Spider-Man stands against Nick Fury.
And the biggest problem with the entire series rears its ugly head.
This is going to be a long one.
|Hope you're comfy.|
Brief moments of respite are offered by momentary flashes of headlights, illuminated advertisements, and the soft buzz of street lamps. Huddled masses gather close within these oases in the hopes that whatever evil lurks in the dark will leave them be. Or perhaps focus their sinister motives on someone else in the crowd.
In those brief moments where one must venture through the darkness in the quieter parts of the noisy city... Well, it's easy to be thankful that New York has a sizable population of anonymous do-gooders in tights running around.
But on some nights, there are no heroes.
Batroc the Leaper jumped through the shadowy back alleys, far away from the noisy commotion of the city streets, grunting and muttering to himself. Eventually, he came to a stop. He found himself in a dingy alleyway far away from the sirens he had stirred. Moonlight crept in between the rooftops; enough for Batroc to make out his surroundings, though anyone on the street looking in would most likely not have that luxury.
Batroc looked around. Crumbling bricks. Rusted fire escapes. No spiders to be seen. Certainly none wearing gaudy tights. Good.
Batroc had learned to accept failure. After all, his primary talent was running away. Whenever actual conflict reared its ugly head, Batroc was inevitably at a relative disadvantage.
The coincidence of being a Frenchman with a predisposition to fleeing was not lost on most people. Especially a certain wall-crawling person. And he wasn't afraid to share his thoughts on the subject with Batroc either. Incessantly.
But the wall-crawler's words had not haunted Batroc's path on this night. He had not been followed. The silence was proof enough.
Batroc, confident enough to let himself entertain the possibility of being able to finally keep that which he had rightfully stolen, allowed himself to plant a kiss on the sack containing his ill-gotten prize.
Suddenly, swiftly, silently, Batroc found that he was not alone. He found out very painfully. Blows to the face usually are. He quickly tumbled to regain his balance after the unprovoked attack and looked around. He saw nothing but the buildings surrounding him. Then he saw stars as something unseen struck him once again.
Finally, the onslaught ended. As he stood reeling from the assault, he finally saw the dark silhouette of his attacker. Whoever he was, he was fast. He was strong. He was silent.
A grin crossed Batroc's face. The hits he had taken weren't nearly as painful as the wall-crawler's puns. He took a moment to think as he twirled his mustache. On the one hand, running was a very good plan. On the other hand, if his mysterious assailant gave chase, some costumed crusaders might take notice and join in the pursuit.
The moment ended as Batroc leapt in the air, aiming a high-flying kick at his shadowy opponent. He dodged the attack. Batroc kept moving, dodging, and striking back against his shadowy opponent, who returned in kind. Eventually, Batroc managed to land a well-placed kick to his enemy's head, causing him to cry out in pain and stagger back. His voice was deep. Guttural.
Batroc laughed at his opponent's pain. In response, a quick, immensely powerful punch knocked Batroc back into the building behind him before he limply fell to the ground.
This time, Batroc's laugh was little more than a weak, embarrassed chuckle. He spied his bag of pilfered valuables nearby. He had dropped it in the scuffle. Reluctantly, Batroc declined to prolong the encounter and instead walked over to his beloved treasure, holding his likely-cracked ribs.
The speed. The strength. It should have been obvious. Once again, he had been caught by Spider-Man. And for whatever reason, Spider-Man wasn't playing the fool.
Batroc tossed the bag over and raised his hands.
"C'est vrai, mon ami," he sighed. "You have bested again Batroc ze great."
He held out his arms and waited for them to be webbed together.
This wasn't right.
Batroc gently cleared his throat.
Sweat dripped down Batroc's face. At that moment, he would have gladly given up everything he had ever stolen just to have Spider-Man call him a frog and web him up.
Batroc didn't know what was out there in the surrounding shadows if not Spider-Man. And he didn't want to find out.
"Perhaps it is time for you to turn me over to the proper authorities, eh, Spi..."
An inhuman snarl interrupted him from above.
"Not... This... Time...."
On this night, there were no heroes. Only something monstrous. Hideous.
In fact, it might just be the best moment in the show. Period. It puts a twist on the overused Spidey vs. Batroc openings and evokes an atmosphere of terror that this show usually forgoes and replaces with cutaway gags.
I wanted you all to truly understand how utterly, completely, and unexpectedly perfect this opening was. So you can fully appreciate how the rest of the episode drops the ball.
We segue from Venom's snarling maw to Peter Parker gargling in front of the sink. While he brushes his teeth, his communicator starts beeping. It takes him a while to find it, seeing as how it can turn invisible. He finally finds it and listens to his voicemail.
Nick Fury: "Spider-Man. I wanna talk to you."
He decides to put it off until after breakfast and goes downstairs, where he finds Aunt May watching the Daily Bugle News. Horrified, May tells her nephew what happened.
|"It's the Hulk... he's getting his own show."|
"There is no hope."
Honestly, this whole teaser was really effective. I mean, go ahead and compare it to the moment where Spider-Man turned into toast during a fight with Electro. The difference is night and day.
Spider-Man swings through the city as J. Jonah Jameson rants and raves about his least favorite person. But this time, he's actually bringing up valid points.
J. Jonah Jameson: “Policemen aren’t allowed to resort to violence, so what gives him the right?”
I mean, strictly speaking, there are rules to engagement. If somebody slaps you, you don’t have the right to shoot him in the head. Spider-Man only really lets the punches fly against armed individuals, and his main goal is really just getting the bad guys webbed up and immobilized until the cops show up.
All in all, gleefully attacking somebody with the hopes of hurting them as much as possible is what the bad guys do. Keep that in mind for a later bit.
The only problem with JJJ’s valid points is that Spider-Man is innocent. And he's fairly certain that he knows who's really to blame.
Peter Parker arrives at school and heads to study hall, where he finds a very tired Harry Osborn. Peter confronts his friend, who denies that he had been using the Venom symbiote again.
Harry: "Listen. I appreciate your concern, but I'm all done with that Venom trip."
|"Amphetamine trips are another story, however...."|
Harry walks in on his dad's business call, and Norman responds with the same love and warmth that he always treats his son with.
Norman: "Harry, this is absolutely the wrong moment to bother me."
But Harry's had enough. Every single time he tries to talk to his dad, he gets shut down. Not anymore.
Harry's anger brings forth the symbiote. And Norman's ecstatic.
Norman: "My boy...."
|"You've been working out, Harry! I'm so proud!"|
He begins to make a speech to Harry about how proud he is, but gets smacked out a window for his trouble. Spider-Man leaps after him and swings him to safety as Venom scuttles away.
Spider-Man: "Pretty heroic stuff, huh?"
Actually, yeah. This whole sequence is like something out of Spectacular Spider-Man. Tense, exciting, personal, and no cutaway gags.
Spider-Man returns Norman to his office, and Norman quickly thanks him before going off to take care of business. Spidey notes how odd Norman's acting, but he's been putting off his meeting with Fury and doesn't have time to worry.
Once aboard the helicarrier, Nick Fury starts the latest meeting of the Sandwich Club.
Nick Fury: "Venom needs to be taken down. Right now. Whatever it takes."
Power Man: "You got it, boss. Just point us in the right direction."
Welcome, readers, to the dropping of the ball.
Nova: "I'll blast that goo boy into next week!"
Spider-Man: "And what about whoever's inside it? You gonna blast him, too?"
Nick Fury: "'Him'? Is there something you need to tell me?"
After a lame cutaway to the Wheel of Responses....
Spider-Man: "Okay. I do know. But I'm not telling."
White Tiger: "Some team player. Let me at 'im!"
Spider-Man: "Hey, you can hang me upside-down by my toenails; I won't tell."
|"Peter, my gloves are razor tipped. I have superhuman reflexes. You're not wearing a cup. Make my day."|
Spider-Man: "Nick, please...."
Nick Fury: "Sorry, can't do it. This is a serious public threat."
Nick tells the Sandwich Club to be on high alert. Except for Spider-Man. He's off the assignment for keeping secrets.
Now, let's examine this situation for a moment.
Nick Fury is ordering the team to take Venom down. "Whatever it takes." However you slice it, "whatever it takes" includes killing. In a way that doesn't outright say "killing," meaning you can get away with saying it in a cartoon. He might not be outright telling them to kill Venom, but he's letting them know that they might have to. And what was Power Man's response again?
Power Man: "You got it, boss."
And do you remember how I agreed with Jameson that superheroes shouldn't use their powers to needlessly brutalize villains?
Nova: "I'll blast that goo boy into next week!"
But suddenly, Peter reveals that Venom is somebody he knows. A friend? A family member? The Sandwich Club only knows that it's somebody that Peter doesn't want to see hurt.
White Tiger: "Let me at 'im!"
And she's not saying that about Venom, she's saying that about Peter. She is willing to attack her own teammate for the information she needs to kill somebody.
And finally, the biggest problem with the whole idea of the Sandwich Club pops up when you realize that Fury is giving the order to hunt down and possibly kill an unfortunate victim of the Venom symbiote... To minors.
And that, readers, is where this show dropped the ball. Pretty much for good. I could dissect this situation for pages and pages, but I’ll save it for my Review.
Spider-Man promises to sit the mission out, fully intending to break his promise. Despite the protests of his little shoulder angel. Hey, shoulder angel. You realize you're arguing that keeping a promise is better than saving an innocent man?
Spider-Man stakes out the Oscorp building, and Venom eventually returns to finish what he started. And Spidey isn't worried about the Sandwich Club showing up. They get the call and rush to the detention room, activating the secret chutes to S.H.I.E.L.D.
Nova: "Oh, Parkeeeerrrrrr! We're gonna go kick butt on your secret playmate!"
Yet another reason to genuinely hate Nova. He's bragging about going to attack somebody Peter cares about. Coincidentally, the last time he was this much of a jerk, it was in the first Venom episode, and was also aimed at Harry Osborn. At least he's consistent.
But the Sandwich Club finds that Spidey has pre-emptively webbed up the chutes, stranding them.
While Norman prepares his labs for the arrival of Venom, Venom arrives by wrestling Spider-Man through the laboratory wall.
Venom: "I'll break your soul into pieces."
Surprisingly poetic of a threat.
But Norman begs Spider-Man not to hurt his son, letting Spidey know that Norman knows about Harry. He tries to speechify at Harry again, but this time gets a faceful of goo. Even as his scientists get him to safety, all he can do is gush over his son's abilities. To make things worse, the rest of the Sandwich Club arrives. And they don't pull their punches.
Nova blasts Venom with a lot of energy. And when Spider-Man uses his webs to point Nova's hands away from Venom, we see that he was using enough force to melt steel.
Power Man: "Too late for that."
So, does anyone else remember when that dwarf said that Spider-Man's team trusts him? You know, two episodes ago? Because the writers certainly don't.
Nova: "What is your damage? Are you with us or are you against us?"
Hey, only a Sith deals in absolutes.
Spider-Man puts is foot down and tells the others that they're clearly just out for blood, despite there being an innocent person inside that monster.
Spider-Man: "It doesn't have to be this way."
White Tiger: "Afraid it does, dork."
Oh, so we’re name-calling now? Fine by me.
Nova, you’re an idiot.
Power Man, you’re a moron.
White Tiger, you’re a real bi… g meanie to Peter.
Iron Fist, you’re alright. Keep up the good work.
White Tiger: “Whoever’s lost in there is long gone.”
She’s making this claim with no evidence. And seeing as how Harry ends up completely fine later (spoiler, sorry), she’s 100% wrong.
White Tiger: "Time for my S.H.I.E.L.D.-issued tiger claws."
She's not talking about her standard costume claws. She's wearing razor-tipped gauntlets. And let's be realistic here. You can't really "subdue" someone with a blade. You're pretty much limited to maiming or killing.
|Warning stabs don't exist.|
Norman returns to yell at the Sandwich Club for trespassing, and Spider-Man wonders why, if Norman knows Venom's identity, he's not asking them for help. Or even mentioning it at all.
Later that night, the Sandwich Club is in the school’s detention room after hours. Spider-Man’s been keeping secrets for too long. No S.H.I.E.L.D. No Nick Fury. They just want to know what’s been going on between Spider-Man and Venom.
Power Man: “You gotta decide whether or not you’re gonna trust us.”
I will be dissecting the implications of this line in the Review.
Peter finally gives in to the peer pressure and spills the beans about Harry, punctuated by a bolt of lightning for “dramatic” effect.
White Tiger: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Best friend, moral dilemma, blah blah blah.”
White Tiger is a terrible human being.
While Spider-Man asks the Club to try and help him figure out another way, Nick Fury’s face appears on the chalkboard, asking why they’re in the building so late. And why Spider-Man’s there. They pacify Fury with a mission report about the Oscorp building that leaves out the whole “Harry Osborn is Venom” detail. Fury knows something is up, but he knows they’ll never tell. He tells them that they’re at Threat Level Alpha and signs out.
After Spider-Man’s amazement that his team didn't act like a pack of traitors, they convene to try and figure out some kind of weakness. Suddenly, a literal light bulb pops up over Spider-Man’s head. And then turns into an energy-saving bulb.
Spider-Man: “Better for the environment.”
Way to not keep the tension high.
Spider-Man realizes that he can whip up an antivenom in no time with the sample.
White Tiger: “Wait, you can do that?”
First of all, antivenom is created by using a venom sample to register immunity in another creature and then then transplant the newly-created antibodies to somebody else affected by the venom. Unless Spider-Man is going to run some tests on the class hamster, I don’t think he’s actually making an antivenom.
Second, “Venom” isn’t actually venom. It’s a parasitic symbiote.
|Third, making an Anti-Venom might not work out so well....|
Spider-Man: “Forgot I was a science nerd, didn’t ya?”
Yes. Yes I did. Not only because this nerdery has only come up once before, when Spider-Man tinkered with his Iron Spider outfit, but because know about the episode coming up where you plagiarize your science project.
|You can whip up a cure for a goo parasite, but not a baking soda volcano?|
Over with the Sandwich Club, they basically wander through the halls of the school until Venom just happens to show up, drawn to the symbiote sample White Tiger took. Convenient.
|No joke, he really does add a surprising air of menace to the show.|
|"You are welcome, Man of Spiders."|
Venom: “There is no one else. Venom is all there is."
Yeah, yeah, no Dana, only Zuul. Got it.
Nova blasts him to let Spider-Man administer the cure, and it works. Venom breaks the Law of Conservation of Mass by disappearing into nothingness, and the day is saved.
Harry is taken to the hospital and wakes up to find his concerned father watching over him, promising to use all of his resources to “figure this out.” Harry falls asleep again, and Spider-Man pops up to ask Norman for confirmation on whether or not Venom will be gone for good.
Norman: “He’ll be fine.”
He dismisses Spider-Man and swipes a sample of Harry’s blood.
Norman: “Hello, Venom….”
Later, he takes it to Ock’s lab and confronts him over whether or not he knew who Venom really was.
Dr. Octavius: “Of course not, how could I possibly know? How could anyone know more about your son that you?”
The question hits hard, but Norman simply hands over Harry’s blood and asks for results with recreating the symbiote. Back at the helicarrier, the Sandwich Club fights some training robots until Spider-Man shuts the program down. He takes the moment to let them all know how much he appreciates what they’ve done for him.
Power Man: “We’re your friends, web-head. Whether you like it or not.”
White Tiger: “So no more secrets, deal?”
…I’ll get to those statements.
In the spirit of not keeping secrets, the Sandwich Club reveals to Spider-Man that they’ve been planning a very special training session.
Power Man: “It’s called ‘Squash the Spider.’”
They reactivate the robots and sic them on their “friend.”
Spider-Man: “With friends like these, who needs enemies?”
I could not agree more.
The episode’s over, so I can finally not only Review this episode, but also analyze the Sandwich Club as a whole. Let’s begin.