Monday, May 18, 2015

Recap: Ultimate Spider-Man "Back in Black"

Discounting the Road to Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., I haven't covered an episode of this show for a little over six months.

But now I'm back. And so is Venom.

Spoiler alert, but only if you're a member of the Sandwich Club.

I'd say it was good to be back, but....
The episode opens with a montage of Spidey punching people. Melter, Thundra, Taskmaster, and also Toad, which seems like an odd inclusion. Even odder, the background is comprised of Daily Bugle front pages praising him (including the amusing headline "Spider-Man Licks the Toad"). Did this episode begin in the Mirror Universe, or something?

Well, actually, the reason those headlines are oddly supportive of Spider-Man is because this montage is happening in Peter Parker's head. Though I like to think J. Jonah Jameson actually printed a news story accusing Spider-Man of licking toads. In contrast to this heroic fantasy, Peter Parker is quite sick with the flu. Unfortunately, this means that Drake Bell will be doing his best impression of a sick person this episode, which takes a left turn into "surfer dude" a few times.

Aunt May tries to come in with a nice macrobiotic shake for him, but he quickly closes the door, seeing as how he's dressed in his Spidey get-up. And she gets the slimy green shake all over her face like this was 90's Nickelodeon.

I would accompany this image with a picture of the Hulk apologizing, but I've got a little thing called "class."
We then cut to Dragon Man, a robot that is technically neither dragon nor man, attacking the cops in the streets of New York City. Spider-Man suddenly swoops in and tosses a ball of webbing straight through the monster, ripping out its heart like its name was Ultron. But as Spider-Man swings down to see his adoring public, it's easy to see that something's... different.

A haircut, maybe?
Peter, meanwhile, is watching the action on TV.

Peter: "Did I just get replaced?"

After that teaser, a montage of New York's newfound love of the black-suited Spider-Man ensues.

J. Jonah Jameson: "Now here's a hero I can get behind!"


J. Jonah Jameson does not condone Spider-Man's violent vigilante activities in general, and distrusts him because he hides his face behind a mask. So when a more mysterious, more brutal version of the web-slinger comes along, what happens? JJJ can't get enough of him. In closing, consistent characterization is being ignored because the writers want to make a joke.

J. Jonah Jameson: "Finally, somebody's doing it right!"

Doing what right? Being a vigilante? Which you disapprove of? Being Spider-Man? Your least favorite person in New York?

Better question, how do you know it's not the same Spider-Man in a new suit, New York? As the audience, we know it's a different Spidey because Peter has the flu. But as far as New York knows, Spider-Man just got some new duds.

Anyway, the montage ends with Flash Thompson ditching all of his old Spider-Man memorabilia and putting up a Daily Bugle paper praising Black Suit Spidey. Peter is absolutely confused by all this.

Peter: "I mean, how'd he get so popular so fast?"

A completely valid question. One that could reveal a sinister plot to gain the public's trust for nefarious deeds. Which is why all we get is a Facebook joke in a cutaway gag.

Some time later, Nick Fury and the Sandwich Club are going over footage of the Black Suit Spider-Man as the still-sick Red-and-Blue-Suit Spider-Man joins them.

Nick Fury: "This new kid looks like an up-and-comer. What do we know about him?"

That he looks exactly like a smaller version of that Venom symbiote, complete with the same unique chest symbol. Which you'd think would be a red flag.

Spider-Man: "C'mon, you guys can't see it?"
Nova: "See what? A guy with a cooler costume than yours?"

Nova, you're an idiot.

Luckily, Nick Fury's here to set the team straight.

Nick Fury: "The question is... where did he come from? What's his story?"


You've got to be kidding me.

Spider-Man: "It's Venom! It's back!"
Nova: "Venom? No way! That thing was huge; and this is just a guy in a suit."

Okay, well, Nova's an idiot. Iron Fist, you're the level-headed one. Talk some sense.

Iron Fist: "Perhaps you may be seeing connections where there are none."


Power Man: "You sure you don't have your nose outta joint 'cause this guy's doing your job better than you?"


Why is everybody suddenly an idiot?

The last time the Sandwich Club saw someone who looked like this, it was body-snatching goo monster of unknown origin. They literally have no proof that this isn't the same symbiote, or perhaps a different symbiote. So why isn't the possibility on the table? Why isn't Fury trying to ascertain if this is or isn't Venom again? Why is the entire Sandwich Club just shrugging and saying "Venom was taller, this can't be him"?

Oh, yeah, these guys have nothing in common.
I can only come up with one reasonable conclusion. Nick Fury knows that the new Spider-Man is Venom. Fury wants the Venom symbiote. If they take it into custody, they may be able to tame it and replicate it, giving S.H.I.E.L.D. an army of Agent Venoms. And even if they can't control it, a single Venomized soldier could do a lot of damage in Latveria, Madripoor, or wherever they need to attack. And in a better episode, that would be the case. Because otherwise, it looks like everybody's IQs went down for the sole purpose of showing us just how perfect Spider-Man is.

Anyway, there was a parody of the intro to Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends that I skipped in my incredulity, and Spider-Man goes off in his own incredulity to get to the bottom of this. Soon enough, Dragon Man's back with a circular plate over his gaping chest wound.

The King Hippo Gambit.
This time, BS Spidey (it stands for "Black Suit," but the other meaning kind of fits, too) beats Dragon Man to death with his own tail before showing off to the crowd. In the crowd is this creepy little boy who just stares.

Into your soul, that is.
Spider-Man shows up for a little chat, but BS Spidey's not in the mood.

Spider-Man: "So what are you?"
BS Spider-Man: "I'll tell you what I am. I'm better than you."

After Spider-Man chases his doppelgänger through the city with no result, Norman Osborn is meeting with Otto Octavius in his evil lair. Octavius shows Osborn the news footage of the new Spider-Man and tells him that it looks like it could be the Venom symbiote with a new host. Osborn orders Octavius to get to the bottom of the situation, so Octavius gets ready to send Dragon Man back out.

The next day, I think, Peter still has the sniffles as Sam comes up to be a jerk. After he leaves, Harry runs up to Peter and tells him how terrible he looks. But Peter notices that Harry looks different, too. He's got some kind of wrist device. Harry takes Peter into the bathroom to show him what his device can do. Which isn't a euphemism, I swear.

The device contains the Venom symbiote, which allows Harry to suit up as the new Spider-Man. Boy, it almost makes you wonder just where Harry got this nifty gadget.

At Peter's urging, Harry unsuits. Peter is visibly unnerved by the whole deal, so Harry attempts to put his mind at ease before segueing into how proud ol' Norman will be that his son's a superhero. Spider-Man soliloquizes to the camera that Norman isn't really the type to be impressed by anything Harry does (which we already know) before he himself segues into a "humorous" montage about how difficult it is to have a costume that isn't alive.

After that particular brand of nonsense, Peter reminds Harry that the symbiote kinda sorta wrecked his house while attacking people. But Harry explains that he's only using a small portion of the symbiote. And he took some time to tame it; he didn't just put it on willy-nilly. But Peter's not convinced. He says that even if the Venom is trained, being a superhero's hard work.

Harry: "Pff. How would you know?"

This is actually an interesting dilemma for Peter. Does he reveal his secret to his best friend? Or does he continue to keep the secret from what could become his greatest enemy? In the end, Peter simply quotes something he heard from a wise man.

With great power, there must also come great responsibility.

But in a flashback, we see that Harry was told something different.

Norman Osborn: "...And with great power... can come great reward."

Harry, apparently shunned by his best friend, tries to leave. As Peter grabs his arm to stop him, Harry audibly hisses. And of course, Peter has to point it out to us like we're not paying attention. He also sneezes all over the camera. It's disgusting.

You must now suffer with me.
Thankfully, he promises to "vampire sneeze" in the future.

Later that day, Stormin' Norman is on the phone with Octavius, saying that he'll be on his way to the evil lair of evil, when Harry shows up with a certain something to show his dad. But Norman blows off his son with shame and disappointment. That night, Harry goes web-slinging while being monitored by Spider-Man. Spidey gets a call from Fury, who suspects that Spidey knows something about the new BS Spider-Man.

Nick Fury: "Let me remind you. If you're hiding some vital piece of information about Mr. Black-Spider-Venom...."

He is. But nothing will come of this warning.

Spider-Man explains to us that he's hiding the information about Harry for a good reason. After all, "secret identities" need to be just that. Secret. And with an imaginary sequence where he reveals his identity as Peter Parker to the world (taking a jab at Civil War in the process), we see all the villains coming to get him as a civilian.

Aunt May: "You had to tell people."

Strong sarcasm, considering Aunt May was shot after Spidey revealed himself. (Leading to a storyline called Back in Black, coincidentally.) And then Spider-Man sold his marriage to the devil to reverse that. So, yeah. Secret identity. I'm 100% behind it.

And I'm sure Aunt May is, too.
Spider-Man swings of to continue his recon, but runs into Dragon-Man instead. And naturally, this is when he runs out of web fluid.

Spider-Man: "Are we sure spiders can't fly?"

Outside of internet hoaxes, they can't. Except for the ones that glide around on strands of their own webs. This is called "kiting."

Somewhere in the world, there are spiders gliding through the air at this very moment. Sleep well tonight.
BS Spider-Man takes out Dragon-Man yet again, but starts having aggression issues and starts attacking his fans. Spidey leaps in to save the civilians, and Harry starts getting more and more Venomy as the fight progresses, until finally....

Harry: "I... Am... Venom."

The now-over-muscled Venom fights our hero as Harry struggles to escape his gooey prison. He ends up taking Spider-Man down and the remnants of Harry inside Venom's mind lead it attempt to prove its worth to Norman Osborn by presenting Spider-Man as a trophy. Venom crashes Norman's board meeting and starts up with the crazy ranting, so Spidey kicks him back out the window. After more fighting through the city, Venom gets knocked into a transformer. The electrical kind, not Optimus Prime. From there, Spidey hits the beast into the Bugletron, frying it into nothingness and releasing Harry.

Harry has a minor moment of angst over his actions, but Spider-Man tells him that it was Venom's fault, not his. Harry crushes his wrist gadget and introduces himself to the wall-crawler, not realizing who it is under the mask. Spider-Man considers unmasking for his friend... but decides against it for the same reasons as before. Instead, he sneezes again (eliciting advice from Harry to "vampire sneeze") and heads off.

In his secret lair, Octavius looks over the footage of Venom's defeat and muses over the idea that Norman's own son was inside the monster. Speaking of Norman, he bursts in to gush over the raw power of the symbiote and vows to get Octavius whatever he needs to harness Venom's power.

Over on the helicarrier, Peter's gotten over his cold and is busy bragging about the fight to Fury. Fury's not too impressed and still suspects that Peter knows who Venom is. Peter raises his hand to Galactus (seriously) and denies everything.

Galactus does not tolerate liars.
But Peter also says that it doesn't really matter; after all, Venom's gone for good. But as we cut to Harry Osborn in bed, a small speck of the symbiote is still inside his ear. And that's why you need to clean them out regularly, people.

The next day, Peter greets his teammates in the helicarrier. They're all sick now. And because Peter was the one who got them all sick, they rush over to beat him up. Because they're all jerks who think its okay to punish someone over something he had no control over. I'm sure they're going to go attack Al Roker next because it's too cloudy out.

And with that, the episode ends. Now let's talk about this goo-filled episode. Seriously, between that macrobiotic shake, Peter's sneezes, and Venom himself, there was a lot of goo to go around.


  1. You see, it's all a plot from Red Skull to stupidize the world so he and his Cabal can take control of it easily, it all ended when it had the opposite effect on Hulk and, temporarily, made him Joe Fixit, who, then proceeded to beat him up.

    1. Sadly, Joe Fixit's heroic deeds were removed from history by the VFX artists with a little help from the Reality Stone.

      ...yes, I'm still bummed that Grey Hulk wasn't in Age of Ultron.

  2. So, no one even bothered to name new hero? Was everyone just saying "That new Spider-Man lookalike is a true hero!" ?