Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Review: Ultimate Spider-Man "Revealed"

Before I discuss this episode’s merits, let me get the usual criticisms out of the way.

A reliance on “tell, don’t show.”

Spider-sense is useless.

Jarring cutaway gags that distract from the story.
Got that? Good. Now I can talk about why this is one of the best episodes in Season 1.

Everything that has been building up from the beginning of the series comes to a head here, from Norman Osborn's evil plans to Dr. Octopus's treachery. And... well, that's it.

But while the plot is simple, the plot is by no means thin. And that has to do with the characterization.

Norman Osborn's obsession with Spider-Man, Dr. Octopus's backstabbing... that's all you need. Put these three characters in a room and let them hash out the issues that have been growing since the show started. No gimmicks, no nonsensical plots, no ham-fisted morals that fall flat. Just three characters carrying the story by way of their interactions. Drama delivered in a way that had rarely been seen since The Spectacular Spider-Man, honestly.

The episode is very rewarding for people who have been following the show from the beginning, which is very ironic. When Jeph Loeb took Marvel's animation department under his wing, the first thing he did was tell the writers to focus less on ongoing subplots.

He had a bit of a point, to be honest. As much as I love Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, it can be difficult to follow if you haven't been watching from the beginning. A series with more self-contained episodes allows one to jump in the middle and watch with little risk of confusion. And yet, this episode shows exactly why an ongoing storyline works so well. I'll go into this more when I talk about Season 1 as a whole.

But additionally, this episode is actually a great example of how to do long fight scenes well.

When I criticize Avengers Assemble for its long fight scenes, its because the fight scenes are usually used as a stalling tactic for both the writers and the characters.

Avengers: "We don't know how to beat it, so let's fight it to keep it away from civilians and/or figure out its weakness."

Iron Man and Falcon will usually scan the enemy for technobabble at this point, creating the illusion that the plot is moving forward. Banter is also used to keep the audience interested during this time.

But every fight scene in this episode has a purpose.

The first fight illustrates that the team has come a long way. The brief fight between Spider-Man and Doc Ock sets the stage for Osborn's arrival. The all-out brawl between everyone prominently features the Green Goblin resisting Doc Ock's control until he takes over the fight himself. The Sandwich Club getting their butts kicked shows how powerful this new foe is. And the final Spidey vs. Goblin brawl acts as a release for all the tension between Spider-Man and Osborn since the beginning of the series.

So while the episode features quite a bit of fighting, the fighting actually furthers the plot.


Not only does Norman Osborn physically change, but Harry's life is forever changed, as is the dynamic between Doc Ock and Norman Osborn.

And to top it all off, the episode not only opens with Spider-Man talking about how the Sandwich Club's dynamic has changed for the better, with everybody working much better as a team than at the beginning of the season, but it closes with Spider-Man putting the Sandwich Club behind him. Though I think we all know that Spider-Man will not ditch the Sandwich Club.

Until he finds some new teammates.
Norman Osborn/Green Goblin
Actually, I'm going to forgo discussing ol' Stormin' Norman until I talk about the second part of this story.

Peter Parker/Spider-Man
Same with Spider-Man.

Dr. Octopus
So much for his revenge. But hey, Doc Ock knows when to beat a hasty retreat, and a collapsing lair fits that definition. A shame, though, that his final episode kind of got hijacked by Norman Osborn.

Sandwich Club
For an episode where the Sandwich Club gets talked up quite a bit, they don't actually do much that impacts the plot other than free Spider-Man. I'd imagine that the writers decided to drive home the supposed importance the Sandwich Club to make the episode's cliffhanger more of a shocking swerve.

Still... it would have been nice to see more of them affecting the plot. With much of the show's ongoing mythos outright ignoring them, it can becomes difficult to see why exactly they're supposed to be so important.

After my harping on about how the Sandwich Club treats Spider-Man like crap, I find it interesting that my opinion can be summarized as "I don't like them. Give me more of them."

"Heh. Irony."
While this show has certainly given us better-looking fights, this episode's no slouch in that department. And there's only so much you can do with the Green Goblin in a one-on-one fight with only his strength and durability on his side. It's basically a Hulk fight scene, without the gimmicky flashiness of, say, a Venom fight.

Having said that, the actual animation of the episode is consistent with previous episodes. Except for when Harry and Peter take a cue from the anime school of facial expressions.

Great Irresponsibility Count: 2
To be fair, both counts are caused by the show breaking the fourth wall... but I'm counting them. Spider-Man gets an urgent call, stands on a rooftop to watch Harry for a bit, then he answers the call. Even then,

Final Thoughts
Another solid addition to the end of this season. We'll see if the second part of this story can live up to what the first part promises while continuing the themes.

Now, I'm not saying that the next episode goes in a different direction, but it was written by "Me Time" (Jacob Semahn) while this episode was written by the guy behind "Field Trip" and "Run Pig Run" (Eugene Son).

...Actually, now I'm wondering why Thor wasn't involved here, with that track record.

Anyway, next time, the "To be continued" gets continued. See you then!

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