The combined threat of Norman Osborn and The Kingpin’s Spider Slayers have proven futile against the ingenuity of Spider-Man while those around him such as Eddie Brock and Alistair Smythe suffer as a result of their own desires for revenge against the web-head. On the plus side, a blind date set up by Aunt May has resulted in his meeting with the go-getting Mary Jane Watson. However, negative public opinion towards Spider-Man has failed to change despite his numerous acts of heroism; with many convinced he is a menace to society. Can he possibly disprove his reputation?
Spider-Man is caught in the act stealing priceless jewels from the Metropolitan Museum. Though the nightwatch try to apprehend him, Spider-Man webs them up and makes his escape through the air ducts – returning briefly to blow the security camera a defiant kiss. The following morning a dishevelled Peter is woken by MJ calling to ask him out under the pretext of a mid-terms revision problem. Peter literally leaps with joy – tangling himself in the ceiling fan. Peter bounds down to the kitchen to see the morning report of Spider-Man robbing the museum. Aunt May is convinced of Spider-Man’s guilt, and even Peter is curious as to how anyone but himself could web-up the guards and wall crawl their retreat (although he inwardly admits that he is up to the same level of disrespect that the impostor is when he blew his audience a kiss).
J. J. Jameson is preparing for a live exposé on the heist; a self-proclaimed authority on any story that puts Spider-Man in a negative light. Instantaneously switching from berating Peter’s lack of corroborative photos and hard-hitting reporter, Jameson’s broadcast allows Peter to sneak into the crime scene for closer investigation. He finds a piece of webbing caught on the air vent but is caught as he makes his way back towards Jameson by Detective Lee. Upon telling her his name she admits to recognising him as Spider-Man’s personal photographer, giving him leeway to explain that the webbing he found is over twelve hours old while Spider-Man’s webbing dissolves after an hour. She discards the fact and bags the evidence when suddenly the building is shaken by a purple typhoon in the central hallway; from within emerges Mysterio. Mysterio proclaims he will bring Spider-Man to justice but Jameson remains unconvinced that he is a hero and rather just another costumed nut. Wowing the crowd by removing the orb over his shoulders to reveal no head underneath Mysterio insists that his apprehension of Spider-Man is to be caught on film for, then disappears; his orb transforms into a basket ball and then back into its regular form, before becoming a tornado which tears into the ceiling. The spectators take cover as the building seemingly collapses, but looking back the room is as it always was. Peter thinks badly of himself for not realising it was an illusion when his spider-sense didn’t trigger.
Riding the bus home later, Peter dwells on how Spider-Man fell so quickly from grace and Mysterio pulled of his tricks earlier, when a news broadcast informs that Spider-Man is causing upheaval at the Brooklyn Mall. Departing the bus, Peter (as Spider-Man) arrives to see that his doppelgänger is making away through the crowds – Spider-Man jovially comments that the imitation lacks all his style. The doppelgänger and the wall he is perched on disappear and Spidey crashes embarrassingly into a store window. He recognises the deep, smug laugh that follows his fall and calls out Mysterio; noting that the fake Spider-Man conveniently disappears as he appears. Mysterio proclaims to the startled onlookers that he won’t let Spider-Man hurt them. Spidey challenges that Mysterio is the only one who should be concerned with getting hurt – Mysterio returns that he is more than ready for a showdown but not here; instead, the same place Spider-Man apparently ruined him. Spidey can’t remember ever having met Mysterio prior to today but Mysterio is adamant that all will be explained in time. The wall opens to reveal the Brooklyn Bridge where the two are to meet for their showdown, while Mysterio flees. Spidey makes to pursue but the wall closes up as the illusion fades.
Police arrive on-scene at Brooklyn Bridge where Mysterio is waving to an adoring crowd and a bevy of paparazzi. They ‘boo’ the approach of Spider-Man as he meets Mysterio atop the bridge tower, underestimating his quarry’s abilities and falling down the structure as he is bombarded with fireballs. The mortar begins to break off and Spidey realises too late that this time it isn’t an illusion – the debris sending him into the River.
Later that evening police finally call off the search, certain that Spider-Man must have drowned. As they fade into the distance Spidey emerges with a webbing air-sack and slyly swims to the bank. Back home Peter listens to Jameson report that Spider-Man has been declared officially dead and that Mysterio is New York’s new hero. MJ calls to remind Peter that he forgot their date: one strike and he is out. In a fit of rage Peter decides that it’s perhaps time he hung up his secret identity as it’s so far brought him nothing but trouble but destiny intervenes when he opens the door to find Detective Lee who is looking for Spider-Man: no body was found and she believes he was framed by Mysterio, and Peter has potential info to lead her to the vital evidence that’ll prove Spidey’s innocence. Peter tries to make excuses and Lee says it’s a shame that after all those weeks following Spider-Man none of his good traits have rubbed off on him. As she leaves Peter recounts how the only time prior he (as Spider-Man) turned his back when needed was when he allowed the thief that killed Uncle Ben to escape. The memory rekindles his passion for justice. Donning the costume he jumps Lee’s car and heads back to the station with her. The pair investigates any past incidences with Mysterio but there are none prior to the earlier events. Recalling Mysterio mentioning that he met Spider-Man at Brooklyn Bridge they search for any particularly unusual incidences. One involving a helicopter crash jogs Spidey’s memory of a film crew endangered by a special effect explosion gone arye which damaged the helicopter’s rotor – Spider-Man saved the crew and discovered a mortar shell at the scene placed there without a permit by the special effect co-ordinator looking to create a bigger explosion. Apprehended in webbing, the crewman, Quentin Beck, swears revenge on Spidey for ruining his career. Beck received a year in jail and a criminal record that provides Spider-Man with a potential address: Wonder Studios.
Jameson is finishing up an article welcoming Mysterio as public hero #1 when he receives a fax (crediting him as ‘dear Chuckles’) inviting him to get the real story on Spider-Man and Mysterio down at Wonder Studios. At Wonder Studios Spider-Man finds photos of himself plastering the walls as well as the outfit used to pull the museum heist – suction cups on the palms and feet explain how the impostor was able to mimic Spidey’s wall crawling abilities. Plans for the museum, mall and bridge are also situated on hand, as is a hologram projector which triggers and creates the same collapsing ceiling illusion as seen before. Spider-Man has to congratulate Beck on his invention – clearly there are brains within the madness. Lee and her back-up arrive and wait outside while Spider-Man goes deeper into Mysterio’s lair. Thinking he’s caught up to the villain Spider-Man unwittingly wonders into Mysterio’s trap. Jameson helps Lee gain entry to the building as Spider-Man is attacked by animatronic monsters, dinosaurs and spiders. Trapped in a web as the mechanical spiders hold position, Jameson and Lee are revealed to have been trapped as well. Spidey calls Mysterio insane, with Mysterio accounting that his psychiatrists said the same: yet he has moved past all such allegations and become the man he is today for it. Spider-Man web-lines to safety and saves Jameson and Lee as they are released over a pit of spikes, looking up to see an army of armed Mysterio’s ready to open fire. Closing his eyes and trusting his judgments, Spidey launches blind at a random figure; successfully rendering the real Mysterio unconscious. Lee asks Jameson what he thinks of his hero now as Spider-Man ties up Beck.
The following days’ paper outs Mysterio as a villain, and even better, MJ decides to make things up with Peter and proposes they could try again. She heads to class, thanking Peter for the help he gave her by forcing her to study for her mid terms under her own initiative. Peter thanks Uncle Ben for giving him the fortitude to be a hero.
Spider-Man is confronted by a new form of villain in Mysterio who uses PR and character assassination as his weapons; relying on wits over brute strength. This made for an interesting stand alone story – unlike the previous episodes, nothing here particularly acts to progress the overarching narrative and so apart from the introduction of Mysterio there is nothing to stop newcomers understanding of the plot and character relationships that can’t be gained in other episodes. Perhaps it is because of this that the episode feels slightly more heavy going, seeming to tread water.
A minor gripe is that despite the stated negative public opinion towards Spider-Man, there’s no real sense that he’s actually a suspected thief and menace for the entirety of the episode, with gathered onlookers more proactive in their jeering than the police are in making arrest attempts. Jameson also became somewhat annoying in his stubbornness. Granted, it’s his defining character trait to be the leader of the anti-Spidey brigade, but here he was given not only proof that Spider-Man was not the public menace/criminal he thought he was, but was also saved again along with Detective Lee – definitive reason enough to change his position on the matter, even if temporarily, but alas he remains undeveloped despite it all. This could have easily been overcome by not embroiling him yet again in the villain of the week’s machinations, but lack of a larger supporting cast at this point has made this difficult. On the whole though this was an entertaining episode that simply lacks the depth and character complexities we’ve come to expect. The episode did play a lot like one of the original 60’s comics for all its’ shortcomings, which it can’t be begrudged for.
Mysterio is suitably as bitter and brilliant as he is in the comics, with his illusions and props providing a good alternative to the brute strength of the last set of villains seen in this season. Mysterio, unlike other members of the Spidey rogues gallery is too much of a one trick pony to stand up to future stand-alone appearances, and so fortunately he is never seen again outside of the Sinister Six, which adds to his character in retrospect.
An entertaining if inconsequential episode that delivers fun Golden Age nostalgia by sacrificing narratological and character developments.