A double whammy of Spidery-goodness this week and boy are we in for a treat! The Rhino! Black Cat! The Jackal! Awkward dance scenes! It’s all here, so let’s dive right in!
MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN – A DAY IN THE LIFE
Plot: Our first episode picks up with Peter super-tired and struggling to juggle his personal life; he has to meet up with Harry, partake in a Horizon study group, create a project for Otto Octavius and perform his janitor work at Horizon. Whilst cleaning up the roof, as only a Spider can, he discovers Black Cat stealing black liquid from Max’s office (it’s Venom – a bit early in the show for spleen-eating set-up, but we’ll see how it plays out). Spidey goes to stop her, but her glowing eyes whammy him with bad luck and she escapes. Fortunately he manages to land a Spider-tracker on her. Pete promises Max he’ll get proto-Venom back by the end of the day. He gets out of Mr. Slott’s (get it?) class to fight Black Cat at a local tech store, but he’s whammyed again. Back at Horizon, Pete bumps into Gwen and her uncle, Raymond Warren (A.K.A. the Jackal) who has been called in to help out with Harry’s tribunal. When Max refuses him a place at Horizon, he tries to infect him with a drug concealed in a spiked ring, but Peter drags him back out before he can do so. Unfortunately, a student called Alexei is infected instead… Meanwhile Black Cat manages to steal a valuable comic from a comic book shop, because all comic book nerds are slack-jawed, sexually repressed clichés, where Spidey meets her again but she escapes when he is forced to stop a crashing lorry. Pete meets up with Harry, but ultimately neglects him for his Black Cat tracking. However, he once again fails to stop the Cat at a museum. He rushes to his study session with Anya and Miles, but has to answer three questions to escape – unbelievably, these three random questions all relate in some way to Peter’s adventure of the day. Spidey is able to beat Black Cat by applying science to bad luck and she is taken away by the police (who I am starting to notice are far too friendly to Spider-Man – where’s the whole THREAT OR MENACE angle gone?). But after all that, Peter still drops his project off at Octavius’ class late and he gets an F. And if things weren’t bad enough, Alexei is getting weird rashes and proto-Venom looks like it wants to break free…
Comments: This episode was pretty scattered – sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. It was clear that they were going for a story where we explore how chaotic Peter’s life is but at times the episode felt rushed, with not enough time given to each idea. Whilst the scene with Pete pretty much ignoring Harry was well handled and resonated right, I felt like the time given to Harry’s tribunal and Anya’s study session was so limited that it made the scenes largely underwhelming, coming across as filler.
Black Cat was a actually pretty good in this episode, even if her slightly younger appearance made the flirty scenes and seductive voice (courtesy of Grey Delisle – Injustice 2’s Catwoman) a little uncomfortable. She made a good foil for Spider-Man throughout the episode and was a refreshing change of pace from the current comic version of the villainess. I was also impressed by the inclusion of her ‘bad luck’ powers (correct me if I’m wrong, but is that the first use of such powers in a Spidey cartoon?). Also, the way that Spidey beat her at the end made clever and entertaining use of his science knowledge without feeling too forced or irritating. I have one slight qualm – I think she was in one scene too many, and that time could have instead been used to better flesh out a plot point or two.
The introduction of Venom, this early, is a bit worrying. I really hope they don’t clutter up the series this early on, with the Jackal and a Goblin already being established. I also hope they do something a bit inventive with Venom, as it has become a story we’ve seen quite a few times now. In all fairness, this show has already shown itself to be playing around with Spidey lore, for better or for worse, so I can’t see it re-treading familiar ground.
Uncle Raymond is more fully shown in this episode. I’m presuming he’s not called Miles to avoid confusion with a certain future Spider. He’s shown to be a bit of an outcast in scientific circles, a fact that seems to explain his willingness to cross the line to get the attention of his peers. There’s not too much to say about him here – fortunately, there’s quite a lot to deal with in the next episode…
Overall, rushed storytelling and clotted plot-lines make this the weakest episode of Marvel’s Spider-Man to date, but a cool Black Cat and some touching scenes salvage it. I give this episode a:
Now we move on to the next installment, which is…
MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN – PARTY ANIMALS
Plot: Straight away, we leap into Spidey throwing down with a new incarnation of the Spider-Slayer (looking much better animated than the first one!), who’s in the way of our wall-crawler and his meet-up with Harry. The robot self-destructs, but Spidey manages to science it out of harm’s way. It is revealed that the new Slayer is under the control of little Smythe, now enrolled in the Osborn Academy. Harry is brought back into the Horizon fold so Max calls for the school’s first dance to celebrate. Norman recruits Uncle Raymond to his school, but hopes that there are no more Spider-related accidents (does this mean the Jackal is responsible for Spider-Man’s creation in this universe?!). Norman then goes on to guilt Harry into staying at the Osborn Academy. At the ‘Welcome Back Harry’ party, Alexei is feeling a bit sick and he retreats to the bathroom, where he becomes THE RHINO! Just as Harry reveals his allegiance to the Osborn Academy, the mutant Rhino storms in and starts attacking the party-goers. One quick Spidey-change later, our wall-crawling wonder manages to the take the Rhino down. Anya is able to work out that the Rhino is Alexei, so the Horizon team begin working on a cure. Gwen gets suspicious about her Uncle and goes searching for him. Pete follows, unaware that the Rhino is ready to rampage again. Spidey arrives in the nick of time to save Gwen from the Jackal. Gwen manages to strike him with a cure, just as he begins to recognize Spidey from somewhere…Back at Horizon, Spidey and co manages to use music and the cure to save Alexei. When everything’s over, Peter and Gwen connect over their lost mentors and how they got them interested in science. In the end, Peter and Harry vow to stay friends, even when at other schools.
Thoughts: Instead of starting off with my own thoughts, I’m going to hand over to Spidey because I feel he sums up this episode best;
“I don’t know if I’m good at it yet, but I’m definitely getting better…
…at being Spider-Man!”
With this episode’s closing lines, Spidey says it all. I’m not sure if this is a great show yet, or even a good one, but with quite a plot-heavy episode that spent some more time with its characters, paid off a few plot threads and had some kiss-ass action, I definitely got the feel that this episode was a step in the right direction.
I like how the show illustrated pretty quickly that it’s going to be making use of serialized storytelling, with us having to wait just two episodes for a significant Jackal pay-off, and just one for Alexei to turn into the Rhino. I much prefer this approach to an episodic one. The decision to make Alexei a sympathetic figure who’s not in control of the Rhino probably discounts him from a future incarnation of the Sinister Six, but it was still good to see the villain in action.
Revealing Uncle Raymond as the Jackal early on was a wise move, stopping the behind-the-scenes meddling from becoming overused. The fight scene in Raymond’s house was actually quite intense and felt like there were real stakes to it. Of course, this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the Jackal so I’m hoping for more quality episodes like this one.
It was good to see a little bit more time spent with the Horizon crew. Gwen now feels like a legitimately interesting character and I’m curious to see how she’ll deal with discovering the Jackal is her uncle and role model. And whilst Miles and Anya are far from fully-fleshed out characters, I’m starting to warm to them a bit.
Of course there are still flaws. The animation isn’t always the best, sometimes a bit shoddy, sometimes painstakingly stiff. For every half-decent one-liner we have a cringe-inducing bit (see Pete dancing for Harry at the end of the episode).
But to paraphrase Spidey himself, it may not be good yet, but it is getting better. And that’s why I’m giving this episode a
Here’s hoping they can keep it up next week – see you then Spidey-fans!