1994 Spider-Man episode #56-“Secrets of the Six” Review

They were created in a lab for the efforts of World War II, now they’re being brought back by the efforts of the Kingpin! Witness the birth of Captain America, the death of Captain America, and the revealed identity of the Destroyer!

PLOT: Omar Mosely, a teacher of Robbie Robertson and ally of the Black Marvel, reveals the secrets of the Six American Warriors to Peter Parker, who vows to save the world from the Kingpin!

LONG STORY SHORT: Scorpion and Shocker steal the source of the Destroyer’s powers, who is revealed to be Keene Marlow. Peter and Mary Jane learn of his origin, and Spider-Man teams up with Marlow to get the doomsday device back as they head toward S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters.

“So…how much would you want for the shield anyway?”

MY THOUGHTS: With this third part of the “Six Forgotten Warriors” arc underway, I am firmly under the belief that this is the most seriously underrated aspect of the 90s show in its entirety. It’s not the best the show has ever been, but the storytelling and basic plot of Spider-Man getting involved in a World War II plot is being handled as best as one could really hope it could be. The large backstory that is being revealed with each episode makes Spider-Man’s world seem all the more important, all the more significant. Most importantly, there’s not really a sense of complacency with the way the plot is being unfurled. This really does come off as a massive story that was well thought out and put together to not only make the threat of the doomsday device more immediate, but also to flesh out Spider-man’s role in this animated Marvel Universe.

Which sort of leaves me with an interesting aspect of the fandom to analyze. I think it’s bad form for a reviewer to bring up reactionary comments of his or her previous works into their next reviews, but it seems almost necessary in this instance. For the most part this episode is the “breather” part in the story, meaning that the rush of the plot slows down for expostion purposes and leaves little to review on a critical level if done effectively. So the subject of the fan reaction to this saga is something that I think would be worth mentioning. Judging by the comments so far with not only the arc but the 5th season as a whole, it would seems as though a certain number of fans from the series really don’t take to the list of episodes thus far. Whether it’s the globetrotting, the new characters added in every episode or the fact that it’s a sprawling story that doesn’t seem very “Spidey-like”, there are a certain group of fans of the show or just Spider-Man in general that paint this era in the series as the sign of a definite steep decline in the show’s quality. Not to suggest that these people are an overwhelming majority or even a majority, but more often than not around the internet, it does seem like that at times. It goers without saying that everyone on the planet is entitled to his or her opinion, and these reviews are really no more than Brad Douglas’ showing of extreme generosity in letting a fan who grew up with the series watch and talk about it week after week to a wide audience.

There’s only one word for an image like this…SCIENCE!

But in addressing the notion that this marks a decline of the series, I’m not sure I fully understand. To be sure, again, this is not the series’ peak in terms of quality. But as said in seemingly every review of this arc, the storytelling aspect is so deft that I suppose I may be getting caught up in the overall craft of the plots rather than the general excitement each episode brings. To be honest, the fight sequences have been better in the past, and assuredly better animated as well. I hold the battles with the Green Goblin in “”Enter the Green Goblin” and “Turning Point” to be probably the show’s best in terms of storyboarding as well as animation. At the same time, do comic fans really watch the shows for the fight scenes. We probably did as kids, at least when we got into the shows. But so much of the series is held up by the execution of the character portrayals, the plot twists (“I let the woman I love fall into the arms of my best friend, and my aunt into the arms of a vampire!”) and the general sense of atmosphere that the series attempts to emulate so that new fans of Spider-Man will be on the same wavelength as older fans of Spider-Man.

And Spider-Man is nothing if not inconsistent with the types of stories the character can seemingly pull off without alienating too many people. As long as the central backbone of the story is there and not just done for show.

Which may be what a lot of people seen in this arc, that the majority is all show and no substance. I intensely disagree, but it would be presumptuous to purport that one person can read or watch something better or more deeply than others. If someone doesn’t like something, they don’t like it. It’s an unequivocal reality in all thing filtered through the response of personal opinion.

I would really suggest that people like myself who have not seen or remember this arc check it out, just for curiosity’s sake. In my opinion, it is really good.

Getting back to the episode, I think the weakest aspect of it was the use of flashback at the beginning with Spider-Man swinging and reflecting on what Mosely told him. It wasn’t really bad but it was unecessary and could have worked just fine if played straight and linear. There were other parts that sort of held this one back, as there have been with the past few episodes. As awesome as it was for Kingpin to figure Scorpion as the possible traitor due to his connection with Silvermaine, his anger is dropped in ten second and he continues to use the Six. This is a monstrous mistake, seeing as how any one of these guys could have destroyed the world by selling him out. Even further, the Six are just standing around watching Scorpion get bear-hugged by Fisk as though they were children waiting for their punishment. While I defended the potrayal of Doc Ock in the series well past his association with the Kingpin, it’s here where his total subservience is almost too much to take. He was so cool in the beginning, to see him like this…I really hope he turns out to be the traitor. That would be awesome. (No spoilers please!)

We get a lot more Captain America background here, as well as the explanation of the disappearance of him and the Red Skull which I thought was pretty cool. There’s no Baron Zemo or death of Bucky to be found, but I liked how Cap and Skull went out fighting each other. Very reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarity. The American Six their selves…well there’s very little to say. It’s due to readings of interviews with John Semper that I know of their lineage from early Timley comics characters, and I have heard of the Whizzer before because, well…who hasn’t heard of that dorky superhero? (And Peter rightly mocks the very concept of a guy like that) Speaking of references, I have to mention the kid who draws comics (namely the Thing) with bad proportions, stating that’s how comic book character are being done these days. It’s a clear shot at the likes of Rob Liefield, or maybe even Jack Kirby since it was the Thing. It was fun and amusing all the same, although you wonder if the Rhino gored the guy and the kid after the scene shifts away.

What made this episode for me however was the second half of the third act with the revelation that Keene Marlow was the Destroyer, a member of the Six American Warriors. (*gasp!*) While fairly obvious at the point of revelation, his backstory with Ben Parker, Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D. was amazing in it’s simplicity, and I loved how it all ended with both Marlow and Ben learning the “Great Power Great Responsibility” mantra. It was a small, simple story of an ordinary man who learned hard life lessons without the person really doing anything wrong. We also seemingly get the only time a gun fires normally in the scene where Marlowe’s wife is killed, which I found both powerful and unintentionally funny. But where the episode shot into the stratosphere for me was the brief, small scene with Mary Jane watching Peter reload his webshooters. Peter’s inner monologue was very well written, as it showed how Marlowe’s backstory had a personal effect on how he’s chosen his life. It went beyond him questioning being Spider-Man because he doesn’t want to do it anymore. The concept of responsibility towards his family and his wife was put right in his face, and it’s a serious question without a simple answer. It leaves Peter in serious doubt about his life, comforted only by what he has in Mary Jane being by his side through it all. This one scene justifies the entirety of the Six Warriors arc in my eyes, as it puts Peter’s life into certain perspective when dealing with bigger pictures such as world domination and secret conspiracies. It’s this sort of thing that really gave young viewers such as myself a true showing of what Spider-Man is all about, (Even if I don’t remember watching the scene as a kid :P) and Christopher Daniel Barnes does a fantastic job portraying Peter’s inner turmoil and feelings of confliction.

There’s little much I can say at this point besides liking how the episodes ends with Marlowe’s yearning to be a superhero again resonates with Peter, making his choice to remain Spider-Man all the more conflicting. As if it weren’t obvious, I am loving this arc right now.

4.5/5 “MARY JAAANE!!!”s

Best Quote Contender-

Mary Jane: “What a sad life Mr. Marlowe has lead.”

Peter: *in his own thoughts* “No kidding. My worst fear is that I’ll end up like Marlowe, and jeopardize Mary Jane’s life….why do I do this? Why do I STILL have to put on this costume…?”

All images taken from Marvel.toonzone.net.

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