints. Even still here, they could have pushed it further. The scene after Spidey puts his hand on Eddie’s shoulder and Eddie is about to cry immediately cuts to Eddie ranting and raving as he’s wheeled into an ambulence. What happened? It felt as though the previous scene possibly contained a part where Eddie lunged at Spider-Man and Spidey was forced to subdue him. Obviously, my name’s not Andrew Robinson but its still a tiny bit odd. Consider a very similar scene from the comics where Spidey foils Harry as the Goblin’s plans and is forced to take him down and have him carted off. Its almost exactly like the Venom scene here, except in the comics Peter tells the officials that Harry is his best friend and there’s a sense that he’ll try to stick by him. That could have been needed here, instead of continuing the Flash subplot. Though they’ve improved on their relationship, I still feel as though the Peter/Eddie dynamic is lacking in that Peter should feel some sort of strong sense of guilt concerning Eddie. Having his mind switch to the next plot kind of makes him look really bad in that he could care less about his oldest friend who clearly needs help. Again, it was nice in this episode but it could’ve been a lot nicer. 

Pretty damn life-like

 On the Peter/Spidey side of things, this episode trumps most other cartoons in that the secret identity trope was treated very realistically. None of the characters ever imagined that he could be Spider-Man, so when questioned most of them laughed it off. It’s certainly reasonable considering Peter’s been known as a nerd his whole life and Spidey’s only been on the scene for six or seven months by now. It was also an interesting way to reveal character moments with each person. For instance, there’s now way Norman Osborn DOESN’T know after this episode. Curt and Martha Connors are on the road, but they have more pressing problems so they’ll probably forget it. One charcter I really would’ve loved to see interviewed is Mary Jane. We got Norman and Eddie. If she was interviewed, I would”ve loved to see her reaction to the question “Can Peter Parker be Spider-Man?” Something I found kind of odd was that both Jameson and Robbie were reading and willing to run with the story if it was proven to be true. At first I thought it was out of character for mainly Robbie, since Jameson doesn’t know Peter that well enough by this point in the timeline to care too much. But that applies to Robbie as well, and even if they did run with the scoop I can still see them trying to protect Peter despite it all. Ned Lee(ds) however, gets the biggest amount of screentime here and doesn’t come out smelling like roses. He’s never shown to be unscrupulous exactly, but he’s completely without any tact. Makes for a good reporter I guess…oh wait, the boss is a reporter. Wonder what he thought of Lee dogging Peter’s friends and family.

 Besides those two plot threads, the Flash and Gwen/Peter subplots were a little bit of a mixed bag to be honest. By that I mean, I love the scene with Peter and Gwen on the run from the paparaazzi and the dialogue afterwords when they’re hiding. It was a great moment of weakness with both characters and it shined compared to the scenes devoted to the relationship which started to all become the same. The line with Peter aplogizing to Harry and Liz was fantastic, and made for some juicy drama. Conversely the Flash subplot, while amusing, kind of distracted from the rest of the episode. This is by far the worst day of Peter’s life, and he really needed to be the focus for the entirety of the show. True, Flash eventually came into the main plot and helped save Peter’s bacon by the end of it. But I really felt that whatever time was devoted to him previous to that scene at the end could’ve been used to show Peter’s thoughts. We get one short scene with Peter on a rooftop contemplating his current troubles. That should have been the anchor of the episode considering he was up against who is easily his worst enemy. I totally understand developing Flash, but it really should’ve been saved for another episode. This is a very intense episode as it stands, and all the scenes with Flash were virtually comic relief. Not that having a breather in the form of comedy during a drama is a bad thing, but there’s a time and a place for certain elements. Also, what exactly did Flash hope to gain by telling the world that he was Spider-Man? Remember, before the crooks hassle him he walked over to the news crew with the intention of showing the world that Peter Parker wasn’t Spider-Man. He’d thoeretically end his life just for that? Ahh… again, it wasn’t that bad. It just took up precious space.

surprise

 

Going back to the scene with Peter on the rooftop, I cannot take the fact the he had the idiocy to be unmasked outside with his costume on when there was a manhunt for proof that he was Spider-Man. That was incredibly stupid, and what made it even more questionable is that he’s pondering revealing his identity anyway but then puts the mask back on. I’d imagine that swinging into town with mask like Tobey MaGuire would get reporters attention very quickly, so if he wanted to blow his secret he could do it that way.

Whenever I sit down to watch these episodes, I take notes to keep track of my mindset during my viewing. This episode is very indicitive of how good it is in that I’ve never taken as much notes as I have watching “Identity Crisis” Usually my notes consist of one front and back full page. This one has two, double the usual amount. And what do my notes consist of? Putting down to memory the incredibly level of VIOLENCE this episode has. Once again the series has topped itself in terms of fight scenes. Venom and Spider-Man beat the living crap out of each other for pretty much the enitre second half of the episode. Crashing through windows, slamming through buildings, punches and kicks, impact webbing and super-symbiote impact webbing…this one has it all. It’s painful and vicious and dirty and nasty and violent, and I love it. Absolutely love it. Because thats what every Venom/Spidey fight should be. This one held nothing back. The greatest part of the episode is when Venom comes out of nowhere and webs Spidey to a nearby car so he can’t move, runs up and cracks him across the face so hard and fast that the door’s window explodes due to Spidey’s face hitting it. Almost one-third of a page out of my notebook is filled up with giant capital letters reading “OH DAMN!” due to that scene alone. Its that kind of intense action that pleases the average male in me. It’s wondeful to watch, and the fun only continues on from there. There was a point in the episode where I had to stop and write down something due to the clever fighting that was being shown on the screen. At one point Spider-Man is actually outfighting Venom. That quickly ends, as Venom comes back and beats him like Spidey owes him money. I loved the Venom-style impact webbing being shot like mini cannons. Man, why hasn’t any writer or artist thought of this kind of stuff before?! Seriously, it was so well storyboarded that the artists should win an Emmy for their work; it was that good. The only part I sort of raised an eyebrow at was the ridculous height of the staircase where Venom and Spider-Man fell like they fell off a building, but whatever. Like that matters.

As Bender would say: "Well, we're boned."

As Bender would say: “Well, we’re boned.”

 

 

 

 

 

 Now the gene cleanser thing had me thinking. Eddie swallows it accidently and the symbiote slinks away from him. Wouldn’t swallowing the gene cleanser actually kill him? Think about it for a minute. The Connors explain that the gene cleanser is a mutagen which attacks mutated cells in order to free back up human cells. But Eddie doesn’t have any powers per-say. The symbiote is an organism that bonds with its hosts, and while they never explicitly say that it’s permanently boned with Eddie yet, we’re to assume it has since they both share and intense hatred for Peter Parker. So Eddie’s cells are at the very least all altered by the symbiote as a result of being a part of him. That explains his state of mind once the symbiote leaves him, as well as his murderous intent towards Peter’s loved ones. So really the cleanser should’ve killed him. It would’ve attacked the mutated cells, which has to be every one of Brock’s human cells, and shut his system down. Even if the symbiote did leave Eddie, the serum is still in his system, so his mind should’ve been fried. I dunno, I didn’t 100% buy the suit just leaving him because Eddie didn’t feel too well. Again, it’s not exactly like Peter or Curt Connors where they’re DNA is altered. Changes in the psyche and mental state suggest a severe chemical alteration in the brain. Brock should’ve not only gone insane, but mentally handicapped as well. Overall, I don’t have that big a problem with it if only for the fact that its 10x better than the previous way Spider-Man defeated Venom.

handshoulder

The last negative I’ll say about this episode is that despite having a great track record with MOI Animation, the models here were the typical cartoony designs that Dongwoo usually employs. This is quite possibly just a change up in different crews working at different studios, but I can guarantee that if  the excellent animation models from the Kraven episode was here, it’d be awesome. The animation in itself was solid though. Every movement was lively, and it needed to be where the fights were concerned. The creepy smile Eddie gave to the camera was…well, creepy. Creepy and well animated.

Last thing I should mention is the ending where Stacy pretty much lets the audience know that the whole ordeal with the city believing Peter is Spider-Man has confirmed his opinion on the matter. It was kind of a dumb line when he said that “Maybe masked viglantes wear masks not to hide something but to protect” or something to that effect. But the final line which I’ve forgotten made you realize that to him, if Peter’s Spider-Man he needs to keep it a strong secret if only to keep Gwen from danger. Great moment, and interesting way to continue the Peter/Captain Stacy dynamic.

At the end of the day, although I had a number of minor complaints this is by far the best episode of the season, and maybe the series. Season’s not over yet, as we still have certain villains to show up and give out hero trouble.

jackass

5/5 webs

*Best Line Contender- Peter: “I think they’re gone. But…given the circumstances I’d better pass on the ‘Spoon. Tell Liz…I’m sorry. And Harry.”

all images taken from marvel.toonzone.net

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