Monday, October 12, 2015

Recap: Ultimate Spider-Man "Beetle Mania"

The sequel to "Exclusive" that no one was asking for!

And the villain the show doesn't deserve... but the kind it definitely needs.

If only this show had heroes to match.
The episode opens on ol' JJJ doing a news broadcast on the Bugletron where temporarily puts aside his rabid hatred of Spider-Man. Not because he's been fined by the FCC for all the unsubstantiated slander he's been spewing, but because a new threat has arrived in New York. A high-tech mercenary known as the Beetle.

Meanwhile, on the streets below, the Trapster's on the loose again, and the Sandwich Club are right on his heels.

Spider-Man: "Get ready for some lame glue jokes."

From him or from you, Spidey?

Surprisingly, Trapster is taken down within a minute or two. And that's because they're actually using teamwork.

No one was more surprised than me.
After the Sandwich Club handily dispatches Trapster, they get commended by Nick Fury back at the helicarrier. In fact, he's so impressed that he gives them their first officially sanctioned S.H.I.E.L.D. mission, making the Sandwich Club more excited than they've been in a while.

Let Nova have this moment.
He still hasn't found out about being retconned from the MAU Guardians of the Galaxy timeline....
There's barely any intelligence on the Beetle. Because he likes it that way. And since he's not going to appreciate the Bugletron announcing his presence to the city, putting everybody on alert, the Sandwich Club is being tasked with preventing the Beetle from taking out J. Jonah Jameson.

How about you arrest him for all that slander? He'll be safe in prison.
Nick Fury: "Beetle wants to shut Jameson up. And he'll end him to do it."

JJJ is so intent on exposing the Beetle as a threat on par with Spider-Man that the Beetle will probably try to silence him permanently to keep his history of weapon theft, selling secrets to Doctor Doom, and jail-breaking MODOK out of the public eye.

Actually, wait, let's take a look at that MODOK.

Hmm. He looks different, but I can't quite put my finger on it....
Okay, let's talk continuity.

MODOK looks different than he does in USM's sister show, Avengers Assemble.

We can chalk this up to one of two things.
  1. Ultimate Spider-Man used the Avengers: EMH design for MODOK because when USM was being made, EMH was still on the air. Or my personal favorite.... 
  2. This version of MODOK traveled from the EMH universe to the Marvel Animation Universe for nefarious reasons and got captured by A.R.M.O.R., the Altered-Reality Monitoring and Operational Response. MODOK agreed to give stolen designs and tech to Beetle to sell to Doctor Doom as long as Beetle busted him out.
A bit of a stretch? Yes, indeed. But sometimes, you can have a little fun with continuity errors.

Anyway, JJJ, ranting on the DBC network, seems to think that he can handle anything the Beetle can throw at him.

Jameson: "There have been threats on my life over this story, but I will not be strong-armed! You want me, Beetle? You know where to find me!"

Yeah, here's the thing. When Tony Stark dared the Mandarin to attack him by giving out his address in Iron Man 3, that was a dumb move that put Pepper Potts, and innocent civilian, in harm's way.

One of these decisions ended well. Here's a hint: It wasn't the second one.
Here, the bad idea is made worse because JJJ is in a building filled with reporters, janitors, IT guys, maintenance men, and other people who have just had their lives put in danger by their own boss.

The safe and smart thing to do would be to place Jameson under arrest for reckless endangerment while the Sandwich Club is sent out to find and stop the Beetle.

Jameson: "J. Jonah Jameson will not hide, nor will he seek protection!"

But instead, Spider-Man and his Not-Quite-Amazing Acquaintances are sent to stake out the Daily Bugle building, despite Spidey's protests that Jameson doesn't want protection.

With nothing to do but keep an eye on the Daily Bugle building from and adjacent rooftop, they all start fantasizing about how each of them would defeat the Beetle. Amusingly, each fantasy features the Beetle wearing a different costume from the comics, including the one with the tube-and-sucker fingers.

You might say I'm a sucker for this sort of thing. ...sorry for that one.
Spidey laments to the audience that he's stuck protecting the one guy who hates him more than anything, and says those magic words.

Spider-Man: "At least it can't get any worse."

Then, right on cue, his phone starts ringing. As an aside, the animation is a bit... odd here. Spidey pats down his tights, indicating that he had no pockets, then reaches behind himself for his phone. So all I can assume is that he had it tucked between his cheeks. Your welcome for that mental image.

It's Mary Jane. As it turns out, she got an interview with J. Jonah Jameson for an internship. One can only imagine that he's finally following up on the events of "Exclusive," where he expressed an interest in quashing her work praising Spider-Man.

Of course, this means that somebody scheduled her job interview to take place while the man interviewing her is being targeted by a terrorist. Worst. Job interview. Ever.

Nova: "Tell her to change it!"
Iron Fist: "Ask her to change it."

But Spidey insists that MJ doesn't change her mind easily, and the audience is "treated" to Spidey's imagination regarding that subject, including encounters with Aunt May, Flash Thompson... And a scenario where Mary Jane Watson talks Galactus out of eating Earth because it's too high in calories and cholesterol.

Spider-Man: "Okay, that one's not real. But it could happen!"

Spidey gets an idea and swoops down as Peter Parker. He finds MJ and tries to convince her to go get pizza, but it's a no-go. He gently brings up that Jameson's had those threats on his life, and all, but MJ is resolute.

Mary Jane: "But what kind of reporter would I be if I let that stop me?"

A live reporter. No pun intended. I mean, sure, you might not be afraid of the Beetle, but you know what? Beetle don't care, he'll shoot you dead anyway.

Mary Jane: "Mr. Jameson's not afraid, why should I be?"

There's an old Klingon proverb that I think is relevant here.

Long ago, a storm was heading for the city of Quin'lat. Everyone took shelter except for one man. The mighty warrior Kahless asked this man why he was going to stay outside. The man replied that he would not hide himself. He was a mighty warrior, and he would make the wind respect him. After the storm, they found him dead.

The wind does not respect a fool.

Mary Jane: "Today, I'm a Bugle intern. Tomorrow, I'm running the whole thing!"

Maybe graduate high school first, MJ? That seems like a better first step. Although... maybe she wants to be there with a contract before JJJ snuffs it. "Tomorrow, I'm running the whole thing," indeed. Mary Jane, you magnificent bastard.

Unfortunately, we're "treated" to yet another imagine spot where Mary Jane, rocking the JJJ flat top, yells about Spider-Man from the Bugletron.

Mary Jane: "He also is not nearly as funny or cute as he thinks he is!"

Finally, we agree on something.
Peter: "At least she didn't have the mustache."

And there's my nightmares for tonight.  He volunteers to go with her to her interview, but that may be a moot point, seeing as how Power Man and Iron Fist are blocking the doors. So... let's ignore the fact that Luke's disguise is a pair of sunglasses and Mary Jane should really recognize Danny's uniquely laid-back and proper way of speaking.

Power Man: "Miss. I'm afraid that we cannot let you inside."
Iron Fist: "Indeed. That is something we are not permitted to do."

Whatever you say, Spock.

Mary Jane: "Ex-cuse me? I have an appointment inside that building. One that could affect the entire shape of my future. And here you guys are, two costumed vigilantes, taking the law into their own hands and barring a citizen lawful entry into a public building?"

Understandably, the two let her enter the building.

Now, that was an utterly brilliant moment.

...but Mary Jane's speech can easily be countered by either one of them using their S.H.I.E.L.D. authority to lock down the building in the interests of public safety. After all, JJJ can risk his own life all he wants, but I'm pretty sure the rest of the Daily Bugle staff doesn't have a death wish when it comes to terrorist threats. Mary Jane notwithstanding.

Anyway, Peter and MJ enter the building and a small, robotic beetle gasses the two "vigilantes" into unconsciousness.

Iron Fist: "Dude, did you just..."

Fart joke. Lovely.

As Peter and MJ prepare to enter an elevator, Nova (already in the elevator), tells them that the elevators are closed. So MJ whips out the trick every fictional female seems to have handy and flirts with him, tricking him out of the elevator. Quickly, she and Peter rush in to head for the top floor. Nova gets stunned by another beetle-bot as the two ascend. Unfortunately, the elevator breaks down and starts falling. Oddly enough, the elevator safety system seems to have failed.

Eventually, the elevator brakes do engage, but only because White Tiger hotwired the system from the air vents. Apparently, she meant to lock down the elevator, but merely sent it into freefall. This apparently means that the elevator brakes, which are supposed to be triggered mechanically when the elevator free falls in real life, need to be activated electronically. Can you say "deathtrap"?

Anyway, White Tiger gets taken out by the Beetle's stun burst, and MJ wedges the elevator doors open to climb the thirty flights of stairs that lead to Jameson's office.

Mary Jane: "I can't believe how hard it's been to get to this interview."

Yeah, it's been plagued with more issues than that James Franco/Seth Rogen film.

We get a Family Guy-esque cutaway with Wolverine in anger management, and Peter follows her. MJ, meanwhile, won't shut up about achieving her goals. Look, MJ. Believe to Achieve, and all that, but the building is currently under terrorist attack. Even if you doesn't know that for sure, the elevator issues should at least make you suspect something. Otherwise, you're a pretty unobservant reporter.

Your job interview can wait. Even Lois Lane, the poster girl for suicidal news reporting, doesn't do things this stupid. And she's got a super fast, indestructible alien to save her.

What's your excuse, MJ?
Peter breaks the fourth wall again.

Peter: "Don't look at me like that."

Then start being entertaining.

20 floors to go, and MJ's just glad she's getting a good opportunity to do cardio. We then cut to 20 floors later, and they're in the Daily Bugle hub. Peter wonders where his team is, and imagines that they're hanging out... in what appears to be the restaurant from Seinfeld.

That's a shame.
Suddenly, his spider-sense tingles, so he grabs MJ and shoves her inside a random room. Said room happens to contain ol' J. Jonah Jameson.

Jameson: "Who let you in here? Do I know you?"

Heh, I would totally watch senile J. Jonah Jameson give a news broadcast.

MJ confidently begins the interview, and Peter has suited up and webs the door shut. He makes several plans of attack, but they're all rendered useless when robotic beetles swarm him from the elevator. And so, the fight is on as MJ continues her interview.

Mary Jane: "And you may expect 150%, but you'll be getting 1000% from me."

Insert "mathematically impossible" statement here.

Spidey takes out the Beetle, imagining Nick Fury as Bob Barker on The Price is Right, for some reason. Probably just to make a reference to the Spider-Buggy as the grand prize.

Spider-Man: "Do I even want a Spider-Buggy?"

Beetle gets back up and blows up a wall. Soon enough, the fight takes them outside the building. More fighting, and they end up back inside the same room as before. Nova, having woken up, joins the fray alongside Iron Fist, White Tiger, and Luke Cage. In retaliation to the threat escalation, Beetle unleashes his entire arsenal.

"Chou henshin!"
More fighting, more interviewing, more fighting, and Spidey gets the team to use the same trick they used against Trapster, sticking the villain in a giant tube, to defeat the Beetle. But Beetle manages to escape and get back to Jameson's office. Thankfully, Spidey ruins Beetle's shot by webbing up his arm and saves the old jerk at the last second.

Beetle: "Miss? I never miss!"

Yeesh, no wonder he doesn't talk. He makes Starscream sound like Mike Rowe.

This is when we get the reveal of the episode. J Jonah Jameson was telecommuting. He wasn't in his office, he was at home with a webcam. It was only thanks to tricky episode editing that kept the reveal hidden. So, yeah. JJJ was putting innocent DBC workers at risk with this stunt while not risking his own skin. Mary Jane should sue, seeing as how JJJ insisted they meet in his office, despite...
  1. Not being there and... 
  2. The looming terrorist threat to that specific location.
How do you not end up in jail for this stunt, JJJ?
MJ pulls the plug on the old bastard, and the heroes rush off. Peter quick-changes into his civvies.

Peter: "How'd the interview go?"
Mary Jane: "How do you think?"

What? It was actually going really well. Did he blame the Beetle's attack on MJ? Sounds like a crappy boss anyway.

They walk back home, and MJ tells him she reapplied for the summer internship because she plans to reorganize the company from within, working her way up to being editor-in-chief. I eagerly await to find out how she screws her own chances over yet again. Oh, wait, no I don't. And I'll explain in the Review.

JJJ rants from the Bugletron, and I can't help but have a smile on my face as this episode begins to end. But only because I read the news crawl.

"Scientists discover new planet; Tony Stark offers to purchase it."


On a related note, the news crawl is usually pretty hilarious in the first season. Shame that that usually isn't the case for Season 2, where they replaced gags and in-jokes with generic news stories.

From the helicarrier, Nick Fury shuts off the Bugletron with S.H.I.E.L.D. technology, and congratulates the team.

Nick Fury: "Little too much collateral damage for my tastes, but all things considered, you did okay."

"Hmmmm.... That gives me an idea. You kids ever heard of Damage Control?"
Spidey jokes about rather having a Spider-Buggy than a silent J. Jonah Jameson, and the episode ends.

Now let's review this episode. And let's examine the character of Mary Jane Watson, while we're at it. After all, this is her last episode as a major player.

Whoops, spoilers.


  1. Speaking of inconsistencies, I can't wait to see Spider-Man in MCU and then see USM writers twist themselves to change their characters to match movies.

    1. The question is whether or not the retool will happen during or after "Ultimate Spider-Man vs. the Sinister Six."

    2. Or we could just, y'know, get some original ideas in our superhero cartoons, like in the olden days of yore.

      - That One Anon



  2. I know this isn't exactly your favorite show, Newt, but what's your favorite episode if you have one?

    1. Off the top of my head, I can't think of much wrong with "Journey of the Iron Fist"....

      But I'd have to say "Burrito Run." I found that episode to be a lot of fun and surprisingly funny.

  3. That Kamen Rider reference reminded me of the 70s Japanese Spider-Man series. Man, I love that show. It was dumb and cheesy, but in the best way. Even if it didn't have anything to do with the comics.

    And no, none of that has anything to do with this episode.

    - That One Anon

  4. You know, when Jameson yelled at Godzilla in the comics, at least he had the courage to do it face to face...

    1. Makes one wonder how he handled the Chitauri invasion.

    2. He probably said it was Spider-Man's plan.

    3. I want to say that there was an episode of something where Jameson blamed invading aliens on Spider-Man? Maybe I'm thinking of that Agents of S.M.A.S.H. where he blamed Ego the Living Planet on Spidey.

  5. Oh, I get it. Its funny that he turned out to be a screen, because Jameson never shows up in public and we thought we'll get to see him now, but nope!

    Fact that it took me so long to get it, really shows what a amazing gag this is.

    1. Oh my God, that's brilliant.

      They did it intentionally. That's... brilliant.

      J. Jonah Jameson as a character still sucks, don't get me wrong, but the writers' committal to the bit is kind of... impressive.