Monday, June 15, 2015

Recap: The Spectacular Spider-Man "Market Forces"

Back to Spectacular Spider-Man as we switch from Biology to Economics.
There will be a test.

It will not be open-book.
The episode opens up on an armored vehicle driving down the streets of New York City. And since there’s a rockin’ tune blaring in the background, you can bet your tuchas that there’s going to be some kind of hijack, race, or robbery. Our question is answered when the vehicle is surrounded on all sides by semis.

The semi in the back speeds up, forcing the armored vehicle into the back of the first semi, which is filled with gas to knock out the guards in the vehicle. Men inside the semi cut their way in with a torch, and the vehicle’s precious package soon ends up being brought to the warehouse hideout of everybody’s favorite gangster named after a carnivorous fish, Hammerhead. Runners up include Doug and Dinsdale Piranha as well as Michele Sindona.

The Robster was disqualified for being neither carnivorous nor a fish.
Hammerhead’s deliveryman is revealed to be Montana of the Enforcers when he takes off his welding mask, which makes me wonder if he wore the mask all the way here.
Speaking of masks, the package Montana just stole contains one. Alongside a padded suit and gauntlets. And Hammerhead wants Montana to put them on as a special favor to the ever-mysterious “Big Man.”

After the opening title sequence, we cut to Peter Parker sprawled out on his bed in his Spidey suit. Aunt May comes in to wake him up, so he quickly covers up and tells her that he’s not decent. With that crisis averted, Aunt May tells him that she’ll be at Mrs. Watson’s and that breakfast is downstairs waiting for him. When ho goes down to get his waffles, he finds a stack of past-due bills that Aunt May’s been hiding. But before he can worry about that too hard, Aunt May returns and starts gushing over Mrs. Watson’s niece, Mary Jane.

Aunt May: “She has a wonderful personality!”

Not according to the Gwen Stacy fans, as I found out a couple weeks back.

And Peter assumes that “wonderful personality” is code for “ugly.” So he quickly excuses himself and webslings away to tutor Harry Osborn. On the way, Eddie Brock calls him up to call him out on selling out his friends by selling those incriminating pics of Dr. Connors to the Bugle. But he lets Peter know that he won’t hold a grudge.

Meanwhile, some ne’er-do-well is up on a rooftop keeping an eye on Spider-Man’s movements. Peter soon arrives at the Osborns’ place, greeted by Norman Osborn himself. As per usual for any version of Norman Osborn, he talks about what a wonderful person Peter is while his own son’s in earshot. Once inside Harry’s room, Peter checks his email to find a notification for their school’s Fall formal, which leads Harry to snark about their lack of dates.

Peter: “You could probably ask Mary Jane Watson.”

You say that so flippantly now, Peter....
Peter: “Get this. She has a ‘wonderful personality.’”
Yeah, how dare she be an interesting person.

Harry says he was planning on asking Gwen “as a friend.”

And Uncle Ben just went to buy cigarettes.
But before that conversation can go much farther, Peter gets an email from J. Jonah Jameson, the publisher of the Daily Bugle. He owes Peter a paycheck for certain photos of a certain Spider-Man.
Peter: “Dude, sorry, I’ll be back in an hour! Two tops, promise!”

Wow. Way to shirk that great responsibility, Peter.

Peter soon arrives at the Daily Bugle, designed to look like the one from the 2002 film, which was in turn based on the Flatiron Building. Inside, J. Jonah Jameson (Daran Norris) is talking at his secretary, Betty Brant (Grey DeLisle) and being his usual self. Peter walks up to the irate editor, but gets shooed back into the elevator in a case of mistaken identity.

J. Jonah Jameson: “Now where’s that Parker guy? I emailed him 76 minutes ago!”

After Betty points out his mistake, Jameson sends her down to go get Peter. Peter leaves the Bugle in a huff, but realizes that he never got his money. As he rushes back in, he gets stuck in a loop going around the revolving door with Betty, resulting in a classic meet cute.

"Well, crap. I'm a love interest now."
But Peter’s a minor, so they don’t start flirting right away. In fact, once JJJ meets with Peter for real, he explains that his age was what got him thrown out.

J. Jonah Jameson: “I was expecting someone old enough to have, you know, armpit hair.”

As with any good employer, armpit hair is the first thing Jameson checks for regarding potential employees.

Jameson is a blunt man, and he tells Peter that he wants more photos. In two hours. Peter stammers and says he’ll try, and Jameson responds by yelling at him to get out as his mouth grows inhumanly large.

Is he dislocating his jaw like a snake?
Outside Jameson’s office, Betty introduces herself officially and gets to work on Peter’s check. They make small talk, and Betty tells Peter that Jameson’s a nice guy, deep down.
Peter: “We talkin’ Marianas Trench ‘deep,’ or Dante’s ninth circle ‘deep’?”

Yeah, you’d know all about the ninth circle of Hell after you sold out your friends last episode, Peter.

Later that night, which I can only assume is after Jameson’s deadline for photos, Spider-Man swings through the city as the lookout from earlier spots him. He radios it in to Marko and O’Hirn, who get the signal to complete their robbery-in-progress. Spidey chases them to their warehouse and webs up his camera to get some shots.

Spider-Man: ”Two hours ‘til deadline? No sweat.”

Hate to burst your bubble, Spidey, but Jameson said that when it was still light out. And who knows how long you’ve kept Harry waiting. Spider-Man webs up the two crooks with no problems, only to get blindsided by a shockwave to the face.

Montana: “I reckon that came as a bit of a shock, eh bug?”

Montana's got some spiffy new duds.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is Spectacular Spider-Man’s version of the Shocker. Gone is the classic Herman Schultz secret identity. The creative team once said in an interview that Shocker was more interesting as a costume than as an actual character. And I agree. Very little has been done over the years to make Shocker interesting and engaging as more than a generic thug. And that was particularly true when they were making this show.

I’ve got a soft spot for chivalrous cowboy outlaws, so Montana’s demeanor here really appeals to me. And giving such a personality (and accent) to a costumed villain who isn't dressed like a cowboy is something that you don’t see very often. And I love it.

Shocker: “Hold still, son, so I can put ya’s outta yer misery!”

God, I love it.

We get the obligatory “come up with a name” bit, before he and the webhead continue fighting. A kick to the chest reveals that Shocker’s suit not only protects him from his own vibrations, but also blocks enemy attacks, giving him a distinct advantage. O’Hirn, lacking such an advantage, decides to hit Spider-Man with a truck. Which, in turn, makes Shocker zap him across the room. Because he may be a thug, but he's a thug of his word. Ain't no one gonna off the webhead but him.

Shocker and Spidey keep fighting until Spidey ends up in a trash compactor. And with no C-3PO to turn it off, Shocker watches the machine work and waits until it finishes making a trash cube before he hitches a ride on a helicopter. After O’Hirn and Marko book it, Spider-Man breaks apart the trash cube and escapes, revealing that he survived by hiding in a refrigerator. Indiana Jones-style.

But with fewer fans complaining.
But it’s not all good news. His paycheck got ruined in the fight. Which is why you should always ask for direct deposit.
The next day, during gym class, Harry gives Peter a piece of his mind about bailing like that. Peter responds with a total-uber-super-no-backsies promise to show up later that night. Harry proceeds to utterly fail to climb the rope, eliciting a laugh from Flash Thompson. Determined to put the jock in his place, Peter challenges him to a race to the top of the rope while Gwen yells impotently for Peter to throw back the volleyball that sailed over in his direction. Flash forfeits, due to Peter’s ungodly trash odor, despite showering three times.

With no penis-measuring contest to partake in, Peter finally throws Gwen’s ball back right as she turns her back, hitting her in the head.

Coach: “Parker! Hit the showers!”
Flash: “Yeah, for all our sakes.”

The moral of the story: Smell good and you won’t hit people with volleyballs. As a corollary, high-school boys, Axe body spray is not a replacement for a shower.

Peter returns to the Bugle….

Betty: “Pete? Are you wearing perfume?”

Neither is perfume, high-schoolers. Just FYI.

Anyway, he nervously asks for a replacement check, and she agrees to it. She also takes the opportunity to introduce Peter to Robbie Robertson, the editor (Phil LaMarr). Peter finds out that he’s the father of Randy Robertson from school, because it's a small world after all, and Robbie says that while the fact that Peter has any photos is impressive, the photos themselves suck.

He advises Peter to get a new camera with his paycheck while Jameson comes over and starts calling all the new photos crap one by one.

"It looks like you put the camera on a timer and walked away!"
Except the one that shows Shocker standing triumphant over Spider-Man in the trash compactor.

How did Peter even get this angle?
And so, Jameson gives his justification for why he will continually bad mouth Spider-Man is this particular series. Here, it’s not because he dislikes the wall crawler. He just knows that showing a hero failing will sell more papers. But we see that, despite his cynicism, he’s not entirely a jerk when he gives Peter the advice to bathe in tomato juice.

Jameson: “Only thing after taking pictures in a dump."

Peter leaves the Bugle, thinking that it would be nice to see Betty again, meaning he should take more pictures. He goes to a store to buy a new camera, but the nervous owner is closing for the day, despite the sign saying they don’t close for another hour. O’Hirn and Marko are in back, loading up a truck, when Spider-Man shows up to let them know to let Shocker know that Spidey wants a rematch.

Later, Peter arrives home as Aunt May looks over her bills. He almost hands her the money he made at the Bugle, but doesn’t. After all, he still needs that new camera. Still, Aunt May’s looking on the bright side of things.

Aunt May: “…I feel like banana cake. You?”

Peter declines the offers and says he’ll just go to bed.

Aunt May: “Helping Harry must’ve really tuckered you out.”

The next day, Harry is absolutely furious.

Flash: “Let me get this straight. You ditched out on the only guy in the whole school who actually liked you?”

Yeah, you’ve got problems when Flash Thompson is calling you out on being a jerk.

That night, Hammerhead interrupts Montana’s game of billiards to let him know that the “Big Man” isn’t happy with the fact that Spider-Man isn’t dead. Peter Parker, elsewhere, has his new camera and a hankerin’ to use it. He spies Betty outside the Bugle and greets her while she gets a foot-long hot dog.

Boy, Clark Kent's not happy with how long he's been waiting for a hot dog.
She asks him to hold her hot dog for a second while she puts mustard on it.
Peter: “We should do this more often.”

You want to hold her foot-long more often…? Hey, I’m not judging.

Peter: “We have so much in common! We both… put mustard on our hot dogs.”

Yeah, because it’s not like you’ll find anyone else in New York putting mustard on their hot dogs.

He mustards up the courage to ask her to the Fall formal. And no, I’m not apologizing for that pun.

Betty: “It’s a very sweet offer, but….”

But he’s not even old enough to have armpit hair and literally smells like garbage.

Betty: “I’m just too old for you.”

"Seriously, Peter. There are laws."
"But we had a meet cute and everything...."
Suddenly, the Earth moves. Not like that. Peter and Betty rush to the Daily Bugle offices where Robbie is mobilizing the team to investigate the earthquake. Peter checks a nearby map of the quakes and realizes that Shocker is leaving a straight line of breadcrumbs to draw Spider-Man out. Spidey follows the trail to an abandoned theatre with the knowledge that Shocker’s after him. Which is why he just rushes in without a plan, I guess. As they fight, Spider-Man demands to know why Shocker’s been out to kill him since before they even met.
Shocker: “’Taint nothing personal, hoss. Simple truth is, if a man’s a man, he honors his responsibility.”

Huh. The villain has a better set of principles than the hero.

They keep fighting, and Spider-Man decides that, since the building’s condemned, he can go ahead and collapse it on Shocker. He tricks Shocker into destroying the support beams, which…

...seems rather familiar.
The strategy works, even with Shocker’s vibrating force fields in play, and we cut to Harry Osborn returning home to throw his backpack at a vase.
Norman: “You seem… troubled, son.”

Nothing gets by you, Norman.

Harry vents about failing his calculus test because Peter abandoned him, and Norman tells him, basically, to man up and take charge of his own life. Which is actually good advice. Norman might not be the best dad, but it's easy to see that, despite his praise of Peter, he wants his own son to succeed.

He walks back into his office and apologizes to his visitor about the interruption. Despite that fact that Norman claimed in the first episode that he never apologizes. Then again, he probably doesn’t mean it. But it’s not like you can say “Sorry, not sorry” when you’re meeting with Hammerhead. Hammerhead is wondering if Norman’s in league with the wallcrawler, but Norman insists that if he were, he wouldn’t have let them know about the vibro-suit Tri-Corp was working on.

Norman: “Tri-Corp’s my competitor in the super-mercenary field. If their prototypes go missing, everyone wins."

Hammerhead sets a phone on the table and the voice of the Big Man comes out, offering a proposition. Because the Lizard, Shocker, and Vulture are doing a good job of keeping Spider-Man busy while Big Man builds a criminal empire, he wants Norman to make more of these “super villains.”

Norman: “What’s in it for me?”
Big Man: “Ample funding.”

And as any scientist will tell you, that’s generous enough. Unless you’re Bruce Banner.

But the Big Man also offers human guinea pigs, which any mad scientist worth their NaCl wants.

Montana is left for the cops, separated from his Shocker suit, and Ned Lee (this show's version of Ned Leeds, played by Andrew Kishino) from the Daily Bugle is on the scene. There’s a note signed by Spider-Man, and Ned calls Robbie, asking for a photographer. But Robbie says that Peter already sent the photos in.

Robbie: “Kid still needs a new camera.”

Because he returned the new one and is busy giving the money to Aunt May to pay the bills.

Aunt May: “Out of the question. Besides, if you’re going to take pictures for the Bugle, you need a new camera.”

Classic sitcom ending if I ever saw one.

Peter: “But a man has to honor his responsibilities.”

"Oh, so you'll take advice about responsibility from a mercenary, but not your own uncle?"
Peter begs her to let him help, and she gives in. But only if he sets aside 10% of each paycheck for a new camera.
Aunt May: “Peter, dear, why do you smell like tomato juice?”

Okay, I lied. that was a classic sitcom ending. And with that, the episode ends.

Review time!


  1. To be exact, Norman told Harry to "cowboy up and do what you have to do." Which actually works well with rest of episode, in subtle way.

    ...Maybe "cowboy" part isn't so subtle, but still.

  2. Wow, gettin' called out for my MJ-bashing. Now I'm all remorseful and whatnot...

    - That One Anon

    1. Oh, pshaw. You've got nothing to be remorseful for.

      If anything, I should be apologizing for responding to your comment with no fewer than three solid walls of text.

      The question of Peter Parker's "true love" is simply a matter of taste.

      I mean, Superman and Lois Lane. Period. Barry Allen and Iris West. Period.

      Those relationships are generally agreed on by most people.

      And then you have Peter Parker, with his eight-or-so love interests over the years....

    2. And about two dozen more if we're talking non-canon.

      - That One Anon