Story By: John Semper
Written By: Sean Catherine Derek
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)
THE PLOT: Spunky ol’Deb Whitman has found the transformed body of Michael Morbius, a.k.a. Morbius the Living Vampire, and with Dr. Connors, hopes to return Morbius back to his normal state. But somehow Kingpin is made aware of this and has his own plans for the vampire. Spidey and the Black Cat get caught in the middle, as does their respective feelings towards each other.
LONG STORY SHORT: A battle ensues where Morbius is awakened and reconfigured back to his initial vampiric state. He flees to escape the daylight, and Spider-Man and Black Cat vow to rescue him.
MY THOUGHTS: Boy is this a hoot. After the middle finger to the fans that was the last episode, this one brings all the human drama and sciencey SCIENCE that we know, love and expect from 90s Spider-Man and has it front and center. I wasn’t kidding in title text. This really is as close to the Twilight series as it gets on this show. Why?
We have Peter, who is Spider-Man, falling for the Black Cat, who is Felicia and who also loves Spider-Man but is torn between him and her feelings for Morbius, who loves Felicia. But who also loves Morbius is Deborah Whitman, who is dating Flash, who was nearly killed by Morbius, who fought Spider-Man, who still is hung up on Mary Jane…who loved Peter who is Spider-Man.
Okay okay, in a more concise explanation the entire episode hinges on love pangs, mixed signals and longing looks into the night sky. But what makes it “Twilighty” is how much of a tease Black Cat is towards Spider-Man. She’s touchy-feely and flirty all around this guy who is obviously now head over heels for her, yet she can’t let go of the mysterious Morbius and his studly vampire ways. Granted, Felicia is way more considerate and slightly less shallow than Bella in this regard but it’s still pretty shameless. Even more than her is Debra, who has seriously gone to the dark side in this cartoon. I can understand her wanting to bring back Morbius, especially after we’re shown two new flashbacks where she confessed her love to him and were shown her reaction to him being publicly revealed as a vampire. But she’s still dating Flash and again, Morbius nearly killed him right in front of her! Sure it was two seasons ago, but you know what else happened two season ago? Debra’s crush on Flash, and his reciprocation of that crush. This man stuck by her when she was turned into an old lady, and she goes and pulls all this right in Flash’s face? And when Flash calls her on it, completely in the right and correctly demanding an explanation (to which Debra doesn’t give him one) he turns around and apologizes! What kind of sense does that make?!
Honestly, I really like this episode. The beginning is so emotional and for several minutes it’s not a super hero cartoon. It’s a drama with people in costumes. Spider-Man is still torn to pieces over Mary Jane, but he’s worried that he’s falling for the Black Cat and that by doing that he’s betraying Mary Jane’s memory. It’s good stuff, compounded by Cat’s proposal to have them unmask in front of each other. After we get two more flashbacks and Cat leaves, Spidey just slowly crawls up on the edge of a roof and cradles himself. It’s very well written and credit goes to Sean Catherine Derek for making this scene work. She has gotten a lot of stick over the years for penning the worst Batman: the Animated Series episodes, but she also wrote the initial Black Cat episode and I think she does great. Unlike the last two episodes, the Cat is back to true form in this one.
However this episode also has some incredibly goofy moments as well. While the first half of the episode is very well done, it is soaked and saturated with flashback after flashback. By the seven minute mark, we get eight flashbacks in this episode with a flashback occurring on average every forty-five seconds. Is that really necessary? In some cases it was, case in point Debra’s flashbacks to scenes we never saw before. At the same time I did question how exactly Connors knew of Morbius’ condition. Everyone but Spider-Man, Blade and Whistler, Felicia and Terri Lee knew that it was Morbius they were chasing. But then again Morbius did attack both Debrah and Flash, and Spidey most likely told Connors all about it since Connors was treating him for his mutation disease at that time. So that was something answered, but there were other things as well.
To wit, the second you hear Roscoe Lee Browne’s voice as the pan-out shot from Connors’ lab reveals he’s being spied on by Kingpin and Landon, the episode stops to a screeching halt. I literally said out loud “THIS GUY AGAIN?!” And real talk, what the heck does Kingpin need with Morbius awakened anyway? An army of vampires, that’s a stupid idea. There’s something mentioned about Landon saying that the two of them will become immortal, is that on the laundry list of bad guy goals? I don’t really get how immortality can be seen as something to definitely get around to achieving on the Kingpin’s “To Do” sheet. I did like how Landon said he would use the technology to cure himself first, as that added slight character to the guy in ways that have been completely dearth throughout his returning appearances. Landon is usually very well acted, and I think this is the best performance by David Warner thus far in the series. I think the character is still bollocks, but no one can say that he doesn’t have a fantastic voice. Same goes for the welcomed appearance of the Shocker. This made total sense to me, especially after the last episode where I still don’t get why Vulture and Scorpion were shoehorned in.
But again, the Kingpin’s involvement made no sense. I liked how in the beginning Debra told Clay how their research was being funded by the Herbert Landon Brand Corporation because it felt like a nod to continuity rather than foreshadowing that Kingpin would be involved. Unfortunately no, that was exactly the case. And really, Kingpin wanted to kidnap Morbius because Connors and Debra nearly cured him but didn’t in one go? Why the rush fat boy? The Kingpin in this season so far has started to become more and more of a joke, to the point where Spider-Man’s line “It’s never a party without the big guy present, is it?” was so uncomfortably apropos.
Another thing that bothered me was Connors complete compliance to reopen the Neogenics research again to save Morbius. Is he crazy? What about the foreboding final words from Farley Stillwell when he said “The Neogenics Nightmare is finally over…(you will never see me again…)” Connors himself had up to this point been adamantly opposed to even touching the stuff in the chance something stupid would happen like it always never fails to do. It worked last episode because it was supposed to lure out the Scorpion and was for all intents and purposes a straight up lie. But he reopens Neogenics…why? I know Morbius was a student of his and Connors is a nice guy when he’s not green and full of scales, but this is ridiculous. Maybe I’m cold hearted here, and I don’t want it to sound like I think they should take care of Morbius in the same way that most people take care of Vampires with a steak through the heart. But Neogenics again?!
Back to the things I did like about this episode, I liked how Peter and Felicia in their civilian identities acted so completely opposite to each other as they do when they’re in their costumes. It was a fun callback to the earlier episodes, as well as showing how much things have changed since then. It was also fun seeing Ned Leeds back again, still characterized as a real dog of a reporter.
Also, this season has experienced a slight tonal shift. No one seems to have realized this, but in nearly every episode this season they’ve said words like “kill” or “die”, most appropriately used when Flash yelled at Debra “You want to save the freak who nearly killed me?!” Landon also gets chomped on by Morbius and reacts like it really really hurt, which was nice to see because he had it coming. Continuity is also well used here with Black Cat going to Whistler, conveniently while Blade is in Europe.
The animation for the most part in this season has been very strong, and this episode showcases the best of it yet. Very little repeated shots from other episodes have been used, and the character models look great and move around just as nicely. There’s one shot in particular when Spidey falls from a cut web-line, he tries to fire his web shooter right before hitting the roof of the building. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, but very well done. Finally, Jennifer Hale continues to excel as both Felicia and the Black Cat, most notable when she transforms back into her normal state in front of the mutated Morbius.
But still, a couple of things nag at me. For one, the entire scene with everyone at Felicia’s apartment was pointless. Why did Black Cat go there in the first place? She told Morbius to meet her at the Clocktower. Also, how in blazes did Landon and Shocker know to go to the Clocktower? Landon all but says “Heh well, everyone knows that Morbius favoritest place in the whole whole world is the Clocktower!” How and why?
I really do enjoy this episode, and much of the stuff doesn’t actually bother me. But the cons to this one are plot-holes or character inconsistencies which are never explained or not as much as they need to be. It’s a shame because this one has so much emotion going for it, if two or three thing were better written, this would easily be better scored. But sometime pure craft needs to supersede all the good stuff.
Best Quote Contender-
Landon: “Yes…we also thought Morbius might come looking for his long lost love. Great minds do think alike…*to Shocker* finish him…”
All images taken from marvel.toonzone.net and drg4.wariocompany.com respectively.