The rampaging Rhino stomps his way into Spider-Man’s life (or has he always been there in the background?), but that’s not the most interesting part of this episode! Nay, a quite lovely subplot with Flash Thompson opens up, and Power Man… Hurts his leg. All this plus a magic reappearing gas station. Read on, Web-Heads.
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN Season Two, Episode Three
Written By: Man of Action & Ed Valentine
THE STORY: Spider-Man and Power Man save some workers from a burning Oscorp factory, and as the fire department shows up, so does the rampaging Rhino, who steals some barrels of Oscorp chemicals. Back at Midtown High, Peter and Luke see Flash bully a boy with an afro named Alex O’Hirn. Peter and Luke stop the bullying but Alex is furious and vows revenge. Spider-Man and Power Man are instructed by S.H.I.E.L.D. to protect a train full of Oscorp chemicals. Rhino appears, charging into the train and Power Man, injuring him. Spidey tries to help Luke and Rhino gets away with his chemicals. Later, Flash finds his car destroyed and also vows revenge (everybody’s vowing revenge this episode), and Spider-Man sees Alex very conspicuously change into the Rhino. Spidey tries to stop him but the Rhino charges toward Flash. Spider-Man tries to keep the Rhino away from Flash and he gets away. We see that Flash lives in a junkyard, and Spidey shows up to give him an anti-bullying speech. Rhino makes the scene, blowing up a gas station and apparently Flash’s house. Power Man joins the party, crashing his Spider-Friends bike into the Rhino. Power Man has a little on-on-one with him, Spider-Man throws an oil barrel at the battle and Rhino does a Three Stooges slip to the ground. Spider-Man and Power Man punch his lights out, at which point I guess he runs out of Oscorp juice and transforms back into Alex. S.H.I.E.L.D. takes Alex into custody and Flash apologizes to him. Power Man calls Spidey a great leader and he is left speechless (awwee).
THOUGHTS: This episode was quite the mixed bag for me. On one hand, the action was incredible to watch with such smooth and engaging animation, yet the emotional resonance of “Alex” getting his revenge just really wasn’t there for me. As stated in my intro paragraph, the most interesting part to me was when we saw more of Flash’s life. I’ll get to that in a second. Really, I’m starting to see a pattern in this series. This show is not afraid to change any and ALL details of a character for either the sake of avoiding a retread or to make a character more relatable to kids. While this may seem necessary, I feel like it’s really hurting the tone of the series. Rhino is one of Spider-Man’s deadliest enemies. He’s stupid, sure, but he is a serious and formidable threat. You only get gored by the Rhino’s horn once. This is apparent when you watch this episode. You see a beautifully animated scene of the Rhino charging into a train, and it’s like, holy crap this guy is dangerous. But once the very obvious mystery of his identity is revealed, the threat almost disappears. Many villains’ origins are rooted in childhood bullying but this is just flatout silly. Alex (Does he have an afro? His hair is supposed to look like a rhino horn or something but he just looks ridiculous.) drinks some Oscorp juice which somehow turns him into the huge, hulking Rhino. What’s even sillier is his actual transformation. He doesn’t even try to hide it. There are probably security cameras all around the school and yet Alex just walks behind a school bus and drinks his Oscorp juice. I don’t know, the Rhino’s secret identity really doesn’t work for me.
Once “Alex” (I don’t know why that bothers me so much) has actually become the Rhino, the episode is done very well. You can feel how unstoppable he is. Spider-Man is the only thing standing between Rhino and Flash Thompson and he tries to use every one of his resources to stop him, webs, wise cracking, you name it. But when it comes down to it, Spidey is just not strong enough. This is where Power Man obviously comes in. Let me just say that the action in this episode is just awesome. The animation is incredible in so many scenes. There is a scene in a train yard or something where the Rhino charges directly into a train. It is beautifully animated and Rhino’s power is palpable, and also the scenes in which Spider-Man has to keep Flash away from Rhino are great, very exciting to watch.
Now, to me the most interesting parts of the episode were the teeny character bits we got with Flash. Honestly seeing scenes like this really surprised me. In the comics, Mary Jane dons her public “mask” to hide her pain and hardship, acting like a fun-loving party girl. Flash does something very similar here, which I thought was interesting. Alex uses the power of the Rhino to destroy Flash’s car, and Flash is initially shocked, worried, and upset like I haven’t seen him in this series before. But when a crowd approaches behind him, he puts on his mask and acts like it doesn’t bother him at all and like his car is easily replaceable. Another interesting scene comes when Spider-Man visits Flash’s home. Flash’s house is utter crap, which is surprising due to his attitude at school, which really reminds me of Mary Jane. I really liked these scenes, they were honestly the more interesting scenes I’ve seen from this show. Unfortunately, due to the breakneck pace of this show, these scenes end before anything more is explored and I am left wanting more.
The final battle with the Rhino is okay. It’s animated very well but… There’s an interest level missing, maybe because I know the team is just going to turn this huge vicious Rhino back into “Alex”. That kinda takes the edge off. There is an enormous Hollywood explosion when the Rhino charges into a gas station near Flash’s house, and it is truly enormous. You would expect to see an equally enormous fire in the background of the battle, but if you watch (which I did, for some reason), the entire gas station, unexploded, is still there. Magic. So we get Alex back (yayyy) and Flash learns a lesson about bullying. It honestly feels like somewhat of a waste that this awesomely animated, extremely powerful Rhino was kind of wasted on a PSA about bullying.