Monday, March 9, 2015

Recap: Ultimate Spider-Man "Exclusive"

People all the time be askin' me questions. Like why Spider-Man seems to be in every other Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. episode, or why the Hulk is smarter in Agents of S.M.A.S.H. than he usually is, or why I spend all my time apparently watching cartoons. So let's answer the first two questions from the beginning. Ladies and gentlemen, the Road to Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. begins here.

Don't get too excited. He said ironically.
We open the episode on the face of Mary Jane Watson Mary Jane Mary Watson Jane Watson MJ Wat Mary Jane Watson, who's having a bit of trouble deciding on her professional name. You see, she's filming herself with a handycam to submit to the Daily Bugle. You may ask why she isn’t working out her professional name in post-production, but as you’ll see, Mary Jane prefers the Bill O’Reilly method of editing.

Tried and true.
Anyway, as she explains to the camera, her topic is none other than Spider-Man. Specifically, she's going to interview him, despite Peter Parker chastising himself in “Great Responsibility” over how stupid that idea would be. But it's not like the audience is expected to remember things that happened all of five episodes ago. I mean, the writers have Spider-Man reiterate the most obvious and basic parts of the show's premise on a near-episodic basis. Barely an episode goes by without Peter explaining that he works for S.H.I.E.L.D., or that Principal Coulson is a secret agent, or even the fact that he's Spider-Man. Every time an episode begins with Peter Parker literally explaining to the audience that he's Spider-Man, I wonder just who the target audience is.

And I think I've figured it out.
But that's enough of my complaining for now. Those of you who haven't seen this episode are all probably wondering why I'm calling this the beginning of the Road to Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. So let's continue.

Mary Jane asks her schoolmates "the man on the street" about what they think of interviewing Spider-Man, and Harry Osborn can only blandly wonder how MJ scored the interview. Of course, "blandly" is the only way Harry Osborn can do anything. Meanwhile, Ava, Danny, Sam, and Luke all glare at Peter, as per Sandwich Club custom. We then cut to Spidey aiming the camera at MJ, asking her questions about being a reporter and such. But before I can draw any disturbing parallels to the Joker interviewing Dr. Quinzel in “Mad Love,” she takes the camera back and asks a very valid question: Why did he specifically want to be interviewed by some ostensibly random high schooler?

Spider-Man: “It’s important for your friendly neighborhood superhero to know the top media movers and shakers.”

Forget the Daily Bugle, Spider-Man. You should have gone for the Colbert Bump. Of course, I think The Colbert Report ended, but you could always try The Daily Show.

Actually, why is Sipdey doing this interview? It’s not because he has a crush on MJ. It was outright stated that they’re just friends. So is he risking blowing his secret identity wide open for a simple favor? That’s really nice of him, but probably not the best career move, seeing as how he’s failing to disguise his voice in front of someone who knows Peter Parker personally.

Anyway, it’s time for the Wal-Mart brand version of Richard Donner’s Superman’s “Can You Read My Mind?” scene, so Spider-Man takes her swinging through the city as the handheld camera statics past this and shows us the aftermath. Yes, this episode is using staticky cuts between angles, exactly like how real world digital camcorders don't. Still, I do like the “found footage” feel of this episode. Despite the static.

After they land, she begins to recognize his voice, which he immediately tries to disguise. Again, I'd like to point out that in that earlier episode, Peter made fun of the idea of letting MJ interview him because she would obviously recognize his voice. Anyway, Mary Jane asks if he'll unmask, and he does, revealing a second mask underneath. Cute.

Mary Jane: "Cute."

MJ then goes on to explain that she's not yet a Daily Bugle reporter, but plans on entering this video in some kind of contest, hoping to earn an internship. Which is obviously why she plans on giving a fair interview to J. Jonah Jameson’s favorite target for bad news practices. Speaking of that particular devil, Jameson is busy ranting from the Bugletron across the street. But enough about news standards, it's time for some action! And what better way to add some spice to the episode by having a giant green man crash land right near them?

Mary Jane: "Manhattan has just been attacked by... The Hulk?"

And so, the Road to Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. begins.

It begins with a look straight up a nose, no doubt foreshadowing "All About the Ego."
After the titles, we return to the action as Mary Jane begins to fall off the crumbling roof. Spidey saves her, and MJ explains to her camera who the Hulk is.

Mary Jane: "The Hulk is a massive man-monster of mayhem."

Protip: "Man-monster" and "monster-man" are not exactly interchangeable. Mary Jane has just described... shall we say... a destructive giant-size man-thing.

And not this one, if you know what I mean.
Anyway, she gets all excited about the Scoop of the Century, while Spidey tells her to stay away, stay safe, and stay alive. But because this version of Mary Jane is simply a Lois Lane wannabe, she decides to go right into the path of destruction instead. She drops her camera in the frenzy, and Stan the Janitor hands it back to her. He starts rambling about the good old days, and almost gets hit by a car.

Stan: “Although, what passes for a monster these days is… is sad.”

You have no idea, Stan.
We then cut to the cops firing guns at the Hulk. As you might imagine, little is being accomplished. Spidey saves the cops from an incoming hot dog cart, and saving more civilians. He starts telling the camera the "With great power" spiel, but soon has to stop for reasons of dodging and webbing up a few thrown cars. After more fighting, Hulk walks up to Spidey and grabs him.

Hulk: "Hulk not fighting Bug-Man. Bug-Man better get out of Hulk’s way."

Hulk finishes his thoughts by yelling that he hates paparazzi and throws Spider-Man away. Mary Jane rushes over to see if he's okay, and he gives a thumbs-up, complete with meow sound effect. No, I don't know either. He gets back up, and utterly fails to hurt the Hulk in any way before being swatted away. But after some persistence, he manages to web up Hulk's eyes.

Hulk: "Hulk starting to hate Bug-Man as much as Energy-Man!”
Spider-Man: "'Energy-Man'? Who's Energy-Man?"

"Also, how do I shot web?"
To answer his question, Hulk throws a car into what appears to be thin air, creating a burst of electricity. Spidey gets MJ to safety, and checks the replay from her camera, which I don’t think you can actually do while recording with said camera. Mary Jane gets an idea and turns on her camera's night vision, revealing Hulk's Energy-Man, which throws a car at them. Man, if I had a nickel for every car that got thrown in this episode, I'd still hate nickels.

Does whatever an energy can.
After commercial break, they web away from it, and MJ and Spidey recap the situation: Hulk's being attacked by the armed forces while trying to defeat the real, invisible menace.

You know, in case we forgot what we just saw.
Spidey tells the cops what's going on, but they don't believe his story about an invisible monster.

Goon: "Sorry, Spider; I'm a Jameson fan."

Insert politically-charged police joke here.

The cops open fire like this was Gotham City while Spidey keeps trying to convince them, and MJ keeps ad-libbing narration to the camera as Hulk fights the Energy-Man. Said Energy-Man zaps the Hulk and grows bigger, finally becoming normally visible without night vision. As the heroes all flee and regroup, Spidey radios in for S.H.I.E.L.D. backup, but they're taking down a threat over in Jersey.

Spider-Man: "You can't just let Jersey go?"

Ba-Dum Tshh!

No, I didn't add that. That was actually in the episode as a sound effect.

Hey, here’s a question. If S.H.I.E.L.D. is supposed to be a government organization on par with the CIA, FBI, or NCIS, then how come they’ve only got, like, fifty guys and a single vehicle? Why isn’t the Strategic Homeland Enforcement blah blah blah capable of strategically enforcing the protection of the homeland?

Fury promises to head over ASAP, and Spidey heads back to team up with the Hulk. Spidey tells Hulk to aim the smashing towards the river, but MJ locates a nearby water tower that would work to short out the monster, too. Because it’s not like buildings need their water supply. Spidey tips it over, and vanquishes the Energy-Man before heading down to the Hulk.

Hulk: "Bug-Man smash good."

Well, Hulk. Bug-Man smash well.

Hulk leaps away, and Spider-Man starts getting suspicious about how easy it was to defeat the monster. I mean, there’s still almost half the episode left. He and Mary Jane head into the subway and, what do you know, it's back. Spidey gets zapped repeatedly, and Hulk comes back for the save. Spidey leads MJ away, and he and the Hulk fight the energy monster as MJ once again tells us things we already know.

And if you actually needed the plot explained to you a second time this episode, then you probably forgot that I showed this picture twice already.
The fighting continues until the heroes apparently emerge triumphant. With the heavy lifting over with, S.H.I.E.L.D. finally shows up to arrest the Hulk. They open fire with their lasers, and the Hulk starts throwing cars again. Spidey tries to stop the fighting, but it's, once again, a no-go. The helicarrier starts falling towards MJ, and she gets rescued. As it turns out, the monster zapped into the helicarrier and used its energy to grow to giant size

Man-Thing style.
Nick Fury shows up and begins to make a new plan, but Spidey makes one of his own: Overload it. Mary Jane manages to escape the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and films the attempt, so we can actually see the ending to this story. Spider-Man leads the attempts to fill the energy monster with more energy, but not even a gigantic electrical cable has enough juice to fry the monster.

Nick Fury: “Well, that’s just perfect. Ready to hear Plan B, Einstein.”

Yeah, because it’s not like S.H.I.E.L.D. has scientists of their own to come up with a solution.

Spider-Man insists that all that’s needed is to throw more electrical devices into the energy monster. Batteries, flashlights, they all get added to the mix. But it’s still not enough. Soon, all that remains is Mary Jane’s camera, and she willingly sacrifices it to the effort. Spidey throws it into the energy monster, and the last thing the camera picks up before glitching out is a shot of the monster screaming.

We then fade in to the regular, non-first person point of view. Spider-Man and Hulk weren’t hurt by the resulting explosion, but Mary Jane is nowhere to be found. Spidey and Hulk dig through the rubble and find a perfectly safe Mary Jane, thus relieving the momentary “tension.” With a little persuasion, Spidey convinces S.H.I.E.L.D. to let the heroic Hulk go, and gives MJ the memory card he swiped before he threw it. Don’t ask where the footage of the events after he swiped the memory card came from. He webs away, and we cut to the end of MJ's finished video.

Wait, post-production? But… the ad-libbing! The bad narration! The waffling at the beginning! Why did you keep all that in the video?!
Mary Jane has just finished up showing it to Peter Parker. She didn't win the contest, but that's because she didn't enter. She knew what JJJ would use the footage for, and she decided to post the video online instead. But that's apparently enough for Jameson, because she then gets a new camera sent by J. Jonah Jameson himself in the mail as a consolation prize of sorts. And there’s a message from the old skinflint himself.

Jameson: “Saw your footage, Watson. There might be a place for you at the Bugle. If you send your work to me before you post it next time.”

Translation: "I want to eliminate any and all New Media competition that threatens my monopoly of New York’s news."

As Peter Parker says that maybe Mary Jane will get to see who Spider-man really is someday, the episode ends. Let's review the first step of the journey of four episodes.

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