1994 Spider-Man #13: “Day of the Chameleon” Review


Spider-Man battles international terrorism, identity crisis and a ticked off girlfriend in the first season finale that introduces the Chameleon!

Credits
Written By: John Semper
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)

THE PLOT: A worldwide known shapeshifting terrorist named “The Chameleon” has made his way into New York to disturb a peace treaty signing. The only ones who can stop are the Amazing Spider-Man, Nick Fury and the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and…J. Jonah Jameson???

LONG STORY SHORT: Spider-Man deduces thh Chameleon’s latest disguise in that of Peter Parker, and defeats him in hand-to-hand combat. This warrants a thanks from Colonel Fury. Speaking of “fury”, Mary Jane is rage incarnate after a case of mistaken identity gets Peter in hot water with her as the season ends.

MY THOUGHTS: I thought this was a very nice, solid way to end the season and a really good episode besides. After a slew of story arcs with heavy hitters such as Venom and Hobgoblin, it’s nice to go back to the Ditko days of supervillainy and have Spidey go up against a classic bad guy, one who first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #1 no less. This episode also is the start of what will become a heavy tradition of the 90s series, that being to include several Marvel Comics guest stars throughout its run. Contrary to future guest characters, Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. were really well suited for this type of plot and it did not in any way felt that they were shoehorned in to one-up Spider-Man. Quite the contrary, as Spider-Man ended up one-upping them! Combined with some nice quips, action and Parker Luck with Mary Jane, and this one finishes the inaugural season strong in my opinion.

Two things that make this episode great right from the start are the animation and the storyboarding. It’s not said who directed this episode, but it really was fantastic in that the gripping action all around was treated very tensely throughout. The storyboarding in particular really made this episode memorable, with several key moments plussing the entirety of the show. Little moments like Chameleon in disguise looking very sinister whenever he took on someone else’s identity, especially the little flashes of villainous facial expressions he gave with other people’s faces. Two in particular that come to mind are the moments when he’s Jameson going over the staff at the Daily Bugle, and when he’s Peter, fleeing from Spider-Man as the elevator closes. Little scenes like that help add to the fun of trying to catch this crazy shapeshifter guy.

 

 

Conversely, the tense action scenes were such that it really felt as though Spider-Man was dealing with an actual terrorist. Two scenes at the end were highlighted by the quick cutting and low music played as the Chameleon nearly killed people. The scene where Spidey’s getting cuffed while shouting that Fury was the Chameleon, with the quick cutting to the back of his hand pulling out a very realistic looking gun was really cool. Of course the best scene in the whole episode, and one of my all time favorites of the series was the quick one-on-one fight between Spider-Man and the Chameleon disguised as Peter Parker. That was too awesome for words. For one thing, it’s remniscent to the end of a Chameleon issue in the #80s where Spider-Man does something similar in fighting “Peter Parker”. Another thing is that they actually had kind of a gutsy fight, with Spider-Man not wanting to get gassed three times in the episode kicking the gas gun from “Peter’s” hand, to Spidey literally puching “Peter” in the gut to destroy the camouflauge belt. Those last three seconds with the Spider-Man theme flaring up as the camera rapidly cuts from Spidey to “Peter” about to trade blows was one of the coolest things ever. With that scene, you could tell that John Semper really wanted to make this an episode to remember, regardless of anything really noteworthy happeneing in the end besides the Chameleon’s introduction into the rogues gallery. But that fight right there sealed the deal for me that this was a great one.

The Chameleon himself is another character that was fairly radically changed from the comics. Now the terrorist for hire angle actually serves as a call back to him being a communist spy back in ASM #1. But what has always been memorable about this version of the Chameleon is that he never talks in his own pasty-faced voice. And I don’t think I’m being presumptous in assuming that the majority of the fanbase welcome that particular aspect of the character. Not to say that Chameleon was ever annoying when he spoke before, but the idea of him being a shapeshifting terrorist makes his mute self all the more creepy. That’s actually an appropriate word to describe this Chameleon, creepy. He’s a villain who, because of his lack of self-referential dialogue, doesn’t monologue or propagate his plans. He does his job silently and effeciently, to the point where you can understand S.H.I.E.L.D. wanting help in capturing him. So Chameleon turns out to be one of the better translated villains from the comics, if for that reason.

While we’re on the subject of translated from the comics, Nick Fury is a character who is obviously slightly altered from the source material to fit on a kid’s show. I’m mainly thinking about the chompin’ cigar bit that Jonah Jameson also lost in the cartoon. Funnily enough, I seem to remember him having a substituted toothpick in the Iron Man cartoon, which goes along with what they gave Harvey Bullock in B:TAS. But aside from all that, I quite enjoyed Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. in this episode. With the introduction of the Helicarrier headquarters (with a fantastic showing of its scope by having Peter, webshooter-less, nearly fall off of it into the city) you get the sense that these guys really do mean business in going after terrorists and stopping harm to the country no matter what. Now, they turn out to be pathetic bumblers when actually chasing the Chameleon, they are at least not shown to be outright stupid. A funny moment was when Fury first sees Spider-Man and simply says “Agent One…GET ‘IM!” Yeah, very succinct Nick. But going back to the serious treatment of S.H.I.E.L.D. if you can read the obituary you can read what Jonah wrote which turns out to be that, verbatim, Fury died in a crash that badly burned his body. Quite gruesome for a cover story. But another funny work around the censors what Jonah exlaiming to Fury “You’re…you’re not supposed to be alive!” as if that ruined the script or something. What mainly comes away from S.H.I.E.L.D.’s presence in this episode is a sense of real world urgency and danger, even if some things had to be toned downed for the kiddies.

Despite all that, there were some things edited out of recent broadcasts after September 11th that really makes one not all that surprised they were cut out. The fact that a terrorist is invading New York city is never a pleasent thought these days, so apparantly all mentions and utterences of the word “terrorist” were cut out. I actually don’t remember that when I saw the edited version of this a few years back, but what I do recall was the beginning scene where the Twin Towers were shown clear as day in an establishing shot of New York. The most notorious cuts were several scenes of the helicopter crashing into a building. Spider-Man does have a throwaway line that says that no one was in the building at the time, but just the idea of it can be unsettling. Seeing as how I watched the uncut version of this episode, I’m curious to go back and find the edited version to see what all was cut out in entirety.

At the end of the day, “Day of the Chameleon” isn’t as memorable as some of the previous episodes from this first season, but it should not be overlooked. This really is a nice, solid entry into any Spider-Man story and was a classic tale of our favorite photographer. Christopher Daniel Barnes pleas for forgiveness from Mary Jane help end both the episode and season on a high note.

5/5 “MARY JAAANE”s

Best Quote Contender:

Spider-Man: “Guess it pays to practice shoddy journalism after all. Nice job JJ.”

images taken from drg4.wariocompany.com

 

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