Monday, June 9, 2014

Recap: Ultimate Spider-Man "Great Power"

Hoo boy. Even before I begin, there's an elephant in the room. Said elephant being this show's immediate predecessor, The Spectacular Spider-Man. Look, we're not here to talk about the legal issues that led them to abandon that particular series. We're here to give this one a chance. Am I going to rip this premiere a new one? Well, that's not my goal, no.

I really do try to give everything a fair chance to impress me. Sometimes I'm quite impressed. Sometimes I'm rather... not. But the most important thing we can do is keep an open mind. Remember, "different" doesn't automatically mean "bad." And trust me, we're going to be getting a lot of "different." But I won't automatically hold that against the show.

So, preconceived notions aside, here's the first part of the Ultimate Spider-Man premiere, "Great Power."

Show, you better earn that adjective.
We open on a shot of New York, with J. Jonah Jameson's face yelling over the Jumbotron. 

Jameson: "................."

No, that's not what he's actually saying, that's what we should be hearing. In real life, the Jumbotron doesn't do sound. I mean, jeez, that would keep everybody in New York up all night! Well, more than they usually are.'re right, I'm sorry, I'm already ripping into this thing. Let's start over.

We open on a shot of New York, with J. Jonah Jameson's face yelling over the Jumbotron about how Spider-Man's a menace. It's important to note that in this show, Daily Bugle Communications has its own news channel, with nigh-constant editorials about how much he hates Spider-Man. For some reason, he's the most popular news source in New York. To be fair, he is less biased than Fox News/CNN. (You can't hate me if I make fun of both sides!)

Spider-Man: "And a good morning to you, J Jonah Loudmouth."

Well, hello, Spider-Man. I will be reserving judgement on this... fine young man until we get to the Review. Because I'm giving him a chance. I am a calm center of focus. I am a rock. I will keep an open mind. I am at peace.

We get the usual introductional narrative to Spider-Man. Power, responsibility, life sucks, etc. He's on his way to get a cake for Aunt May, then he'll go to school and see his pals, Harry Osborn and Mary Jane Watson.

Spider-Man: "But first I'd better save that cop in the skidding car."

Thanks to some quick webbing, he successfully saves him from an attack by the Trapster, whose shtick is basically just shooting superglue at things. We then get a quick little imaginary bit (kind of like JD on Scrubs mixed with an art style change) where he goes over the last three times this guy kicked his butt.

They fight, and Spidey barely wins by causing Trapster's glue guns to backfire, while a hidden camera captures footage of our hero in action.

A comic-panel finishing blow? Show, I knew Batman: TBATB. TBATB was a friend of mine. You, show, are no TBATB.
Then, we get another stylistically different imaginary bit where Spidey explains his danger-sensitive Spider-Sense to the audience. After that, Spidey looks up in the sky and sees the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. Then he looks behind himself and sees Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. before explaining who he is to us in another short fantasy sequence-type thing..

So, if I may raise a legitimate criticism against this show (I think I've earned that privilege), there seems to be a lot of telling, as opposed to showing. Coupled with the stylistic clashes of the brief fantasy sequences, the pacing of the episode already suffers at three minutes in. When it's not going too fast, it's at a dead stop.

Back with the plot, Fury points out all the collateral damage. People are stuck to things, the cop car's ruined, and the cake shop done got all busted up. Although, I find it pretty ironic that a policeman's horse is stuck to the ground with glue. Circle of Life, I guess.

Nick Fury: "We gotta talk."

We get the title sequence. It's five seconds long, so avid readers should know whether or not I approve of it.

When we return, Fury basically tells Spidey that pretty much any other hero would have done a better job at stopping the glue stick guy. But he offers more than criticism, he offers help, which Spidey declines.

Nick Fury: "Not so fast. Peter Parker."
Spider-Man: "You know?"
Nick Fury: "Everything."

His eyepatch is full of secrets, don'tcha know.

Peter then has a quick flashback that glosses over his familiar origin story. Aunt and Uncle, spider bite, robber, power, responsibility, pacing issues... Sorry.

Nick Fury: "With great power comes great responsibility."

Uh... Were you spying on Peter before he became Spider-Man? Because that's when Uncle Ben actually said those words. Speaking of him, it's been a year since he died, and today would have been his birthday. Remember that for later, it'll be barely important.

Fury offers Spider-Man the next step in crime fighting: S.H.I.E.L.D. training. Well, now we know why Falcon was let in at such a young age. He title drops the show, takes out the now-fleeing Trapster, and gives Spider-Man S.H.I.E.L.D.-tech-invisible-super-web-shooters for no conceivable purpose before Spidey heads to school.

Seriously, why did Fury just up and give him super-web shooters? Heck, why did he even have S.H.I.E.L.D. make super-web shooters? A bribe? Are they surveillance devices? What?

"It's dangerous to go alone. Take this!"
Speaking of surveillance, as Spidey swings across the city, it seems that a mysterious man called "Octavius" has been monitoring him on behalf of CEO of OsCorp, Norman Osborn. Norman proceeds to give an evil monologue about how he's evil and is going to use Spider-Man's DNA for evil pacing problems. Purposes, I mean, evil purposes. Osborn and the betentacled Octavius agree that Spider-Man should be kept away from S.H.I.E.L.D. to keep him easy pickin's, and we cut to Peter Parker at his locker, when MJ shows up to talk to him. Peter explains to the audience (go ahead a drinking game out of the exposition, but don't blame me if you pass out) that he and MJ have been best friends since they were little kids.

Peter: "When we were twelve, we finally decided to get serious."

Oh, so they're an item? HahahaNO.

They kissed once at age twelve. They found it icky. They're just friends. They stay just friends. And the writers have outright stated that they WILL NOT BE GETTING TOGETHER.

I feel that I should express my dissatisfaction with the writers' decision. As such, I have written them a letter.

It's continued on the back.
But I've already discussed why this change to the character is a stupid f questionable decision, so let's move on. MJ talks about her master plan to get a job at the Daily Bugle. Because in this show, she's a cheap carbon copy of Lois Lane, minus any sort of reason to actually exist and my GOD I HATE Harry Osborn shows up. He's rich, popular, Peter's best friend, and an incredibly bland character. We're talking about a 7 on the Disney Prince scale of blandness. Not quite a Prince Eric, but nearly.

Speaking of Prince Eric, did you know that his voice actor, Christopher Daniel Barnes, also voiced Peter Parker in Spider-Man: TAS? Speaking of that show, did you know I'd rather be watching it? In fact, I think I will.


Okay, I'm back. Relaxed, refreshed, and ready to give this episode another chance.

We get a flashback about the first time Peter met Harry and his dad, and it's actually a nice little scene. Then we meet Flash Thompson, the bully, and he stuffs Peter in his locker, getting rescued by Stan the janitor (voice and likeness of Stan Lee), who starts rambling about this guy he knows named Irving Forbush, who in real life was a fictional assistant to Stan Lee. A bit of an in-joke among Marvel employees. Thank you, Stan. I needed that.

Come for the Stan Lee cameo, stay for the... um... uh...
Cut to lunchtime. While eating, Peter's Spider-Sense goes off, and the school is attacked by the Frightful Four. Well, three of them. Peter explains who they are to us.

The Wizard: Master of high-tech magic.
Klaw: Villain made out of living sound.
Thundra: Ruthless warrior-woman from an alternate future timeline.
Trapster: Not actually here. (My description, not Peter's.)

Hello, Thundra. I see that, much like Titania, you're part of a team that you're not actually on.
Basically, the three figured out that Spidey goes to school here, either as a student or a teacher, and they want to sniff him out and kill him. Usual stuff. They make an example out of Peter by zapping him with sound, and Peter starts a food fight so he can change in secret. While he changes, he finds a tracer that Trapster stuck on him, explaining how the three know that Spider-Man was here.

Spidey beats up the villains in "funny" ways, while Octavius monitors the fight. He asks Norman Osborn if he should have the three villains destroy Midtown High School, but Osborn freaks out and rushes to the scene when he realizes he may have turned his own son into collateral damage.

More fighting, and Spidey temporarily defeats Wizard and Klaw. Thundra, being female, is temporarily taken out by MJ, who makes her slip and fall on lime Jell-O. You know, having female villains can be a bit of a problem. If you have the hero fight them like male villains, then you're open to accusations of promoting violence towards women. If you defeat them with "comedic" trickery, it looks like you're not treating them like a real threat. Personally, I subscribe to Captain Kirk's philosophy that there's no right way to hit a woman. But I still think that if they're trying to destroy a school, you may have to do it the wrong way. After all, What Would Batman Do? Still, at least they're showing forethought of some kind by replacing Medusa (whose power is her prehensile hair) with a character who could conceivably take a punch.

Anyhoo, more fighting, Harry gets hurt when he tries to be a hero, more fighting, Spidey tricks Flash into hiding in a locker, more fighting, villains flee, Norman Osborn arrives for his unconscious son, and Peter mopes about for a bit.

Later that day, J Jonah Jameson, blames Spider-Man for the school attack, and Peter arrives at home to his Aunt May. He explains to us that Aunt May is a fiercely independent woman, who has a job, does yoga, takes cooking classes, regularly goes bowling, and is generally active enough to conveniently give Spidey enough time to go web-slinging. Also, what's the point of having this character if they rewrote her so much that they removed the point of the character?

Whatever, This is the home stretch. Flashback. Harry's recovering in the hospital, and Peter feels guilty. Pacing issues. Back in the present, Peter forgot the cake. Whoops. Final straw.

Peter decides to accept Fury's offer, and web-slings off to the helicarrier after his mental problems are made manifest and he talks to his mirror a bit. After barely dodging the laser defenses, he meets up with Fury on the deck of the helicarrier.

Peter: "Your friendly-neighborhood Ultimate Spider-Man reporting for duty, sir!"
Nick Fury: "Welcome to S.H.I.E.L.D., Spider-Man. Hope you survive the experience."

Heh, that's what the X-Men covers always say when there's a new recruit. Cute. Actually, it may become less cute when you realize that Peter Parker died for realsies in the Ultimate Comics.

Peter: "Uh... To be continued."

Finally. Episode 1 is in the bag!

Well, I still have to review it. Let's go do that mess.


  1. Fun fact: this entire show is an illusion created by the Chaos King's multi-dimensional labyrinth, in which the real Spider-Man is imprisoned. The series finale has Peter realize this, escaping from the idyllic fantasy world and summoning the Leopardon mech from the Japanese Spider-Man show in the process. Peter, piloting his newfound giant robot, proceeds to lead every hero in the Marvel universe against the Chaos King. After the battle, he proposes to Mary Jane right on the spot just to be awesome like that.

    Or at least, that's how it happens in my head.

    - That One Anon

  2. Actually, Thundra literally was introduced as a member of Frightful Four.