Written By: John Semper
Music Composed By: Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi
Animation Services By: Toyko Movie Shinsha (TMS)
THE PLOT: Spider-Man and the Scarlet Spider go head-to-head with Kingpin and Spider-Carnage. With the help of the powerless Spider-Man, they manage to keep the bomb from going galactic and escape with their lives. Our Spider-Man follows Spider-Carnage into the Armored Spider-Man’s reality, where Peter is confronted by his fiancee…GWEN STACY?!!
LONG STORY SHORT: Spider-Carnage poses as Peter, but is revealed when Gwen helps Peter break free from his prison and attacks Spider-Carnage with a sonic gun. Spider-Carnage takes Gwen and the bomb to a far away rooftop, but is confronted by Peter and the Uncle Ben from Armored Spidey’s world. Spider-Carnage is talked out of his mania and commits suicide. The world saved, Madame Web returns the Spider-Man, with our Spidey going with the powerless one, who is revealed to be an actor (Nicholas Hammond) in a world where Spider-Man is a fictional character. Spidey meets his “creator” who is some guy called Stan Lee, and proclaims that after all he’s gone through he does indeed enjoy his life. Seemingly learning the meaning of life at last, Madame Web takes him to find Mary Jane so he can finally achieve an earned sense of happiness.
In the long list of finales for television shows, I don’t think it ever gets as metaphysical and existentialist as this one. If the last episode was a nod to the long continuity of the series and comics, this was that plus posing to the fans the concept of Spider-Man to the masses as a whole. It went beyond having Spider-Man fight himself, it put Spider-Man’s entire world upside down, inside out and completely inverted. There were minute problems here or there but the overall execution is terrific. It’s a great episode in itself, but the fact that this ends the series puts everything into perspective and really makes you reflect back on what draws you to Spider-Man in the first place. If something makes you think, it has to be at least somewhat successful in a regard. As a finale to this series, I’m not sure if it can get any better than this.
Let’s start with the best part of any 90s Spider-Man episode: the wackiness. The way Spidey dealt with Smythe (The Ultimate Slayer) had me laughing because it was so undignified and it reminded me of how Smythe kept Spider-Man at bay early in the first season with the robotic pincers. The writing while really good in most places was still a bit too ex positional in other places. Kingpin says to Spider-Carnage “Now, activate the mind controlling device!” It’s not as though this was a side project the two were working on, they were staking everything on this master device. Wouldn’t saying “Now activate it!” be more natural? That’s like sitting in a taxi cab and saying to the driver “Now turn the key to the ignition which will activate the car engine!” It’s a bit stupid.
But if that’s stupid, the thing with the Beyonder is plain imbecilic. He says that he’s going to use the last bit of power he has to try and help the effort, so he sends Useless McWeakling into the battle who literally gets captured and dispatched in 3-5 seconds. No joke, it took less than ten seconds for him to be taken out of the fight. So the synapses in Beyonder’s brain being to function and he teleports Man-Spider out of the fight and the both of them return to his home world. Why didn’t he just do that in the first place? It’s cool that the actor managed to help out later on, but it would have made more sense to teleport Man-Spider away from the battle at the very beginning. So he’s left powerless with the Man Spider on a rampage, it really does look like he’s gonna get killed by him once they leave the episode. Oookay.
Spider-Carnage: “Ever since that spider bit me, the world has misunderstood me and tormented me. Now it’s my turn…I’m going to obliterate you all!”
Two things about this, the first being that I like how loose Peter’s has become in this particular reality. Last episode I mentioned that Doc Connors was shown to have eventually found out. With this episode we know that the Kingpin may know as well. I like that because it serves as an explanation as to why the Kingpin would trust someone who’s obviously a psychopath. If Peter revealed to one of his worst enemies his identity, there would seemingly be little reason not to trust him. It also raises the stakes where things like secret identities are trivial compared to everything else that’s going on. This entire episode is actually the one where secret identities are thrown out the window as EVERYONE across three different realities know that Peter Parker Spider-Man.
The second thing I like is Spider-Carnage’s characterization, and it goes as a whole for this entire episode. Last ep. he was clearly insane but we were just told his reasons for being so. This time we’re shown his thought process, and it’s extremely compelling. I think he’s Christopher Daniel Barnes most powerful performance, and that is saying a lot considering how many times the guy belted out a loud threat or screamed the name of a girlfriend. True his voice is being processed through multiple recording cycles, but you can still hear his actual voice somewhere in the middle of it all. The best is right before he kills himself when he’s talking to Uncle Ben.
That leads into why Spider-Carnage is such a great villain and a perfect one for the end of the series. This is Peter Parker, just a shade darker. There were circumstances that drove him insane, but this is still very much him. Think back to the end of “Return of Hydro-Man part 2” when he was at the bridge right before Madame Web popped up. Who’s to say that if she didn’t show up the same sequence of events that happened in Scarlet Spider’s reality wouldn’t have happened in our timeline? Aunt May dying, Peter being cloned and question over which was the real Peter seemed to me to be the way it was supposed to happen had Madame Web not reappeared. Perhaps that was her plan all along, to not only have Spider-Man prepared to save all of reality from himself, but to literally save himself by removing him and distracting him from that dark place he was in emotionally at the end of Hydro-Man part 2. After all, we saw Miles Warren relay back to Smythe that he was hoping to “make some STARTLING ADVANCES…” with the scrap of the Spider-Man suit. Thinking about it now, that has to be what happened. That puts into question however if time is strictly relative or if time’s separated by a sequence of key events. It’s literally the same thing that occurred in Dragon Ball Z where what was originally thought to be a linear sequence of time was in fact a separation of different realities/universes. It’s not so much the Terminator scenario where things have to happen, can be prevented or will happen one way or another. It’s…I don’t know. It’s more complicated than that is all I can say.
The fan service continued with an agglomeration of characters all cheering for Spidey in the Armored Universe. Mary Jane reappears as a fashion model with no personal ties to Spider-Man, while Flash, Debra, Harry and Liz (seemingly doing the double dating that was mentioned in the recent article about Flash and Betty Brant’s relationship) are all apparently Peter’s most loving admirers and J. Jonah Jameson is Peter’s Godfather. If nothing else I love that they got the supporting cast, ESPECIALLY Ed Asner back for one last recording for the final episode. One wonders where Aunt May is, but it’s possible she died and it contributed to Peter’s happiness. The likely scenario is that they didn’t want to deal with her second voice actress anymore, because she really was pretty bad in the role.
The ultimate fanservice moment comes in the form of Gwen Stacy, long thought to be utterly unusable since her most famous appearance was her death in 1973. I actually liked her voice actress the late Mary Kay Bergman’s performance for what it was. Her design wasn’t mesmerizing, but unfortunately the animation as a whole really wasn’t all that great until the last act starting from the roof confrontation. I liked that they played up the love triangle between her, Peter and Mary Jane because for how little it was in the original comics, it is a fun thing to look back on whenever it did show up. I also liked that she was proactive, giving you a reason to care for her besides the fact that she was a female in peril. She could be the one person to keep Armored Spidey in check since he’s so egregiously arrogant.
Going back to Spider-Carnage’s character, it was really tragic to see him break down at the sight of Uncle Ben because having seen this episode before, I knew what was going to happen. Even further than that, the idea that this is someone’s Peter Parker brings all of the high emotion home considering that this guy was a Peter Parker that was once recognizable. He was bitten by a radioactive spider, he became Spider-Man, he fought the Kingpin, the Goblins and the symbiote, went through all that pain and ended up like this. He was a hero for a large part of his life, so to see him reduced to this was really quite daring for this show. Granted it wasn’t exactly our Peter Parker, but it could have been. It’s different than the clone saga where evil clones of Spider-Man popped up like Spider-Cide or even Kaine to a certain extent. Partially because as brief as this is compared to those examples, this is better written. But partially too for the fact that we can understand this guy’s motivation because we know his frustrations with his life. We’ve seen his experiences, his heart break and his life go through the ringer, so there’s no dissonance that separates us from the character’s thought process. Apply this possibility to other heroes. What if after all Wolverine has gone through with his 30th love dying in his arms he decided to destroy everything and everyone around him? What about Superman? What if in the middle of Our Worlds at War where he thought his parents were dead and just after he lost Steel, Aquaman and Wonder Woman lost her mother, what if he decided to give into his emotions and just kill everything around him? What about Green Lanter-Oh, wait…
Cynics to that sort of fiction may say “EMO” and leave it at that, but it is a powerful story idea. While I don’t necessarily want to see this happen to the hero, the concept itself is compelling, and to see our Spider-Man try to fight that kind of version of himself makes for a great battle. True he does play the Uncle Ben card which is a bit cheap, but it was the only real way to win and it worked. It may not have been as grandiose as a lot of his battle were in the past, but then again the best Spider-Man stories don’t always have him punching somebody.
And it’s meta too in the sense that if you can go through any and every bit of evil there is in the universe, whose to say that the one type of evil is the part of you who can do those things? I liked that the deadliest aspect of Spider-Carnage was his intellect. Peter’s not Hank Pym, but he can be incredibly brilliant when he’s pushed. When he applies himself, there’s nothing stopping him from becoming as smart as anyone in the Marvel Universe. So while the idea that he can create a bomb that will literally destroy everything in existence is ridiculous, I can roll with it based on who it is we’re dealing with and what he’s been what he’s been capable of in the past. And again, because we know everything that Spider-Carnage has gone through as Spider-Man and all he’s overcome, that just makes him all the more dangerous, and a perfect final boss for the series.
The Stan Lee scene at the end was great because it personified what the episode, and really the series as a whole was about. The evolution of Spider-Man was realized the moment he told Stan Lee that he was happy with who he was. As John Semper said,
“I’ve said elsewhere, when Peter Parker faces his creator, Stan, and finally says “I like myself” then his story is complete. He’s gone beyond his creator. He’s now his own creation. A lot of people think I threw Stan in there as a cheap gimmick, but the bigger, more cosmic issue is overlooked. Here’s a guy facing his creator (in essence his deity) and saying, ‘Guess what? I’m beyond what you created, with all my flaws and problems. I faced the challenge you set out for me and I’ve progressed beyond it. And I really like myself.’
When he can say that, then the hero’s journey has been told and the saga is complete. Who cares if he gets the girl or not?”
Based on that, it really ushers forth the series’ prestige as a love letter to the character of Spider-Man and the fans worldwide. While the show was not perfect, it really wasn’t as far as many people like to say. In fact, there’s so much to say that it can’t all fit in this review. I hate to not give the show as a whole it’s due, but the amount of love I have for it is too much to pack into this final episode. It’s a shame, because it doesn’t deserve to end here.
“I COULDN’T AGREE WITH YOU MORE!”
Whuh, *glances right* Bertone?!
“Oh yes, don’t act so surprised. You know I love this show every bit as much as you do. How could you even think of keeping all the reviewing action to yourself?”
Wha, I never meant to! Come on man, you know I wouldn’t do you like that. We’re friends.
“If you look up the word “friend” in the dictionary, it says nothing about hogging talk about the 90s Spider-Man cartoon all to yourself! There’s only one way to settle this…”
90’s show podcast?
“What? Well I was gonna say double up on a final series retrospective, but we could roll with that as well.”
No, no, your idea sounds just fine! You wanna get Jon in on this?
“I’d be down for that, but I think he’s busy with his other three podcasts. He might have his hands full.”
*Jon from the background* “That’s what she said. Plus, I’ve yet to see the 90’s show in its entirety.”
LOL gotcha. So…
COMING SOON…THE FINAL WORD ON THE 1994 SPIDER-MAN SERIES!!!
5/5 MARY JANE!!!s