1994 Spider-Man episode #34 “The Man Without Fear” Review

Emotions are felt, betrayals are made, and the Kingpin is finally defeated…or is he?

Story By: John Semper and Mark Hoffmeier
Written By: Sean Catherine Derek
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)

THE PLOT: Spider-Man and Daredevil retrieve the disk with the evidence to clear Peter Parker’s name. However, not is what it seems in either the FBI, nor the hospital.

LONG STORY SHORT: Daredevil dimes out Kingpin’s identity as Wilson Fisk to Spider-Man, while Fisk leaves his son to rot in prison. In anger at the predicament, Fisk kicks Smythe out of Crime Central.

MY THOUGHTS: This is a good continuation of the previous episode and conclusion to the Daredevil crossover, however it’s a slight step down. Right off the bat, the first part had more Daredevil, whereas this part mainly includes him in the first part of the first act, then at the end in the third act. It’s a fairly minor thing to quibble since this is Spider-Man’s show, but Daredevil’s so cool in this show that it’s something one notices. But really, there were a couple of things that dragged this one down that were unfortunate.

For one thing, the animation was simply unforgivable. The models were all awkward, and the repeated shots were humiliatingly blatent in their misplaced scenes. In one shot, Spider-Man is in a room of the complex, in the next shot he’s in the sewer. Multiple close-up shots of Daredevil are taken from shots in the previous episode, with the dialogue out of synch with the animated mouth. Finally there are a number of Kingpin scenes where he’s speaking that are taken from the Hobgoblin two-parter. It’s stupid, and undercuts all the tension the episode is going for. Focused back on Peter, this should be an intense, heart pounding episode of Peter on the run. The animation makes it all seem just silly.

In fairness, the plot does keep moving and Spider-Man continuously dodging the police may have gotten stale. But personally I never felt much of it in the first part since Peter was kidnapped for much of the episode. In this part he’s kidnapped once again! And really, it’s bad that in both instances he couldn’t even come up with a way to save his own skin and had to rely on Daredevil and the NYPD. After surviving the Lizard, the Hobgoblin and the Insidious (Sinister) Six, without powers no less, only to be nearly done in by Richard Fisk and the incredibly annoying Agent Choi would be a ridiculous way for the Amazing Spider-Man to go out.

“Manoman…MJ really knows how to work that turtleneck. Oh yeah, and poor Aunt May.”

The revelation that this whole plot was Smythe’s stupid idea also dissapoints, at least for me, because it isn’t all that great a plan. Kingpin rightly states that it’s a dumb plan because they could have easily just sent the Rhino after Peter and have him shove his horn up his Spider-Butt. Again, maybe it’s just me. I just don’t think that capturing Peter and taking the time out to visually watch him die is the best thing Smythe’s supposed genius could’ve come up with. I suppose it was a way for the episode to end the way it did, which I do like. But it could’ve been worked out better. Same goes with the swerve that Susan Choi was actually a double agent. She was just a shrew in the first part, but played like a traitor right from the get go in this second part. It would’ve been more intense if she had been a partner for Terri Lee since the first season, but then that would have to make her a cop instead of a federal agent. Suppose even that Terri Lee could’ve sold out Peer and this new unlikable woman that was just introduced figures it out. That could have been really cool. But no, she’s just an annoying character that we’ll never see again.

One thing that this two-parter does very well besides showing off Daredevil is portray the Kingpin. Fisk was always a character in the show that had a number of good outings more often than not, and while this episode in particular isn’t necessarily fascinating when revealing his origin, it was some pretty good scripting. Despite the stupid re-used animation, I really liked the voice acting in both Smythe and Kingpin after the flashback ended. While the animation failed to portray the Kingpin’s viciousness, the acting did not. Concerning the origin itself, it does differ from the comic book version where Fisk raised himself up in the ranks of a crime syndicate, then made his own hostile takeover, but then again his origin isn’t really all that sacred to not mess with anyway.

Another nice touch was more growth in the Peter/MJ relationship, with MJ pretty much cheating on Harry when she steals a kiss from Peter in the broom closet. You have to feel bad for Harry, especially when he tells Aunt Anna at the same time that MJ can’t stand it when people bad-mouth Peter. I really expect after this episode for Mary Jane to seriously dump Harry, because the tension of her being with him and away from Peter has now been fully used up. It was good when it was first introduced in the Vulture episode, and further developed in “Doctor Strange”, but now it’s time to be fully realized. Speaking of Aunt Anna really quick, does she not know that Peter was kidnapped? What is she talking about Peter needing to be by May’s side no matter what, he was sprung from his paddy wagon and airlifted in a helicopter! Get some perspective woman!

Who wins in a swordfight? A fat guy or a blind man?

The third act of the episode really contains much of the excitement and worth of the episode overall. I liked seeing Terri Lee take down Choi on her own, and even Mary Jane got into some of the action. The climax with the Kingpin wasn’t much, but actually served to be fairly engaging considering that this is what the entire series has built up to by this point. Anyone who’s read “Born Again” by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli might be severely dissapointed if they’re looking for anything close in the DD/KP confrontation, but it was okay. WHta was horrible however was the poor attempt to try and compare and contrast the two with their relationships with their fathers. It made no sense, and the scene with young Matt Murdock being pulled away by two men wasn’t anywhere near the original flashback! If there were some cops and they were at a crime scene and he’s discovering his father’s body, it would be better and make sense. But as it stands, no. But the episode almost gives the audience a heart attack by nearly outing the Kingpin to everyone in New York, only for it to be revealed as the Chameleon. It was a good swerve though.

As said before, the ending was pretty good. The father aspect of Kingpin’s own story really did work, and I loved how he complimented with pride his son earlier in the episode, but gave him up to the courts without a second thought at the end, then kicking Smythe out of his lair because of it. It was really nice characterization, some of the best he’s been given yet. It’s a shame that Smythe left because this season hasn’t featured him much at all, so the relationship between the two returned for only half a second, before it was destroyed. It will be missed.

All in all, if the animation were only a step above what it was in both parts this would have been a straight and solid two-parter. Because it stll pretty much is. It’s the best crossover this show has ever done, and works well back to back. The grade reflects the enjoyment I got in this part by itself, but the two-parter altogether is closer to the previous episode’s rating.

3.5/5 “MARY JAAANE!!!”s

Best Quote Contender-

Peter: “Woah, Aunt Anna never set off my Spider-Sense before. She must really be mad at me!”

Images taken from marvel.toonzone.net and drg4.wariocompany.com respectively.

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