Monday, June 8, 2015

Recap: Ultimate Spider-Man "Field Trip"

Good old field trips. I don't think I know a single person who didn't love field trips. I mean, even when the destination sucked, you could still play Pokémon on the way there.

What's even better is that the last episode to be themed around something having to do with school wasn't too bad. Perhaps this episode will be even better? Or maybe it'll be as disappointing as that field trip to the Organ Museum I took in elementary school.

Pipe organs, not human ones. I was very disappointed.
The episode opens at the museum where, someday, Spider-Man will fight off an ancient sorceress with a nanny for backup. But this is not that day. On this day, Spider-Man's class is having a field trip. Hence the title.

Principal Coulson is giving the tour, which you'd think would be done by a tour guide, but that's really neither here nor there. What is here is a rock in a glass case that Coulson's busy talking about. He describes it as a Nordic rune stone, and I immediately recognize it as an exact copy of the Tablet of Life and Time that cameoed in the Thor film in Odin's vault.

'Cause I'm a giant nerd like that.

Why is it here? Doesn't matter; I'm being pedantic. I can forgive this minor discrepancy between two different continuities, especially since the tablet was an easily-missable Easter egg. And this is just a little nod to its film appearance.

I may be pedantic, but I try to be fair. And in the spirit of fairness, I will admit that I really like what Coulson is saying about Norse mythology. He mentions that names like Loki, Odin, and Thor were once relegated to the realm of mythology before these beings made their big reappearance in modern times. And I like this glimpse into the societal changes caused by the reemergence of what were once thought to be gods. Myths are reevaluated and legends are being taught as history. It really is a nice touch.

But as ever, Peter Parker has to open his mouth. This time, he explains to us that he hates field trips. And we see why when he shows us a montage of all the times he's been bitten by something on these outings. A goat, a dolphin, and yes, a certain radioactive spider.

After a gag where Peter imagines what it would be like if the goat had been radioactive, we cut to the other members of the Sandwich Club looking at the stone. And of all people, Danny's the one who decides to do something stupid. He reads the text on the rune stone, thanks to his monk training including ancient languages.

Danny: "Warrior... be afraid... of the coming... winter?"

Hm. Must have been written by one of Tony Stark's ancestors.

Now, I'd like to do a bit more nitpicking. And since it's my blog, I'll go right ahead.

The words on the stone are copied exactly from the Tablet of Life and Time from Thor. And those words, though decidedly inaccurate to actual runes, can be translated. Each rune has an English alphabet counterpart. And that meaning is "Those Who Sit Above in Shadow," referring to the powerful beings that were fueled by the Ragnarok cycle in the comics. So Danny translated the runes into a completely unrelated phrase.

I spent more time making this chart than the show's creative staff did on researching the tablet's text.
But like I said, I'm nitpicking. I mean, it's not like we can expect this show's designers to do a five-second Google search to pull up the Marvel Cinematic Universe wiki and see if that language on the rune stone actually means anything. I mean, you can't expect them to go to so much trouble for such a tiny detail. Even though they went to the trouble of designing Peter's juice box to quite obviously be a Mott's.

Priorities, I guess.
But at least they got that detail right. Everybody knows that superheroes drink Mott's.

None of that Juicy Juice nonsense.
Now, you may have noticed all that snow blowing around in that picture of Peter. Well, that's because Danny's magic words just summoned a Frost Giant. Way to go, Danny.

Coulson proceeds to get the class to safety, except for the Sandwich Club, who stay behind to suit up and fight the monster. Which means that if this museum has any security cameras, they just found out the secret identities of Spider-Man, Power Man, Iron Fist, and White Tiger.

The fight does not go well, seeing as how our "heroes" are acting more dysfunctionally than ever. They get in each other's way, and have all their flaws magnified to the nth degree. Peter is a terrible leader, White Tiger's abrasive, Iron Fist thinks instead of acts, Power Man acts instead of thinks, and Nova's an idiot. That in particular gets Nova smacked down like nobody's business, which Spider-Man insists on replaying in slow motion because he takes pleasure in Nova's pain.

Oddly enough, the delirious Nova actually notices Spider-Man talking to the audience. Nova even demands that we show ourselves so he can beat us up before he finally passes out. It's handled fairly awkwardly.

Thankfully, a real hero shows up in the form of the God of Thunder, the mighty Thor. With nothing more than bolts of lightning from his mighty hammer, he encases the Frost Giant in a solid block of ice.

"Do I even need to point out any of the problems with that?"
Spider-Man offers his help, but Thor dismisses them as oddly-dressed children and goes on to defeat the Frost Giant himself. He further belittles the team by telling them to go get "Son of Coul," to White Tiger's annoyance.

White Tiger: "You didn't notice, but we're a pretty solid team."
Spider-Man: "Whoa, whoa. I wouldn't go that far."

I agree. The Sandwich Club is a dysfunctional wreck that can barely solve the problem of the week. And don't get me started on when they actually cause the problem of the week....

Spider-Man: "Let the team leader handle this."
White Tiger: "If you're team leader... then start acting like one and cut the solo act, webhead."

Oh, where do I start? The fact that White Tiger was trying to give orders of her own? The fact that nobody on the team ever listens to Spider-Man when he tries to give orders? The fact that "the solo act" has given him more experience and solved more problems than working with a team has?

Actually, I think I'll follow Thor's example and walk away from this one.

Thor leaves the bickering "heroes" and examines the obvious rune stone around the Frost Giant's neck. Before he can grab it, though, Spider-Man's Spider-Sense goes off and he warns Thor not to touch it.  Thor: "The matter is well in hand."  And as Thor touches it, he gets engulfed in a torrent of magical energy. And when the magic is done doing its voodoo....

Throg: The Frog of Thunder.
Silly? Yes. But accurate to not only the essence of the original myths, but the source material.

And there were more people complaining when Thor became a woman. Go figure.
Thor proclaims that only his evil brother Loki could have bewitched him like this, and uses a nearby tapestry to explain the rivalry between him and his brother, as well as Loki's desire to rule Asgard. Peter has a flashback to the bus before the field trip, where Coulson was giving the information that just might lead the team to victory today.

Coulson: "And what is, if I may mix mythologies, Loki's Achille's heel? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone?"

Bueller? Bueller?

Sam decides to get in Peter's face and show him a terrible, spiky Nova costume he deigned for himself, to Peter's protests.

Sam: "Relax, Parker! When are you ever gonna need to know this stuff?"

You know, just once, I'd like to say, "Good job, Nova!" or "Nova does the smart thing." But as always, I'm stuck reiterating the fact that Nova is a massive screw-up. Because he's an idiot.

And in all seriousness, I have to wonder why this show not only goes out of its way to portray Nova as a complete screw up, like when he decided to take on Doctor Doom or go visit the Sandman, but also show Spider-Man as being mostly in the right for being a jerk to the buckethead.

Thor hops off to go do battle with Loki, but Spider-Man quickly points out that, well, he's a frog. Thor insists that he's still the God of Thunder at heart... before eyeing a juicy fly buzzing around and eating it. With a little convincing, Thor opens a portal to Asgard and takes the Sandwich Club through it. But when they arrive, they find the place and all of its citizens encased in ice, meaning that Loki has already taken over. And thanks to a Frost Giant ambush, Thor quickly ends up the same way. Along with everyone but Spider-Man, but he soon ends up in an icy prison in front of Loki, too.

Thor is bounced around inside a rubbery "containment spell" by Loki as he gloats about how easy the whole thing was.

"Hey, Frost Giants. Shirts vs. skins at b-ball?"
So, seeing as how Loki's gloating about his master plan, let's think about it for a second.

Loki gloats that he had been using the "Norn Stone" Thor touched to cover Asgard in ice. Thank to Thor's vanity and pride, the stone transformed Thor into a frog.

Okay, good so far.

And he made a pact with the Frost Giants so Thor wouldn't be able to resist fighting the one with the Norn Stone, where he would no doubt just grab the stone like a fool and be transformed.

Okay. But was Loki's plan entirely predicated on somebody not only just happening to be able to translate the rune tablet in the museum, but deciding to read that text out loud? Have the writers forgotten that Danny summoned the Frost Giant on accident? Or was that actually supposed to be part of Loki's master plan? And it's not like Loki's just been waiting a thousand years for someone to read the tablet, because he specifically waited until Odin was in the Odinsleep before he struck. This plan was specifically timed. Again, was Danny's translation and incantation all part of the plan? Or a happy accident?

I'm so confused.

Anyway, Loki gloats about how the Frost Giants are busy trying to break down the doors to Odin's bedroom to kill him, blah blah blah.

"Thor, Loki, keep it down! Daddy's trying to sleep!"
Finally, Spider-Man speaks up from his icy prison and gets Loki's attention shortly before Iron Fist finds the cage's weak point and attacks it. With the Sandwich Club free, they're able to rescue Thor before getting their butts handed to them on a mithril platter. Thor teleports them all to safety, but gets all indignant about running away. Spider-Man tells him that running away sucks, but dying sucks more. He also says they need a plan.

Nova: "Oh, yeah? And who put you in charge?"

Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Second episode. Next question.

Thor realizes what an arrogant jerk he's been, and the whole group's tempers settle down. First things first. Turn Thor back into a human.

Nova: "I've got it. Ava, kiss the frog."
White Tiger: "What!? You kiss the frog."
Nova: "Nuh-uh, that's not how it works. I've seen the movie."

Yeah, and look how well that plan turned out.
But Thor remembers someone who might be able to help them. Maybe. He takes the Sandwich Club to a cave in the side of a mountain where the master forger Dwarf Eitri lives.

Nova: "A dwarf? Lollipop guild or classic Dopey?"

The Lollipop Guild was made up of Munchkins, not dwarves. Stop talking, Nova.

Thor starts giving all his titles and talks all fancy-like, but Eitri stops him. You see, Eitri's really mad that Thor never thanked him for that hammer. Or writes. Or visits.

"You've left this high five hanging for seven centuries, Thor!"
Sure, this may seem a little childish, petty, and lesson-of-the-day-ish, but it actually makes sense. The dwarf made Mjolnir, the most powerful weapon in existence. And not even a word of thanks? Remember what Will Turner said in the first Pirates of the Caribbean film.

"A craftsman is always proud to hear his work is appreciated."

Never telling Eitri that he might appreciate the most powerful weapon in the universe, forged in a dying star, might be the greatest insult possible to him.

At Spidey's urging, Thor apologizes not only for being a jerk, but for never showing the proper respect or gratitude. And with the Prince of Asgard humbled, Eitri agrees to lend his services to the heroes.

Sometime later, back in Asgard, Loki's giants have broken the door to Odin's bedroom.

Loki: "Knock knock, father! Who's there? Death! Long live Loki!"

I.. just... what?  Thor shows up to stop his brother, and in a flash of light, summons the rest of the Sandwich Club. This time, they're armed.

Roll for initiative.
The fight scene is interspersed with flashbacks detailing Eitri giving the Sandwich Club their new weapons.  He explains to them that their weapons will turn their weaknesses into strength. He gives White Tiger a bow and arrow, saying that it will complement her ability to see the flaws in others. Except that "seeing flaws" was what Iron Fist was doing all episode when he was looking for the weak spot in everything he attacked. I would have given White Tiger a rapier, what with that sharp tongue of hers.

Nova gets a halberd, which will apparently teach him patience because it requires a steady hand.

Iron Fist gets a sword, which will teach him not to wait for others to give him the opportunity to attack, but to make his own opportunity.

Power Man, who prefers to use his powers defensively, is given an axe so he can learn to unleash his true power.

All in all, these weapons don't really turn their greatest weaknesses into strength, but instead are metaphors to teach them lessons. And Spider-Man doesn't even get one.

Eitri: "You have had the power inside you all along."

Did he just need to click his heels together three times and chant "With great power, comes great responsibility"?

Eitri: "You have others who trust you."

No, he doesn't. He has the Sandwich Club.

Eitri: "Lead them."

Kind of hard when they won't listen.

Spider-Man evens vents about this to us.

Spider-Man: "Sometimes, it reeks being the title character. You have to act like 'learning a lesson' is somehow better than getting a cool weapon."

Straight from the horse's mouth, everybody.

Spider-Man gives the orders in the final battle with Loki and the Frost Giants, and things actually go really well. Loki moves to Odin's bedchambers in one final attempt to kill the All-Father, but Spider-Man webs up the door and stands in front of him. And Spider-Man whips out what Eitri told him was his greatest weapon.

Eitri: "Your words. You use them as armor to protect yourself from an unkind world."

A fortress deep and mighty that none may penetrate. Peter has no need for friendship. Friendship causes pain.

Especially if these guys are your "friends."
Eitri: "Today, you must turn them into a weapon."

The moral of the story: Psychological warfare can be a valuable tactic when outmatched with superior firepower.

Spider-Man: "Hey, Loogie. You really wanna take over the world like this?"
Loki: "What are you prattling on about?"

Boom. Loki fails at evil overlording. The correct response is "Yes," punctuated by stuffing Spidey into one of those containment spells. Which would then be followed by the death of Odin.

But Spider-Man has Loki's attention for the time being and insists that Asgard would forever mock him as the "frog-slayer" unless he defeated a fully-powered Thor. So, foolishly, Loki undoes Thor's curse.

Spider-Man: "He didn't just fall for that, did he?"

Not only is the day saved thanks to the villain being an idiot, but the show is even kind enough to point that out to us.

The newly-Asgradian Thor whoops some butt and breaks Loki's Norn stone.

Spider-Man: "Well, color me Aladdin!"

I'm sorry, what does that mean? What was that even in reference to? Djinni? Lamps? Rings? Wishes? One jump ahead of the bread line? One bread ahead of the bread? What are you talking about? How is any of that relevant to current situation? I should not be this confused!

Loki: "The Trickster tricked... by a mere mortal?"
Thor: "He is no mere mortal. He is the Man of Spiders."
Spider-Man: "Close enough."

Loki vows revenge against the wall-crawler and teleports away. In turn, Thor teleports the Sandwich Club back to the museum and thanks them for their help. Spider-Man just remarks that he'd like to have been able to keep those weapons.

Thor: "The dwarves will keep them safe in case you have need of them again."

So remember. Any time from now on that there's a major super-villain on the loose, they left their super-weapons with the dwarves. And they never go back to get them.

But the team does get a consolation prize in the form of a two-headed goat, which promptly bites Spider-Man's hand to complete the joke that was set up in the beginning of the episode. And with that, the episode ends.

So was this field trip an enlightening experience? Or will the team forget everything they learned like I forgot all my Pre-Calculus? Time to review.


  1. I hate to be that guy, but I believe the Aladdin joke was a reference to Spidey tricking Loki into causing his own defeat, like how Aladdin got Jafar to trap himself in a lamp. Not a perfect analogy, but there you go.

    Also, I'm on Spidey's side here: why the heck didn't he get a dwarven weapon? I've been waiting since I was eight to see Spider-Man fight with a cool sword, and this is all I get?

    ... Okay, ranting over. Terribly sorry about that.

    - That One Anon

    1. I figured it was something like that, but I think something like "Color me Br'er Rabbit!" or a reference to any character actually well-known for tricking his enemies would make more sense. But that's Man of Action for you, I guess....

      And yeah, you'd think that Spider-Man would get something. Anything. Maybe a chain whip? Cestus?

      Hey, why not a shield? That would even go along with Eitri's little lesson for him.

    2. Spider-Man for Soul Calibur VI!

      - That One Anon

    3. Spider-Man confirmed for Smash Bros!

  2. "A fortress deep and mighty that none may penetrate. Peter has no need for friendship. Friendship causes pain."

    Damn, that's a depressing thought. It makes me think of how reviewer Mr. Enter spoke of Spongebob, in that neither he or Spiderman actually have any role models or people to look up to help them unconditionally. Everyone usually uses them for their benefits and they don't really have good compass or analytical prowess to avoid bad situations or have any real power to change it without at least minimal suffering. Maybe Thor should use the rainbow bridge to drag the Sandwich Club to the land of Ponyville to learn a thing or two about how to be better friends.

    But on a lighter note, my local comic book store was called "Role Initiative" before changing it to "Gateways to Adventure" (I even designed the unused mascot to go with the new store name and won a ten dollar giftcard).

    1. Yeah, I'll be talking in GREAT DETAIL about Peter's so-called "friends" and "allies" in my Review of "Venomous."

      And I would give anything to have Season 4 of Ultimate Spider-Man be called "Ultimate Spider-Man: Friendship is Magic" instead of "Ultimate Spider-Man vs. the Sinister 6."

      Congratulations on winning that gift card, BTW.

    2. I would pay every dollar I have for that crossover. Too bad MLP comics are handled by IDW...

      But hey, we could still get Marvel meets Gravity Falls, right? Right...?

      - That One Anon

    3. Hey, if it was good enough for Phineas and Ferb....

  3. I'm choosing to assume Danny reading the inscription didn't summon the Frost Giant and the Frost Giant was sicced on the heroes by Loki just as Danny was coincidentally talking out loud...

    1. But then what was the point of the writing?

    2. Right. yeah, probably Danny did summon it or whatever. Literacy's more dangerous than it looks!

    3. Actually, perhaps the inscription was a recent one? Like, maybe it had just appeared because Loki was enacting his plan?

      ...maybe it's just bad writing.

  4. I think the problem was less that Thor became a woman and more that he was replaced by a woman. I mean, what next, should Maria Hill start calling herself "Nick Fury" when she's the in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D.?

    1. Well, as I understood it, the idea was that Thor wasn't really REPLACED, so much as incarnated in a new body... but I just can't get in an uproar these days about changes I know will be reversed eventually. Maybe I'm getting old.

    2. Nope, original Thor was still walking around, now just calling himself as Odinson.

      Besides, most popular "Thors" went by new/their own names, like Beta Ray Bill or Thunderstrike. Female Thor who actually calls herself Thor (but is actually Jane Foster) just seemed to be too ridiculous attempt at diversity to some. Also, putting critics' words into Absorbing Man's mouth so Thor can beat him was considered to many to be childish and petty.

    3. Yeah, I'm going to admit that I haven't been following the story too closely. As I said, I don't get in an uproar about changes I know are going to be reversed.

      That Absorbing Man thing is pretty standard writers'-rebuttal, so I guess it was mean-spirited or thinly-disguised.

    4. I'm literally quoting "Damn feminists are ruining everything!" And then she hits him out while thinking "This is for saying feminist like it's a four lettered word" Oh, and then Titania shows up (while quipping that only she gets to break AB's jaw) tell her husband she will handle this, take his chain-ball-thing, suddenly knocks him out and then lets Thor knock her out, out of sheer respect and cause little prison time will actually be good for A-Man cause his eye wanders.

    5. Yeesh. And I thought Michael Crichton was being unsubtle when he featured one of his critics in a book as a child molester with a tiny penis.