Spider-Man TV (1994) - Season 1, Episode 4

Background

Working for Norman Osborn in order to provide for his disabled son, Spencer Smythe created the Spider Slayer: Black Widow to capture Spider-Man. Little did he realise that Osborn was working on behalf of Wilson Fisk; the Kingpin of crime, who found Spider-Man to be an x-factor in his previously smooth criminal operations. While impersonating Spider-Man Flash Thompson was wrongly captured, but was rescued by the real Spider-Man; destroying both the Spider Slayer and Spencer’s lab in the process. For ruining the reputation of the Daily Bugle in this PR debacle, Eddie Brock is disgraced and fired. Vowing revenge for his father’s death, Alistair Smythe accepted the Kingpin’s offer to seek his retribution.

Story 'The Return of the Spider-Slayers'

  Spider-Man TV (1994) - Season 1, Episode 4
Summary: (Feb 11, 1995)
Story: John Semper
Teleplay: Mark Hoffmeier

Several months have passed since the destruction of Smythe’s lab. May Parker is desperately trying to set Peter up with Mary Jane Watson, the daughter of her friend Anna; a blind date Peter is once again trying to avoid this conversation – upside down in full Spider-Man costume as he is. The Black Widow Mk. II identifies its target and engages the bewildered Spider-Man; demonstrating a few new features since the upgrade that allow is to avoid snare-based assaults. Fortunately there is a microwave relay emitter on the building top which fries the machine and shuts it down, but before Spider-Man has a chance to examine it another and far larger Spider Slayer (the Tarantula Mk. I) begins to attack from the rear and toppling the relay tower. Spider-Man barely avoids becoming a stain on the street and returns to the defensive as the Tarantula launches a missile at him but t no avail as Spidey is already half way down the block, having placed a spider-tracer on its back for later. At the Wilson Fisk’s base of operations Alistair Smyth, now in a model of the experimental chair his father was designing for him, and the Kingpin watch their Spider Slayers progress. Fisk is more than apprehensive that the weapon has so far failed in its attempts, and smacks down Alistair’s optimistic remarks that this is an infallible plan. He leaves Smythe to it, reminding him that the facilities he has been offered will be revoked if he can’t succeed in killing Spider-Man – leaving Smythe to bitterly remark that his need for revenge is far greater incentive than loosing the laboratory. Elsewhere the Black Widow has rebooted and joins the melee as the Tarantula unleashes its ice beams on the nimble Spider-Man. Spraying extra thick web-fluid into the Tarantulas’ cameras gives him time to focus attention on bringing down the smaller and familiar Black Widow, however a family get caught in the crossfire and saving them closes his window of opportunity. Tarantula strikes Spider-Man with an ice blast, allowing Black Widow to capture the stunned target. Moments before he is knocked out by a gas emitting missile Spider-Man places a tracker on the Black Widow. Returning to Fisk’s tower, Spider-Man is placed in a holding chair while Smythe makes a phone call to J. J. Jameson with the news that he has something which might interest him.

Blindfolded, Jameson is escorted to Smythe under armed guard. The blindfold is removed and Jameson boasts over his captured foe, but is prevented from unmasking him; Smythe’s real intent was to detain Jameson too for his part in the death of his father. The two captives are cuffed together with an explosive device set for one hour until detonation. Smythe rants their petty rivalries resulted in Spencer’s death; Spider-Man points out that Spencer attacked him first with a gigantic Spider Slaying tank but Smythe is too bitter to accept this. Jameson tries to barter by offering to fun Smythe in his research, to no avail. Taking his leave Smythe declares the Spider Slayers will take them to a safe distance from the tower and then track down the others on his hit list: Flash Thompson, Norman Osborn and Eddie Brock. Another gas volley renders the captives unconscious once again.

The Tarantula dumps Jameson and Spider-Man on a rooftop - leaving them in pursuit of its new targets. Spidey shakes Jameson to and pulls out his spider tracker remote in order to catch up on the robot assassins. When Jameson refuses to help locate the Slayers in order to prove his indifference to Spider-Man’s wants, Spidey seizes him and swings away. The Black Widow moves in on Flash Thompson, whose date with Felicia Hardy has already been interrupted by Harry Osborn. Black Widow snares Flash and drags him towards its laser emitting pincers. Spider-Man arrives and uses the laser to break the bomb shackles on Jameson’s wrist as Flash frees himself. While Jameson calls in to the Bugle looking for a line to Brock, Spider-Man uses a nearby crane to slam the Black Widow into a wall – shutting it down. Jameson calls to warn Norman Osborn about the return of the Spider Slayers. Brock is desperately applying for a job at a rival news agency that is fortunately in need of a reporter; the minute he is hired the Tarantula demolish the building in search of Brock, who flees the crumbling office block. Ambushing the Tarantula as is pursues Brock; Spider-Man is able to force one of its legs into a power box and short circuiting it. Surveying the ruins of his offices the editor fires Brock on the spot. Brock promises to Spider-Man that he’ll even the score between them if it’s the last thing he ever does.

Smythe looks upon the final Spider Slayer, the Scorpion, as the final stage is completed. Self-initialising, the Scorpion leaves in pursuit of Osborn who has fortified his industrial estate with a tank battalion, which proves utterly ineffective against the Spider Slayers onslaught. Spider-Man arrives at the scene but holds back from engaging the hot zone. Back in the city centre the Black Widow and Tarantula reactivate and take-off for Oscorp where they combine with the Scorpion to form a Super Spider Slayer. Spider-Man has still to remove the bomb and his inability to decide on which immediate problem to tackle first is solved when the Super Spider Slayer mark him. From his balcony Smythe gleefully watches the smoke rising from the partially demolished Oscorp. Osborn makes for his car as the Super Spider Slayer homes in on him – driving off at speed. Spider-Man hauls himself from the rubble, noticing with gallows humour that he has fifteen minutes until detonation. Using a vat of liquid oxygen from the lab he freezes the shackle and breaks free. With minutes to spare he heads out after the Spider Slayer with the bomb. The Super Spider Slayer lands on the Brooklyn Bridge, causing Osborn to collide with it and render himself unconscious – rescued by Spider-Man as the car is destroyed by the robots’ claws. Spider-Man flees to one of the support beams and drops off Osborn. Hiding out of sight, Spidey gets the literal drop on his opponent as it flies beneath him, and wedges the bomb under the Black Widow component. The bomb explodes and the Spider Slayer careens into the Hudson River. Kingpin confronts Smythe and in level anger informs him that until he defeats Spider-Man he remains confined to Fisk. The balcony closes as Smythe watches his cage door lock – a broken man.

Spider-Man sits looking out over the smouldering bridge. Exhausted and with costume torn from battle he remarks that nothing ever works in his favour. Back at May’s house Peter sits sewing up his costume. May calls through the door to check he’s getting ready for his blind date with Mary Jane – he wishes he’d let Smythe’s bugs eat him, and fakes a cough to try and buck out at the last minute but May refuses to cave. Forced to answer the ringing door bell his jaw drops as the stunning Ms Watson informs his he’s hit the jackpot. Parkers luck is finally turning.

General Comments

Spider-Man has overcome his greatest adversary three times over; further ruining Brock’s career by proxy and distancing himself from Jameson in doing so, but gaining a love interest as the end result. Smythe is now tied down to the Kingpin’s nefarious plans when all he wanted to do was avenge his father and continue their research into benefiting mankind, leading him closer to his downfall at the hands of Fisk’s Spider Slayer project in the near future.

The story was well conceived and worked in all the plot elements from the first part of the arch in addition to all the new material, with copious quantities of action and a large roasta of new villains to entertain those who love and extensive rogues gallery. Yet despite all the action and well placed jokes and in-referencing, it’s the scenes between Kingpin and Smythe that are most compelling. Smythe began last episode as an innocent youth and now has metamorphosis into a strong and motivated character that can hold his own as a villain for an entire episode. When the Kingpin informs his that his failings will result in his servitude until such time that he provides results, the mise en scene of Smythe watching the outside world disappear behind the closing wall sums up his isolation and imprisonment that his inability to forgive and forget has awarded him. It’s a poignant image and does a wonderful job of describing his character wordlessly. The Spider Slayers once again proved uniquely menacing and deadly, and the time urgency of the bomb strapped to Spider-Man gave the episode a vibe of constant peril. In their comic incarnations the Spider Slayers never really looked as good as they could have done considering their limitations were souley those of the artists designing them, so it's good to see that the three here are physically interesting and well armed in a wide variety of weapons.

It’s amazing how much the writers crammed into 20 minutes considering all the set pieces, character exchanges and drama and the entire thing never felt too rushed nor drawn out. The animation remains consistently good, even holding up well against today’s standards but with that 90’s hand drawn charm. Now that Mary Jane has entered the series I’m especially looking forward to the next session as her relationship with Peter and here character in general throughout the show is an immensely enjoyable realisation.

Overall Rating

A tight and action packed story, wonderfully animated and full of Spidey charm. The series continues to live up to the standard.