Monday, March 9, 2015

Review: Ultimate Spider-Man "Exclusive"

And so, the Road to Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. begins by way of a Spider-Man team-up.

Hey, look! He remembered how to shot web!
Hulk and Spider-Man both know what it's like to be a misunderstood hero, and this is usually the theme of most Spider-Man/Hulk team-ups. As such, you might imagine that Spider-Man/Hulk team ups have been done quite a bit. You'd be right. That's why this episode adds the whole "handheld camera" angle. On that note, I find it very interesting that this episode is actually more faithful to the "webshow" aesthetic than HAS, which I'd like to remind you is about a webshow.

Pre-Agents of S.M.A.S.H. Importance
This episode sets up a few important things for the eventual spinoff. Mostly, it's how the world treats the Hulk. Avengers Assemble might lead one to assume that the Hulk is a valued member of the Avengers, but this episode makes it clear that he's a monster on the run. This contradiction pretty much sums up the continuity between the three shows in the Marvel Animated Universe.

But enough about that.

This episode sets up the standard "Hulk on the run" dynamic, which will become pivotal to the "mythology," if you will, of Agents of S.M.A.S.H.

It goes unsaid in the episode, but the "Energy-Man" is actually the Hulk villain Zzaxx (which I hope I'm actually spelling right). Zzaxx has almost no impact besides being a destructive force. It's like criticizing the cars Hulk throws. If you want to see me criticize Zzaxx in something, try this.

Mary Jane Watson
Mary Jane Watson is a Lois Lane wannabe. But unlike Lois Lane, she's continually locked in reporter mode. Every second of every day, she's looking for a scoop. In this episode, it gets to the point hwere you just to yell at the screen "Get out of there! Winning a stupid contest is not worth your life!"

And in the end, she sabotages herself by posting it online. The next episode to heavily feature her, "Beetle Mania," will have a similar self-sabotaging ending. Does Mary Jane have a fear of success? Does she believe that she doesn't deserve to win? Or is it just that status quo is god? That's probably it. It's hard to get invested in her character arc when you know that Jeph Loeb is trying to keep character arcs out of these shows. And when you take away character growth, all that's left is the ride to the reset button.

J. Jonah Jameson
There's something I've wanted to address for a while now, and this is as good a place as any.

The whole point of Jameson is that he hates Spider-Man while actively employing him. Spider-Man is right under his nose, and that irony is the entire point of the character. By shifting his story importance to Mary Jane's character development, his primary narrative raison d'etre has been thrown out the window.

Really, my only complaint with the first-person style is the liberal use of the unrealistic static for transitions. But other than that, I could really get into a show with this format. I'd have a lot more respect for Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. if they had tried something unique like this.

All in all, I have neutral feelings about this episode. Apart from the framing device, there was really nothing elevating this episode past a basic team-up. Still, at least it's not actively awful. But that's really just damning it with faint praise. Hopefully, I'll have better things to say about the next episode. See you then!


  1. Maybe MJ's being a reporter to impress her abusive or absentee writer father? At least he was a wannabe writer in the main MU, don't know if that's changed or not.

    In another made by better people, that probably would be the case and given an emotional story arc.

    1. I'd e content with ANY story arcs.