1994 Spider-Man #9: “The Alien Costume pt.2” Review

The check’s in the mail as the Symbiote Saga continues Spider-Man’s growing rage. Introducing the Shocker!

Story By: John Semper and Brynne Chandler Reaves
Written By: Brynne Chandler Reavesr
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)

THE PLOT: Spider-Man’s arrogance continues to grow as he takes on both bounty hunters waging war for Jameson’s promised million, as well as saving Eddie Brock from the Shocker. But a visit to the nice Doctor’s office reveals that his new space suit is indeed alive and wants to bond with him permanently!

LONG STORY SHORT: Peter manages to escape the alien symbiote on top of a cathedral, but the alien finds someone on the rebound and bonds with Eddie Brock!

“Where’s my money, honey?”

MY THOUGHTS: Last episode I pretty much gushed and gushed over how awesome that episode was and the Alien Costume saga was in general, veering dangerously into total fanboy praising. This episode I’m forced just a little bit to rescind on some of that praise. Being over a decade older and a few years wiser I’ve come to see some of the faults in this episode that I never noticed before. It’s not perfect, in fact some things are downright loony. Am I taking back what I said about the first part? Not a comma. As for the Symbiote Saga in its entirety, with the arc continuing in its second episode, there are some flaws here or there.

Said flaws however fail to prevent me from gushing about the third act. Talk about awesome…

Okay, let’s get back on track. As a whole, this episode remains successful in what it’s trying to accomplish. Spider-Man now knows what the symbiote is doing to him mentally, yet procrastinates getting rid of it for the good of New York…or is it revenge? The duality of Peter’s psyche is played up more obviously, but not to the point that it went overboard. This episode both reinforces the type of person Peter both is and isn’t, and we get more of the Eddie Brock set up that’s been building throughout the entire season.  Both aspects of the episode come off naturally without convience for the plot, and both come to a relatively satisfying conclusion. That’s what makes the episode successful. What makes it entertaining, memorable, and in my terms “awesome” is the third act. But for now let’s focus on what doesn’t work.

Wearin’ a quilted mask and a trenchcoat LIKE A BOSS.

And that is the pacing. What really sold me on the first part, with specific attention to the opening shuttle crash was how well that first half was paced out. There was buildup to the crash, the crash, what happened before the paramedics arrived, and the immediate aftermath. The whole scene just flowed gracefully. This episode isn’t so graceful, with unfortunate and odd scene transitions abound. The opening fight with the bounty hunters could’ve been much longer to both show off Spider-Man’s new abilites and hype up the danger of bounty hunters being after him. It all happened too fast for my tastes, and while it was good it still felt rushed. Other scenes could have been cut entirely. The second act has a multitude of scenes that didn’t need to be shown in succession one after the other. The scene I feel that could have been cut the most was the twenty seconds wasted seeing Shocker kidnap John Jameson from his hospital bed. All it did was replay that strage Machevellian organ music usually heard in the Kingpin’s Crime Headquarters. If the show went from the brilliant line of “Then you’ll have to get it back, even if it means you’ll have to take the whole city hostage.” said by Kingpin, to Shocker showing Jameson the medical braclet from John’s stay at the hospital, it would have been much more chilling and much more effective. Likewise, the scene with Peter at home deciding to help Jameson for only John’s sake, despite the very cool animation of the suit melting over his forearm when he goes to turn the television off, could have been cut because the next scene in which Spider-Man meets with JJ shows Brock deciding to follow them. I don’t think audiences would have been rock stupid enough to ponder how Spider-Man learned of the kidnapping when it’s been established more than once that Jameson has a broadcast news station. Things like that bog the show down unfortunately.

Finally, the animation was really very nice throughout the episode despite being a step down from the fantastic TMS animation in the first part. It was the same crew who did the Mysterio episode. But the problem isn’t with the animation necessarily, but with the repeated animation. The shot of Smythe patting his shirt pocket is shown twice in succession within the space of five seconds. What? The scene with Spider-Man escaping with the Promethium X has Spidey start to jump, then cuts to him leaving. This must be evidence of a cut scence, but it should have been edited better. Speaking of which, why did Shocker let Spider-Man get away without chasing him? The worse offender was at the end where when Kingpin is talking to Smythe and the buyers (who look like street gangs that Fisk would never sully his hands with when dirty dealing) the scene randomly shifts to a completley different area of the base from the Spider Slayers episode. It’s absolutely ridiculous, it’s honestly funny. Not good.

Science knows no dress code, nor won’t wait for one.

By now someone may get the idea that I didn’t like this episode. Au contrair, as this three parter is still great despite this episode’s failings. For one thing it introduces the Shocker who comes off as an absolute badass through and through. Jim Cummings does an incredible job making Shocker sound like a vicious hit man with a voice that could be described as the sound of breaking glass. He just might have the best intro out of all the villains in the series thus far, as evidenced by the fantastic line when he says to Brock after blasting at him and leaving a hole through his door, “So…really painful? Or sorta painful? That’s up to you.” Honestly, I can hear Bertone ragging on his corny lines throughout the series and to be perfectly upfront about it, they are. Shocker has some corny, cheesy, downright pun-soaked lines in this episode alone. But it doesn’t matter, because they’re delivered terrifically. Cummings personifies a guy who’s just a bad dude; someone who is not to be messed with, even without the gauntlets. He can get away with the stupid puns and make them work, because it’s almost as if he makes the puns in a roundabout way to make light of the fact that he’s going to kill you. Okay, that may be a little bit fanboyish, but that’s how I see it. To me, Shocker’s a guy who knows what’s up, and is a highly entertaining villain because of it.

Keeping up with the villains’ voice actors, Roscoe Lee Browne and Maxwell Caufield both brought their A-game as well as both Kingpin and Smythe respectively. Smythe sounded deliciously sinister when describing the nuclear probabilities of Promethium X, and Kingpin has some just plain awesome lines. The aforementioned “Holding the entire city hostage” line is an all time favorite of mine because it’s so indicative of his character. It’s funny because Lee Browne played a kindly, elderly old African historian in Static Shock with a thick native accent. It just goes to show the talent these people have in this business.

Spidey’s gonna SQUEEZE the information outta him!

Speaking of voice acting, and you knew this was coming, but CDB gives the performance of the season with his mania-induced Spider-Man. It’s so much fun watching this guy be so full of himself, and prove it every time. Spider-Man’s made a life of getting the crap kicked out of him for himself, so seeing him become so outrageously arrogant and then back it up was awesome. Was it overblown at times? Yes. Was it overdramatic? Heck yeah, but it’s still awesome. I love the scene when he jacks up Jameson threatening what he’ll do to him if Jameson won’t retract the million dollar bounty, because Jameson’s had it coming. His intense attitude was felt throughout the whole episode, but it really got going after the inital encounter with the Shocker. Spidey’s just pissed, tracking the Shocker down for revenge and revenge alone, which is a lot like what happened when he went after the Rhino. It all goes back to Barnes, as he brings that sense of extreme arrogance and self-grandiose to Spider-Man’s voice that it’s wildly entertaining. This is not a side of Spider-Man I think has ever been shown before this episode first premiered, because again Peter never went through a personality change while wearing the symbiote costume in the comics. Seeing him relentlessly hunt for Shocker lead to great television, which culminates in a great finale in the third act.

Before moving on to that, praise must also go to Hank Azaria for his portrayal of Eddie Brock. Brock’s development in this season is one I feel I have neglected in my previous reviews, and it should be said that much of what resonates with what happens to Eddie is credited to Azaria. His fumbled framing of Spider-Man in the last episode as a last, desperate chance to keep a job coupled with the loss of said job in this episode truly drives him to the brink, so when he acts like a spy and follows Jameson and Spider-Man in the cathedral in the third act, it works. Azaria gives Brock a New York accent that the other residents in the Marvel Universe strangely lack, and the emphasis of his frustration with Spider-Man comes to its head in the scenes leading up to the end.

Spider-Man and Shocker (really Barnes and Cummings) go mano y mano in a fight to the finish that really is one of the coolest battles in the series thus far. To have the fight in the cathedral makes for great props to get in the way like statues, blackjacks and paintings. It also gives the characters a reason for going to the cathedral, with the exchange of Colonel Jameson and the Promethium X taking place there. Spidey and Shocker both go nuts as the testosterone reaches its maximum, and it’s just great fun all around. Spidey actually gets some violence in as he clearly kicks Shocker through the fire of the burnt painting, which was another nice example of animation. I also love how Shocker eventually just bolts and runs up the stairs like someone with a brain after Spider-Man starts to go bonkers. And CDB is straight up magnificent in his over the top screams to Shocker. The climax also does well with Peter nearly killing the Shocker and almost doing so even after deciding he wouldn’t. It’s that strong sense of life and death that gives the Symbiote Saga its resonance with younger viewers and why in my opinion it succeeds where Spectacular Spider-Man failed.

And what can I say about the very final scene, where Venom is truly born. The shot of Eddie screaming in horror as the symbiote assimilates into him is amazing, and not seeing Venom’s face while showing his power was a perfect way to set up the third part of the trilogy.

This episode has its flaws, it has its drawbacks, and yet those flaws are in its production and not the story’s design. It still serves as a wonderful entry into Spider-Man lore, and with Shocker’s great introduction, Christopher Daniel Barnes’ loony voice acting, and an intensely ominous forshadowing into Eddie Brock’s new persona, the pros nearly overwhelm the cons.

4.5 “MARY JAAANE”s/5

Best Quote Contender:

*Police hold their guns at Spider-Man* “Don’t even think about it.”

Spider-Man: “Who needs to think…?” *Hurls a table at them*

all images taken from marvel.toonzone.net

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