Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Recap: Spectacular Spider-Man "Natural Selection"

You know, I didn’t mention it in the earlier Recaps and Reviews (because I didn’t realize it at the time), but there has been a theme to the naming of these first three episodes. They all have to do with food chains, ecosystems, biology, evolution, etc. And because the episodes’ content is related to the titles, these three episodes form a story arc of sorts. As such, let’s begin our look at the final episode of the first story arc.

Wait a minute, Survival of the Fittest and Natural Selection are the same thing! I call foul!
We open late at night, with some ruffians breaking into a bakery. One of the guys tells the others to grab the dough. My pun, not his.

Ruffian 1: “But don’t eat nothing; Mrs. M’s my great auntie.”

…how considerate?

Spider-Man: “So, you’ll rob the piggy bank, but won’t touch the cookie jar? You must qualify for nephew of the year. Twisted division.”

It’s always refreshing coming back to this show’s version of Spider-Man. Snarky wit is always preferable to zany lunacy. To me, at least.

Anyway, he takes each one out and webs them up for the cops. All the while, a camera webbed to a nearby building repeatedly flashes its flash. That sentence has nothing to do with a guy in a trench coat showing his junk to Barry Allen. Spidey grabs his camera and hitches a ride on a train, commending himself for making all the smart choices. Logically, something bad is going to happen. Say it with me: Spider-Man is the toilet of the universe, waiting to get peed on. And get peed on he does. Figuratively, I mean. Aunt May’s not that senile.

We cut to the home of Dr. Connors, who decides to inject his nub of an arm with the Electro-charged-lizard-juice from last time. Does anybody else think that sounds like a drink from the 90’s? Naturally, having injected it into his arm, the first symptom is his eye going lizardy and back. Intro on, intro off.

Back at the Parker residence, Aunt May goes over all the bills as Peter arrives. He goes to bed, leaving a cryptic hint about how their money problems will soon be over. The puzzled look on Aunt May’s face leaves me with the impression that she thinks her nephew’s the one robbing bakeries.

Over with Dr. Connors, he and his wife are looking in on their sleeping son. Mrs. Connors (yes, I know, she's a doctor too, but calling them both "Dr. Connors" will get confusing) informs her husband that his son has become interested in… you guessed it, those lizards at the lab. They shut the door and head to their bedroom. But as the good doctor goes off to get in bed with his wife, he feels a sudden twitch. In his arm, you pervert.

Going back to Peter, he’s… in his bedroom. Wearing only his Spidey-shirt and boxers. Typing on his computer. Standing up. No, there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just odd. Though I’m one to talk, I’ve been using the pants from a Joker costume as pajama pants for years. Anyway, he goes over his pics, and they’re all useless because the bakery window reflected the flash. Hmm. It’s almost like putting the camera on a timer and walking away is a terrible way to take candid action photos.

Rolling around to the Connorses’ place, Curt’s tossing and turning and sweating. He gets out of bed and… the animators decide to show off.

No words. No words to describe it. Poetry!
They should have sent a poet. A Vogon poet, but still.
As much as I can appreciate what appears to be an Akira homage...
I don't really like anime all that much, but yeah. I'm impressed.
I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought. Also, I may or may not have wet myself. But amazingly, the horrifying mass of tentacles coalesces into a very human right arm, to the amazement of himself and his wife. But not all is well….

Mrs. Connors: “Tell me you didn’t use that lizard DNA formula.”

Well, what did you expect? Did you think the arm fairy visited him in his sleep?

As they begin their argument, their son comes in. Curt picks him up with two arms for the first time, and the family embraces. Awwww. They have “tragic downfall” written all over them. The next day, at Midtown High, Flash Thompson and his toadie, Kong, prepare to pelt Peter with water balloons, only to miss every time. You know, because Spider-Powers. Peter realizes this, and stops dodging. Gwen runs up and covers him. She also disses Flash, telling him off for not using these quarterback skills in the last game. This gains the approval of the bigger (and nicer) jock, and all is well. Sally, who it turns out was a Spider-Man supporting character (my bad in the first Recap) doesn’t approve, either.

Later, Gwen and the soaking Peter arrive at Doc Connors’ lab, talking all the while about Peter’s problems. When they enter, Doc Connors is soon to follow with a celebratory “Congratulations-on-being-a-regenerative-freak: cake. The celebrations last long, and Doc has a nice arm-wrestling match with Eddie.

Dr. Connors: “Do you know how thrilled I am to lose at arm-wrestling?

But Mrs. Connors tells her son to go play video games and the tone gets serious.

Mrs. Connors: “Take off your shirt, dear.”
Dr. Connors: “What, are you kidding? It’s freezing in here. …alright.”

Geez, lady, can’t you wait? But no, it’s because she saw something on his neck. Scales, spreading from his arm. Later, after much research, they determine that the “reptilian part” of Connors’ brain is growing, so he’s becoming more and more primitive due to devolution. Also, literally nothing works that way. I can believe that chemical sludge and electricity created a human dynamo, but this is trying too badly to justify itself with crappy biology.

Anyway, Curt begins to Hulk Lizard out, and Peter comes up with an idea. They could create a chemical compound that only attacks lizard DNA! With that idea, Curt and his wife realize that there’s enough in his notes to create a “gene cleanser” that will remove any non-human DNA.

Peter goes to check up on Billy Connors, and it turns out that he’s worried that his dad will start acting like a lizard parent and stop caring for his own kid. But to cut this heartfelt scene short, Connors becomes a monster. That puts a crimp on any tender moment. It’s a really horrifying transformation, actually. Especially when his head implodes. One half at a time.

That'll give you a headache.
But now Curt’s a lizard man.

All of those Gamma Bomb tests? Not tests. They were trying to kill it.
Eddie wrestles him for a bit before he manages to escape the lab.

Eddie: “Finish the gene cleanser! I’ll follow the Doc and call in with a location!”
Peter: “I should get going, too. Aunt May will ground me if I’m not home by ten.”

No, that’s not a quip. You and I both know he’s off to go be Spidey, but you’d think he’d at least pretend to run in fear, or something. Like last time! Anyway, he runs off, and the remaining ladies think he’s running scared.

Mrs. Connors: “And he’s only 16.”
Gwen: “I’m 16!”
Mrs. Connors: “I-I know. And thank you.”

Way to deflect. And they hug while Peter gets his Spider-Man on. He deduces that the trail of destruction pointing to the subway leads to the Lizard. Spidey swoops in just in time to save a chick from getting eaten, and the two freaks of science fight each other. Appeals to Connors’ humanity aren’t working, but physical injury seems to hurt him. They smash their way into the subway tunnels, complete with subway trains, and the Lizard hitches a ride on one, followed by Spider-Man. Fighting ensues, and Spidey loses his quarry.

Spider-Man: “So much for Plan A.”

Back at the lab, the womenfolk have whipped up a mess of gene cleanser. The only drawback is that the cleanser has to be taken orally. Luckily, Spider-Man has creepered into the lab and volunteers to shove it down Connors’ throat. Eddie calls in with the message that the Lizard broke into the Bronx Zoo, and Spider-Man heads on his way, Mrs. Connors to follow. Gwen goes to check on Billy, but he’s gone.

Over at the World of Reptiles exhibit, Spidey meets up with Eddies and head into the reptile house. He leaps onto a croc, thinking that it’s the doctor, and the real Lizard attacks. Eddie narrowly manages to save Spidey from drowning, and Spider-Man says they need a new plan. I vote that they do the trick Iceman suggested in X-Men: First Class (no relation to the film) issue 2 and put it in a raw chicken. But Peter has never read that comic, and instead opts to lure the Lizard to the polar bear pool, which would reduce the cold-blooded Lizard ‘s core temperature and induce lethargy. Eddie goes to lure the good doctor, and Spidey plans the ambush. But seconds before Spider-Man can roundhouse kick the Lizard into the pool, Aunt May calls Peter’s phone, alerting the reptilian villain. Suddenly, Billy appears! Geez, everything's happening at once.

Billy: “Dad! Stop! You don’t have to be a lizard!”

His DNA would suggest otherwise, little buddy. In fact, the Lizard tries to eat his own son before Spidey pulls him into the polar bear pool. More fighting ensues, and the Lizard is slowed down enough that Spider-Man can force the cure down the Lizard’s throat. After a few seconds, it completely reverts Curt to his human form, though he loses his arm in the process. And it was all caught on camera. Peter’s camera. Front page of the Bugle. The next day at the lab, Peter’s lies backfire on him. Remember how Peter ran away from helping Doc Connors? And now his photo (with credit to Peter Parker) ends up in the Bugle?

Yeah, they’re thinking that Peter Parker is secretly Judas-Man.
Peter is forgiven... kind of, but still fired from the lab. He walks alone, past the remaining vials of gene cleanser. A few seconds later, one gets webbed up and stolen. Three guesses who. Later, in his room, he holds the gene cleanser as he goes over exactly how much his life sucks. As he raises the vial up to his lips, he sees the picture of Uncle Ben and realizes something.

Peter: “I saved them.”

He puts the vial away, webbing it under his desk. Because he may need use it later, but he still has great power. And we all know what that means.

Let's review, and I'll say something that has needed to be said for a while.

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