Thursday, December 25, 2014

Recap: Ultimate Spider-Man "Nightmare on Christmas"

'Twas a while 'fore Christmas,
On December, the third.
I turned on TV,
And expected a turd.

For you see, O my readers,
That time came again.
To watch that show 'bout
That most spid'ry of men.

But Christmas was coming,
With specials galore.
I expected some garbage,
Like October before.

"It's rubbish," I thought,
"This special will suck!"
But watch it I did,
Then exclaimed, "What the crap?"

The show gave us gold!
Entertainment, not trash!
(If I wanted the latter,
I'd watch Agents of S.M.A.S.H.)

Have I just gone mad?
Is it just me?
Well, let's start this Recap.
Then we shall see.

Before you inquire,
'Twill not be in rhyme.
For rhyming is hard,
And I'm getting sick of it.

At least I'm not screwing up haikus again.
Our episode opens up on Christmas Eve, where Spider-Man is busy foiling a bank robbery, a la Shocker. There's a nifty little fight scene (which already puts this above Shocker's appearance in the Halloween special) which ends with Spider-Man breaking his communicator before knocking out Shocker and leaving him for the cops.

Spidey webs off to meet his team and go pick up a Christmas gift for Aunt May. I can only assume that by "pick up," he's already bought the thing and has to get it from somewhere, because "putting off shopping until Christmas" doesn't really match up with "great responsibility." He soon arrives at the Triskelion, but only finds a sleeping Squirrel Girl.

Hoo boy. I'll explain.

So, if you only read my Recaps and Reviews, you're confused because I've only gotten as far as Season 1, save for the odd special. Basically, Spider-Man went and recruited a bunch of heroes and they all live at the Triskelion, an island S.H.I.E.L.D. base that has nothing to do with any gamesters. (Star Trek joke; don't worry about it.)

If you watch the show on TV, then you're just confused as to why Squirrel Girl is there, seeing as how she wasn't one of Spider-Man's new teammates. But that's what you get when you air episodes out of order. The last episode of Season 3 to air was the eighth one; this is officially the twenty-second episode of Season 3.

But don't worry; this episode is a standalone story. If there are any details that bug you, just repeat to yourself "It's just a show, I should really just relax."

Anyhow, Spider-Man arrives at the Triskelion, where he was supposed to meet his team, but only finds Squirrel Girl in the middle of hibernating. She wakes up briefly to talk to him, but she falls asleep again in the middle of giving Spidey a message from the team. Dang it, Squirrel Girl; you had one job!

On the roof of the Triskelion, Spidey soon finds himself yelling at the heavens. New York hates him as usual, but now his only friends (if you forget about MJ and Harry, which the writers have) ditched him on Christmas Eve?  Forget Grumpy Cat; Spider-Man's having the worst Christmas ever. Actually, I take that back; John McClane had the worst Christmas ever. But not the worst holiday ever. That one goes to a carpenter from Nazareth. A couple thousand years ago, he had a terrible Good Friday. But I digress.

Spider-Man gets quite grumpy and ends up tempting fate.

Spider-Man: "Sometimes I wonder if being Spider-Man is even worth it."

As if in reaction to his words, some snow falling off a higher level of the building knocks Spidey off the edge of the roof. And to make matters worse, any webline he tries to shoot at the building to save himself mysteriously curves away.

Spider-Man: "Oh man! I really don't need this on Christmas!"

Or ever. Would you prefer to fall to your death on Arbor Day?

After the titles, Spider-Man wakes up in the world as drawn by Steve Ditko.

Wait, what?

So, uh... this is happening.
This is...

this is...


Not only is everything drawn in Ditko-style, but he's even suddenly fighting the Enforcers, who were classic Spider-Man villains! Ox, the dumb brute; Fancy Dan, the snappy dresser; Montana, the guy with the whip.

Spider-Man: "I haven't fought these guys since before I joined S.H.I.E.L.D."

And because things weren't weird enough, Spider-Man's shoulder angel and devil appear to act at the Imaginary Figments of Christmas Past. The Enforcers manage to escape the fight with an Oscorp truck, and Spidey tries to go after them. "Tries" being the operative word. His web shooters run out of fluid, just like old times. And just like old times, random bystanders start throwing trash at him.  Spidey leaps away and endures some of the usual Jameson bile spewing from the Bugletron. Suddenly, Spider-Man puts all the pieces together. This is Christmas, as it was years ago. Before S.H.I.E.L.D.

Spider-Man: "What is going on?"

You're only now asking that?

Shoulder Angel: "I was wondering the same thing!"

Wait, why are the angel and devil hanging out past their usual annoying antics?

Spider-Man: "What're you two still doing here?"
Shoulder Devil: "Heck if I know."

What, are you a demon from "Heck," then? That joke works better if you actually say "Hell."

Shoulder Devil: "I'm only allowed to say 'Heck.' Goes against everything I stand for!"


Are you reading my mind? I've got my eye on you, Shoulder Devil.

Spider-Man finally starts to realize that having figments of his imagination talk to him outside of the random gags is a little suspicious, and wonders if he's dreaming. But the talk soon changes topics as Spidey laments that when this fight with the Enforcers happened in real life, he ran out of web fluid and the Enforcers got away.

Shoulder Angel: "Let's change all that."

The little guy magically zaps Spidey's web shooters, filling them up.

Spider-Man: "How'd you do that? You're figments of my imagination that make jokes at my expense. Helping me isn't your usual thing."

"Aren't you supposed to make annoying jokes while Newt captions us with references the audience doesn't get?"
But with enough peer pressure, Spidey swings off to fight the baddies and set right what once went wrong. After a few meta-jokes about repeating backgrounds, Spidey manages to land on the Enforcers' stolen truck. With his newly filled web shooters and newly supportive delusions, Spidey webs up each of the Enforcers in turn, nabbing Montana's hat while he's at it.

Spider-Man: "I have always wanted a giant cowboy hat!"

Unfortunately, the truck is left without a driver, so Spidey steps up. And fails. The steering wheel breaks off, and the Shoulder Devil hits the gas, sending the truck off a ridge and into the water.  Instead of drowning, Spider-Man wakes up at the beginning of the episode, where Shoulder Devil tries to give him some advice.

Shoulder Devil: "'Cause whatever you do, people still hate you. They'll blame you. They'll never appreciate you."

Despite Shoulder Devil's continued insults, Spider-Man takes down Shocker faster this time in an attempt to get people to appreciate him; but the New York civilians choose to listen to Jameson on the Bugletron, as they are wont to do.

Jameson: "Even on Christmas Eve! Have you no shame, Spider-Man?"

I like to think that Jameson's actually spending Christmas with his son, and this rant was pre-recorded. Because pre-recording tirades about Spider-Man is such a Jameson thing to do.

Spider-Man: "This has to be a nightmare!"
Shoulder Devil: "Sure. This is all a nightmare. Because in real life, everybody loves you."

And that's what does it. With a final look around, Peter Parker makes a decision. He goes into an alley and re-enacts the famous panel from to Amazing Spider-Man #50.

Peter Parker: "Spider-Man... no more."

As Peter walks away from the trash can with his costume, the Angel and Devil work together to push Peter into a sewer, because we needed a scene transition from Christmas present to Christmas yet to come. An older Peter with quite the manly jaw is woken up by a holographic Aunt May. Because future. Peter's whole room looks like Apple designed it. Because future. Peter also owns the whole tower. Because awesome.

Speaking of awesome, Peter's busy day consists of accepting a key to the city for solving the pollution problem. Then autographs. Then supermodels. Then, conceivably, things that are best left for the realm of NSFW fan art.

An oddly large Shoulder Devil tells Peter that this is all his because he gave up being Spider-Man. And you know what? Maybe Peter should give up being Spider-Man. I mean, not only is he rich, but he invented a pollution neutralizer! He solved climate change! What downside could there possibly be to this future?

Aunt May: "Peter, you've got a message. The Goblin King needs to reschedule your meeting."

He's got babies to steal and dwarves to capture.
Right on cue, Nova and Hawkeye crash into Peter's swanky penthouse. And just so you know that this is indeed a bad future, Nova's armor is heavily damaged and Hawkeye is blind.

Looks like somebody set th... Fine, I'll stop making that joke.
Nova: "Spidey? Is that you?"

So, you can't tell from my text alone, but Nova's voice has been pitch-shifted lower, because he's older now. Makes you wonder why Peter's voice is as high-pitched as ever; but to distract us, there's things to fight. Said "things" are genetically-enhanced Spider-Super-Soldiers on goblin gliders. They easily capture Nova and Hawkeye, and Peter realizes (despite the now-gigantic Shoulder-Devil's words to the contrary) that with great power comes great responsibility.

Shoulder Angel magics a suit up for Spidey, and he slings off to the Oscorp stronghold. He makes his way into the main area, and discovers stasis chambers with Nova, Hawkeye, and what's left of the Avengers.

Goblin-King: "Spider-Man? Now, this is an intriguing development!"

The stasis chambers all light up, and Spidey sees exactly what "what's left of the Avengers" means A helmet, a shield, wrist guantlets, some wings, and a hammer. I guess the Hulk didn't have anything to take but his unwashed purple pants. Goblin picks up Thor's hammer and the fight begins. Spidey notes right away that the Goblin shouldn't be picking up Thor's enchanted hammer, but gets a bit distracted by the need to fight for his life. He does so, and eventually wins against the Goblin.

Hooray, I guess.
What's that, I don't hear you say?  I glossed over the final boss?

No, I didn't.

Haven't you been wondering what's been going on? And who's behind it?

Shoulder Angel: "You did exactly what he wanted! Exactly what I was trying to warn you about!"

When? You never tried to warn Spidey about fighting the Goblin, and certainly not about what happens next.

The twenty-foot Shoulder Devil eats the Shoulder Angel before revealing its true form: Nightmare, The Lord of Nightmares. And he continues to tempt Spidey with promises of wealth and power.

Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris. Actually, that pretty much sums up why I recap this show.
Despite that silver tongue going to town, Spider-Man's not that stupid. He declines. Unfortunately, they're in a dream world that Nightmare exerts his control over by literally turning the world upside down. Fortunately, Spider-Man can stick upside down to surfaces.

Unfortunately (again), Nighmare plunges the realm into complete darkness. Fortunately, Spider-Man fought Nightmare alongside Dr. Strange back in Season 1 and remembers that Nightmare's power comes from fear. No fear, no power.

Unfortunately (yet again), Nightmare sucked up all the fear he needed by taking Spidey on this little Christmas Carol. Soon, a giant-size Nightmare tries to step on Spider-Man in what appears to be the depths of Hell. That certainly escalated. But with a little lesson about overcoming fear, Spider-Man manages to use the power of positive thinking to drain Nightmare's power. In a last ditch effort, Nightmare uses his power over the dreamscape to send Spidey down into the hellish abyss, but Spidey simply responds by webbing closer to Nightmare and punching him in the face.

Suddenly, Spider-Man awakens to a real nightmare. Nova's there slapping him in the face to get him to wake up. When Spidey gets up, he asks the big question.

Spider-Man: "Why are you hitting me? And why are you asking me if I'm okay at the same time you're hitting me?"
Nova: "I dunno. Seemed like the right thing to do at the time."

Nova goes on to explain that they tried to call Spidey and tell him that the plan changed, and they ended up picking up Aunt May's gift for him. His communicator broke in the battle with Shocker, so he never got the call.

Nova: "Man, didn't Squirrel Girl tell you anything?"

How can someone defeat Thanos repeatedly, yet still be incapable of delivering a message?
Snow falls, and we cut to Christmas morning at the Parker residents, where Peter and his Sandwich Club pals exchange gifts. Ava accidentally got the football tickets that Danny meant to give Luke, but Luke wants to keep the tiara meant for Ava. (Nice little nod to the classic Power Man outfit, show.) Sam gets bunny slippers that he thinks look like a pink nightmare, and Aunt May gets a beautiful old clock.

Peter: "I saw it and thought of you."

Because it's an antique? Because it's winding down? Because you sold your marriage to the devil to have a bit more time with her?

Peter: "So you can always keep an eye on your past, your present, and your future."

Aunt May gives Peter his gift of a giant cowboy hat to complete the joke set up earlier in the episode, and the episode ends as Peter talks to the audience one last time.

Peter: "Happy holidays, everybody."

"Oh, and incidentally, a Happy Christmas to all of you at home."
The Recap is over.
It's time to review.
To talk about story,
What I don't like, and do.

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