1994 Spider-Man #17 and #18-“The Mutant Agenda/Mutant’s Revenge” Double Review

The great 90s cartoon crossover between Spider-Man and the X-Men is here in the two part “Mutant’s Agenda” and the “Mutant’s Revenge”! Be amazed at David Warner welcoming the mutants to die, the Marvel Team up between Spider-Man and Wolverine, and the uncanny casual racism throughout!

Part 1: Story By: John Semper and J.M Dematties
Written By: Micheal Edens
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)
Part 2: Story By: John Semper and Micheal Edens
Written By: Francais Moss and Ted Pedersen
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)

THE PLOT: Continuing from the last few episodes’ subplot threads, Spider-Man visits Professor Charles Xavier to seek out a cure for his rampant growing mutation disease. However he finds himself surprised when ambushed by…THE X-MEN?! At the Xavier Institue for Gifted Youngsters? Get outta town! While Xavier fails to give Spidey a satisfactory answer, Beast suggests that the Wall Crawler seek out Herbert Landon at the Brand Corporation who’s know for their mutant research. Little do the heroes know that Landon wants to see the death of all mutants!

LONG STORY SHORT: Through the machinations and interferrence of the Hobgoblin, Landon finds himself turned into what he hates the most, a mutant. Going “Godzilla” all across New York, Spidey and the X-Men eventually defeat him, forming a friendship and reminding Spider-Man that he’s never alone.

MY THOUGHTS: Another highlight of the 90s Spider-Man show, and I’d go as far to say 90s cartoon television in general is the great crossover between two of the hottest superhero cartoons at the time that weren’t being worked on by Bruce Timm. Anyone who was a kid growing up in the 90s saw this crossover and squealed with delight and future shame at the very image of Spider-Man and Wolverine fighting in an alley. This was the stuff of daydreams, and seeing as how X-Men came on a couple of years prior to the Spider-Man show, it was only natural that the two go head to head in order to make Fox money, whoops, I mean make the fans and kids happy. How does it hold up years later?

Well, it’s a mixed bag to be honest. I think the idea was certainly worth attempting to pull off, and overall I’m glad that they did this. At the same time I’m really wondering whether or not this is truly a crossover or just an X-Men episode with Spider-Man in it. And I don’t want it to come down to that, especially considering that this is really a Spider-Man episode with the X-Men as guest stars. Literally, the Canadian cast for the X-Men were all flown in to record for this special episode. This episode brings back the Hobgoblin and the Kingpin (again…) is used as the background player.

Am I Blue? Am I Blue? Ain’t these tears in my eyes tellin’ you…

But the crux of the main story centers around Wolverine (what a shock) and Beast, and the other main players such as Herbert Landon are new characters that could’ve easily been in the X-Men show. I really don’t want to come down on this episode hard for such a reason as “Which show had more screen time” because I really think the crossover works in terms of character dynamics. But the plot has to be 100% worth doing a crossover or else it becomes replaceable. I really think Spider-Man almost becomes an afterthought in the second part, but he does end up saving the day with science. So it would be incorrect to say he’s completely overshadowed in the end. What do you think?

That’s really the thing I can’t decide on, as everything else is pretty cut and dried. The first part overall is very well paced in centering completley in the first act Spider-Man’s dilemma with his mutation disease and his fear of it. We see how it has begun to tear him up inside as he gets very short and angry with the X-Men and runs away almost like a child. But it’s understandable, and even the line he says before leaving Xavier’s Institute has a veiled emotional expression.

“It’s always the same. I can save the world ten times over, but when I need help I’m on my own.”

The X-Men, or most of them, will probably take this at face value, and so would probably the audience. But going back to Peter’s origin of why he’s Spider-Man, the responsibility factor comes in, so one gets the feeling as though he’s stuck between enclosing walls a’la Star Wars (Episode Four) It’s doubly emotive, and I wonder if the script held back on Jean Grey and Xavier reading his mind and feeling even worse for him.

So I liked that, as well as the treatment of the X-Men in general in the first act. The show treats the team almost as though their own cartoon doesn’t exist, and that’s a good thing. I absolutely love the scene with Spider-Man’s Spider-Sense going off, and then you hear Wolverine’s voice, then see his fist, then see the claws pop out. That was a fantastic introduction to the classic Marvel team, and barring the really easy quips they gave Gambit throughout the two episodes, I thought the portrayal of the group was just as good as the show itself. It translated pretty well, especially the character dynamics with the X-Men. What was great about that show was how they retained all the interpersonal relationships with each team member, and seeing Beast and Wolverine chatting like a couple of friends, even though it ends in Beast kind of getting upset, was good stuff. If I had to grade the first act, it’d easily the a 5/5 “Mary JAAANEer”.

“Don’t make me pull out my Hyper Combo Finish!”

Unfortunately the “90s Spider-Man” side of the episode had to come in, and it really is a shame that this is where I have most of the umbradge for the episode. It was cool that we see the return of the Hobgoblin, as he was a highlight of the last season. David Warner as Herbert Landon is even better because that man is a top notch voice actor, and an all around amazing actor on his own (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze notwithstanding). Reportedly the original voice actor for Landon was a busy soap star who became too busy to record the voice, so Warner was called in and ends up making much of this episode enjoyable. I could listen to his voice all day, same as I could with Roscoe Lee Browne. But the problems come in with the wacky editing and nonsensical cartoon violence. I know Warner is a British actor, but the wrist-watch activiating on an explosive of the suitcase full of money was a little too Jame Bond for me to take with a straight face. And how does Hobgoblin just walk away from that? Literally, he walks from the smoke and shadows as if he took it head on and it did nothing, like he was a Dragon Ball Z fighter or something. And they never explain it. Ugh…that was bad.

Landon is an interesting character in his own right though, upon retrospection. At first I just remembered him as the annoying Two-Face ripoff, but re-watching these two episodes brings home the fact that he’s really a modern day Hitler. The total genocide of mutants might not really seem to be much futher than a typical madman to the mind if a kid, but once out into the whole prejudicial/racial/homophobic aspect of the X-Men, it’s really dark and sadistic what he wants to do. Of course what he ends up wanting to do is basically drop all mutants into a giant vat of chemical soup like it was a 1950s cartoon comedy, but thats besides the point. Credit once again goes to Warner for being malevolent in his mania, and having it show through.

The Hobgoblin appearance was I think a little random, and unecessary as well. I enjoyed his role for what it was, but by the second part he really was not needed. The whole bit with the computer disc just served to make me raise up my hands and say “Okay, NOW Mark Hamill’s doing his Joker bit.” I thought that went too far. It had a point of having Landon fall into the giant vat of pea soup, but anything could’ve put him there. Again, I suppose he served a purpose but I’m unsure whether or not he was the right fit for that purpose.

Can Spider-Man and Wolverine kill each other before time runs out?…wait.

One last thing that pertains to the first part, the bit scene with Peter and random classmate #37 a.k.a. “Cecilie” was really weird. It was obviously intended to illustrate how mutant prejudice is a real thing in Peter’s world and how she’s anti-mutant and he isn’t, but it was PSA-worthy in it’s over-the-top cheesyness. What I think makes it fail is that we’re not shown why Peter feels that way because he was putting mutants down as freaks in the first act when talking to Xavier as Spider-Man. He already has a low opinion of himself, so I don’t buy his running away from Cecile mutual feelings towards what he’s going through. I understand that of course Peter would never be prejudiced in his life due to the people who raised him, but at the same time mutants really are a different animal than minorites and homosexuals. The connotations are similar, but in the real world they would pose a threat to humanity quantity-wise. I just wish we were given specific reason why Peter was so adamant against the mutant hatred, and not just told because he’s a good guy. It goes along the lines of writing in his repsect for Robbie Robertson without having the audience know why he does.

In part two, the highlight of the episode is the partnership between Spider-Man and Wolverine. It starts off in the best possible way, with the two fighting in an alley and only gets better from there. The banter between the two was spot-on hilarious, as well as the fight scenes which weren’t all that great but resulted in some nice dialogue. The first half of the second part is mainly Spider-Man and Wolverine going nuts on people. Think of how they break into the complex, Wolverine crashes through the ceiling. The CEMENT CEILING. He can’t do that, he’s not the Gladiator! But what saves this from being completley moronic is Spidey saying how subtlely isn’t his strong suit. The dialogue in this episode, no matter what other nonsense occurs (HTF does Landon have missle launchers at his office) makes this so much fun to watch. A great scene is when Wolverine goes all BERSERKER BARRAGE on the wall, hacking away at it, and Spider-Man just stares and says “Cool!” That was fantastic, as well as him calling Logan “Old man” at one point, which is odd since I’m sure Logan’s true age wasn’t revealed at this point in the character’s history yet. Huh.

But here’s the thing. Seriously, both plots of both the Kingpin and Landon’s are stupid because they both lack foresight. Kingpin wants Landon to make him an army of mutants to do his bidding (to which you can practically hear the audience groan and facepalm across the planet) but to what end? How does a crime lord who controls the mobs of New York control mutant monsters that look like Goro from Mortal Kombat? Going back to TMNT II, it’s just like Shredder wanting mutants on his side in Tokah and Razar, but not knowing what to do with them. It’s really stupid.

So a gun was just lying around at the office?

In Landon’s case, he wants to fufill his dream of death to all mutants in a seriously Nazi-esque 1940s pulp villain plan that wouldn’t even need superheroes to stop. How does one lure the mutants of the world into his office building and luck them to fall into the giant vat of chemical soup? Does that huge acid bath look anything but dangerous? Seriously, did he think about this? Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt by assuming he’ll market the chemical as a cure for Mutancy, people dying left and right will raise some eyebrows.

And the big heel-turn of the episode, Genevieve, the woman who assists in Landon’s half-witted plan and wants an end to the Mutant Gene everywhere as well turns out to be a mutant herself. I remember being surprised by this as a kid, but re-watching it as an adult it’s bloody obvious that she has powers. I don’t take issue with the reveal though, what doesn’t work is her thought process. She claims she came to Landon like Spider-Man came to Professor Xavier to seek a cure for the Mutant Gene, all the while never revealing who she was. Obviously after learning what kind of nut Landon turned out to be she very well couldn’t. But if she wants an end to mutants everywhere, even if she’s presented to wanting to go about it in a humanitarian way, why does she work for this guy? A blind man could see that he was loopy, yet she tells Beast that maybe total genocide is the only way to true peace. Uh, no. Don’t go all Ozymandias on us here, especially after the aforementioned scene with Cecile and her prejudice. Again what Landon is doing is in line with the Holocaust and conlflicted closet mutant or not, I would expect this woman to see that. So that fell flat. I did like her becoming hysterical after Landon drops into the soup and firing wildly at the Hobgoblin, screaming everywhere. Same goes for her line “YOU’RE MUTANTS! USE YOUR POWERS!” because even though its later revealed that she is a mutant, she is so clearly in denial about the benefits of her abilities that she identifies herself through language as a human, which she sees as opposite of a mutant, despite what Beast affirms in the first part.

Also, if Kingpin’s spy was aware of Landon’s intent from the start, why not just tell Kingpin that instead of supposing after Kingpin inquires? We clearly see him take orders that directly correlate to the grand master plan, so saying “I guess Landon had other ideas with then mutants” was dumb. Either he forgot or the writers did.

But for what it’s worth, the first half of the second part was really pretty good. Then Landon gets turned into a giant monster.

This was bad, mainly because it turns into a monster movie and in my opinion monster movies aren’t very interesting because there aren’ t that many ways for them to go outside of the monster being stopped. It always seemingly takes a hostage for no apparant reason and it always requires science to defeat it. It was a nice excuse to bring back the rest of the X-Men, but that’s about it. Also, wouldn’t Landon have been taken in by S.H.I.E.L.D.? I would imagine this would have been a top priority. After that, the episode ends with a friendship message which wasn’t all bad, I just wish there could have been a more exciting resolution to the big X-Men crossover than for them to fight a giant green monster. It just seems so lame after everything considered.

So what is the overall consensus for the Spider-Man/X-Men team-up? There are certainly very good moments throughout, with the X-Men pretty much being spot on save for some bad design translations. (Gambit’s eyes, Cyclops’ eye beams) But I think the two universes worked well with each other. My main problem is the story’s villains. They were well acted, but not very well written, and I feel as though the script got way too complacent with the motivations and not at all concerned with the practicality of the actual plots. It’s difficult to give the two-parter a grade as a whole because I think both parts are of different quality, so I will just leave it with the following.

“The Mutant’t Agenda”-4/5 MARY JAAANE!!!s

“The Mutant’s Revenge”-3.5/5 MARY JAAANE!!!s

Best Quote Contender-

*Wolverine gets thrashed by Monster-Landon*

Spider-Man: “You sure showed him.”

Wolverine: “Shut up you skinny little geek!”

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

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