1994 Spider-Man #14: “The Insidious Six” Review

The Neogenic Nightmare saga begins, as the second season sees the debut of the Sini-oh, whoops. Excuse me, the INSIDIOUS Six!

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

THE PLOT: Feeling pressure from New York’s crime cartel, the Kingpin breaks six of Spider-Man’s season one foes out of jail and sics them on the Webslinger, calling thier nowfound team “The Insidious Six”. At the same time, Spider-Man has troubles of his own as he starts to lose his powers!

LONG STORY SHORT: Peter comes home one night to find out that Doctor Octopus has kidnapped Aunt May in exchange for a fight with Spider-Man. The episode ends with a powerless Spider-Man facing down six super powered foes in an abandoned warehouse, with no way out. 



MY THOUGHTS: Okay, the Neogenic Nightmare. We’re in season two where the main plot consists of wacky science experiments and Spidey whining about his powers messing up. This is where the series first starts coming into its own in terms of its public identity as a crazy cartoon. For one thing the season long plots are introduced with this season, and I think that was always a cool idea. This show never failed to let any new viewers in on what was going on with each episode, and it felt more like the Spider-Man comics, with each event carrying over into the next adventure. That aspect is also served well with this season opener, where several key elements are introduced here that will carry out through the rest of the season. Michael Morbius for one thing is a character who if you saw this episode for the first time I would imagine you wouldn’t think to see much of for the whole entire season, unless you were familiar with his comic book history. Heh heh, you’d be quite wrong in thinking that. We also get continuations of where Peter stands with both MJ and Felicia, with the episode having him swing around pondering which one he’d perfer to be with.

That being said, I really never did like this season in that I hated whenever they played wonky with this mutation disease that Spider-Man has. Honestly, it makes sense and was quasi-played up years later in “The Other”. But it isn’t any fun to see your hero constantly get the wnd taken from his sails clutching his sides and yell out “My mutation disease!” That really got old for me as a kid, and I can’t say I’m looking forward to it in the reviews to come.


Hey look, it’s the Owl!

So in talking about this episode, it truly does start to encapsulate everything this show is remembered for I.E. 90s wackyness. I neglected to comment on the ridiculousness of the metal robot claw coming out of the Kingpin’s elevator in “The Hobgoblin” pt.1 or the suitcase rocket launcher in “Day of the Chameleon”. This episode brings all of that back. For one thing, I love how all the villains are unmasked and jailed without their costumes except Shocker, who gets the special treatment for some reason. They act as though they can’t even learn his true identity by addressing him as Shocker. We find out in the next episode that water makes suit go boom-boom, so how does the guy shower in prison? Speaking of prison appearances, the Chameleon’s naturally bleached white? Really? It gets even better, exactly why is an international terrorist who had been chased by S.H.I.E.L.D. itself just locked up at Ryker’s Island with mooks like Mac Gargan? What’s that you say, convinience for the plot? Okay, I’ll roll with that.

It doesn’t end with the villains however. How can Silvermaine rig up a bolted cable chair to ensnare the Kingpin when it’s the Kingpin’s own chair and headquarters to begin with? I’m not mistaken, it’s the exact same place right? I also love how Kingpin says, “Oh don’t worry, I’ve got a plan to destroy Spider-Man” and the scene just ends, as though the ganglords say “Huh, okay cool. See ya next week. Give my love to Vanessa.” Pacing in general was a bit of a problem in this episode. The most glaring thing was the commerical cliffhanger that had Spidey stare down an oncoming train, only to have him immediately know it was Mysterio the entire time. Seconds later, his powers give out. I would imagine the latter sequence being a much more gripping commerical cliffhanger, even though it would have been repeated at the very end.

Another thing is the wacky technology, and it’s here where I have to recall back to the Amazing Spider-Cast reviews of this episode. Loathe as I am to use another’s viewpoints to bolster my own, they had a great point when commenting on the ludicracy of the random TV walky-talkie remotes. Flash Thompson pulling out that sort of device had me wondering as a kid for years if that was an actual portable television. I now owe my years of misguided childhood wonderment to the 90s Spider-Man cartoon. If anything it would make slightly more sense for the villains to have it than star quarterback Thompson. It’s also the cliche television thing of turning on the TV right when the context of what’s showing is in line with the preceeding conversation.

Finally, I have to talk about the inane changing of the Sinister Six to the “Insidious Six”. What the hell? Seriously, the idea that the term “sinister” was too…sinister sounding for little children to stomach is incredibly insulting. It does sound hilarious when Kingpin first says it, as he builds up the sentence as though he were saying something worthwhile. But the second you hear “My…Insidious Six” the air goes out of the balloon. It was at that point I think where you could just feel the censors just sitting in the room watching the show with you, keeping an eye on anything remotely interesting or exciting and waiting to dumb it down.

In spite of all that nonsense, I actually really like this episode. Insidious Six notwithstanding, the general plot is really very good and the dialogue is well written. Even going beyond that, I think that at a certain point it’s impossible to take this show too seriously. Not saying that in its entirety it’s “So bad, it’s good”, but there are certainly many moments to make an arguement for it. Even still, I thought most every scene with Peter/Spider-Man was spot on in terms of excitement. We got more of his school life in this episode that we really had ever seen in the last season aside from “Night of the Lizard”. Deb Whitman returns, and the “Parker Luck” is done to well effect with him missing his class and his date with Felicia due to his Spider-Man life, inadvertant or otherwise.

The Doc Ock/Aunt May relationship continues on.

I also thought the villains had some pretty nice moments as well. It’s not only a callback to the Amazing Spider-Man annual from which this is based on where the villains didn’t get along, but also a nod to the 60s cartoon series where Spider-Man used their dislike of each other to his advantage. Doc Ock was still awesome as ever in that he didn’t even want to entertain the idea of working with other criminals, as he saw himself as a scientist. That’s the Doctor Octopus I really love to see, the guy who not only sees himself as a man of ever lovin’ science but one who won’t bend to supervillain conventions unless they strictly fit his own goals. It was also funny to see everyone dress up in trenchcoats, which continues in part two with great effect. The idea that Aunt May could be suckered by a bowl-cut, sunglasses at night wearin’, german soundin’ tool like Doc Ock is made awesome just by the fact that he’s made even shadier by the wearing of the trenchcoat. I also cracked up at the fact that Doc Ock considered himself a master of the forked tongue in terms of finding out where Peter was, but then made up with hospital excuse at the last second when Aunt May mistakenly assumed Peter was sick. It was great stuff.

All the fun stuff with Peter and the villains really does overshadow the bad in my mind. Over time the bad aspects continue to grow and permeate the episodes to the point where they can be downright unbearable, but this by itself is a killer season premiere. Partly for genuine quality, partly for the LOLZ this gets 4/5 “MARY JAAANE”s

Best Quote Contender:

Spider-Man: *after seeing Flash Thompson’s wacky television phone with the “Spider-Man Six”* “I sleep for one whole lousy day and I wake up in the Twilight Zone!”

All images taken from marvel.toonzone.net and drg4.wariocompany.com respectively

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