After saving the crew of a shuttle (which included J.J. Jameson’s son), Spider-Man is mistakenly accused of causing the crash and stealing the sample of Promethium X taken from the asteroid they were studying, and is branded public enemy #1 with a bounty of $1M on his head. Not only is Spider-Man now a wanted felon, but he is also host to a strange black goo previously sealed within the asteroid that has bestowed him with augmented strength, speed and shape-shifting abilities, with the negative effect of making him increasingly aggressive and violent towards his friends, family and foes. Meanwhile the true thief of the Promethium X, The Rhino, was dispatched by The Kingpin to recover the equipment capable of studying the new element from a government holding facility. The black suited Spider-Man came close to killing the thief but was only just able to stop himself in time. With monstrous visions of himself plaguing his mind, Spidey realises that something terrible is happening to him.
NYPD helicopters are tracking Spider-Man through the city. Spidey seems uncharacteristically angry, having been unable to make any public appearances in days without someone trying to collect the reward money, and takes relish in aggressively defending himself against a group of well equipped mercenaries. With most of their band accosted, the remaining mercs use an experimental sonic rifle which severely weakens the parasitic costume and renders Spider-Man helpless. As the mercs move in the suit extends a tendril and pulls the unconscious Spider-Man to the safety of an upper ledge. The confused mercenaries recover quickly and fire the sonic rifle again. This time however a piece of the costume launches itself at the weapon and destroys it. One of the men brandishes a flamethrower, causing the suit to drag the perplexed wall-crawler out of harm’s way once again. Wrenching a flag pole from the wall, Spidey hurls the makeshift javelin at a fire hydrant - the men scatter from the torrent of water to prevent their electrics from malfunctioning and Spider-Man decides it’s time to visit the source of his woes.
J. Jonah Jameson delightedly thumbs through the images of Spider-Man emerging from the downed shuttle – Eddie Brock has seemingly given him the solid proof he’s been longing for to have Spidey arrested. Spider-Man confronts the two men, and when Brock states that his pictures prove the man’s guilt Spider-Man seizes him roughly and calls him a liar – Brock knew about the Rhino but instead ran with the story that’d discredit him instead. Jameson laughs at the absurdity of a man in a rhino outfit but Spider-Man is in no mood – if the bounty isn’t called off then Jameson will suffer the consequence. The security team arrives and forces Spidey back into the streets. Realising that he was out of control again, Spider-Man decides it’s time to get the costume analysed.
Kingpin is treating his buyers to a demonstration of Promethium X’s potential –with just one chip the entire testing area is reduced to flaming rubble. The buyers are astounded, realising that they could potentially blow up a planet with the amount that’s for sale. Beaming, Kingpin declares he only deals in the best.
Spider-Man approaches Dr. Curt Connors at his NYU lab; although Connors is apprehensive, Spider-Man reminds him that he helped the doctor overcome his Lizard (Night of the Lizard) problem and clear his name of the allegations. He asks that a piece of the suit be analysed, but when Connors attempts to cut it the black substance recoils away from the blade. Spidey pulls a slither from the main body allowing it to be forcibly removed – the suit sealing up over the fresh opening within seconds. Connors is amazed, asking when it came from – Spidey believed he got it from the Hudson River, still unaware of its extraterrestrial origin. Microscopic examination reveals that the suit is a living organism. Hours later Connors revels his findings; once introduced to a host the organism bonds and replicates, spreading its own DNA within the host and altering it at a molecular level. Eventually this symbiosis is replaced with all-out corruption as the organism replaces the host’s systems – not only is the symbiote alive, it’s sentient. Connors insists that he has to remove the costume immediately; however Spider-Man requires it so as to attend to unfinished business.
Jameson sits by his son’s bedside as the man slips in and out of consciousness. Gaining a brief moment of lucidity, Jameson Jr. feverishly mentions a rhino-suited man stealing from the shuttle. Realising Brock has lied to him again, Jameson confronts him – Brock quickly admits that he saw the Rhino but doesn’t see why this is a problem. Unable to deal with those who distort facts and would otherwise go against his principals, Jameson fires Brock on the spot. Brock grovels that he did this all for Jameson – the only other person who hates Spider-Man as much as he does – but J.J. is adamant. He calls security to remove Brock from the building. Soon after, Jameson holds a live press event revoking the bounty on Spider-Man until the investigation into events is complete, due to the withheld information by ex-reported Eddie Brock. Wilson Fisk is keenly watching the coverage – if the theft is linked to him it could destabilise his power base, so Brock needs to be silenced. Alistaire Smythe fortunately has the right man for the job.
Later that evening Brock dejectedly walks home, to discover that not only has not only has he lost his job, his reputation, and his wellbeing, he has also been evicted – and all because of Spider-Man he rationalises. Spider-Man however has less of a problem gaining entry to the apartment and turns over the room in search of the hidden Rhino film. Upon finding it he becomes aware of a confrontation outside. Eddie is being accosted by Shocker about the crash site photos. Spider-Man engages Shocker and Brock flees into the alleyways. Unaware of what he’s up against; Spidey is taken down by the hit-man’s blast attacks which proceed to topple a building on top of the fallen hero. Shocker takes off after Brock, oblivious that Spider-Man has already recovered and is stalking him. After a failed attempt at tracking his quarry, Shocker returns to Smyth’s hidden lab – the security door proving no problem for the improved strength of Spider-Man who resumes his battle with Shocker. During the skirmish the uncoordinated volley of blasts strikes Smyth who is attempting to escape with the Promethium X, knocking it from him. Spider-Man seizes the rock and makes his getaway before either man can stop him. Returning home, Spider-Man decides to see why everyone is so interested in the sample and discovers something about its chemical property. Elsewhere, Kingpin is furious at the news of the Promethium X theft and demands that the city be taken hostage if need be to ensure its recovery. Smyth states that might actually be an achievable plan.
Jameson Jr. is abducted from his ward and Shocker approaches Jameson Sr. with the trade-off stipulations to ensure his son’s return. Outside, Eddie wanders, lost in himself. Soon after, news stations begin running reports on the kidnapping of Jameson Jr., while Jameson Sr. delivers a press event imploring Spider-Man contact him – watching at home Peter agrees, but only because his son is in danger. Spidey meets Jameson who drives him to a church outside the city – unaware that Brock is tailing them. Smyth is waiting for them inside and initiates the trade by showing them the captive John Jameson – in turn Spider-Man hands Smyth the Promethium X and tells the Jamesons’ to get as far away as possible while he guards them from any double-dealing attempts. With the men cleared Spidey is confronted by Shocker. A vicious fight breaks out between the pair – shattering a medieval weapon display cabinet from which Brock takes a mace as he revels in Spider-Man’s predicament. Spider-Man is becoming increasingly aggressive; switching from defensive to the offensive and savagely attacking Shocker with everything at his disposal. He is about to deliver a killing blow when he is distracted by Brock, who flees when Shocker turns his attention to him after burying Spidey under a pile of rubble. Yet Spider-Man can’t be kept down, indeed he seems to be getting stronger. Panicked, Shocker blasts an escape and runs for safety deeper into the church – towards the bell tower – as Spider-Man cries out for him with bloodlust in his voice. In a surprise attack from behind, Spider-Man grips Shocker in a vice-like bear hug in an effort to crush him to death, possibly succeeding were it not for Brock entering the mêlée. The three tussle. Spidey wraps Brock in a thick web cocoon and lowers him off the ledge with a promise to deal with him after. Breaking off a chuck of the security balcony, Spider-Man smashes Shocker’s gauntlets and swings the helpless man out over the ledge, dangling him out over the vast drop. Desperate, Shocker tries to reason; heroes can’t kill. Spider-Man in initially Unphazed by this line of thought – after all, he has the power. Only then does he realise that with great power comes the need to take greater responsibility. He releases Shocker, when suddenly the suit whips out a tentacle and throws Shocker from the tower – Spidey’s reflexes only just allowing him to catch him with webbing before he hits the ground. With dread he realises the symbiote is gaining control, his terror mounting as all attempts to remove it fail. The bell tolls and Spidey is crippled with pain. Thinking back to the other day he remembers that the symbiote is highly vulnerable to sound, and moves closer to the bell. Desperate, the symbiote throws Peter away and now resembling a humanoid shape crawls after him in an attempt to re-bond. Peter’s will holds’ out and he is thrown from the tower – clinging to the balcony, as the weakened symbiote slithers through a crack in the floor. Peter drops to the ground outside, relieved that his nightmare is over, and making for home, forgetting that Brock is still inside.
Smyth returns to Kingpin and the buyers with his prize. The buyers demand to know that they are getting the genuine article and Kingpin obliges by running another test. This time however there is no reaction, and Smyth’s inspection reveals that the Promethium X has transmuted into lead due to its incredibly short radioactive half-life. The product is worthless and the deal is revoked. It dawns on Kingpin that Spider-Man knew this would happen.
Back in the bell tower the remains of the symbiote rains down upon the incapacitated Brock, transforming him painfully into a hulking monster. Smashing through the wall with minimal effort, the creature remarks that Spider-Man should enjoy his fame while it lasts.
Love him or hate him, Venom is coming. Although many may criticise this opinion, this portrayal of the Black Suit Saga is far more deftly handled and punchier than the comics (and most subsequent attempts across the various mediums, aside from possibly Ultimate Spider-Man’s Venom arc). In a short but well written time we have seen the negative effects of the suit as Spider-Man sinks deeper into uncontrollable rage and violence as he revels in the power of his new suit, as the Kingpin attempts to regain control of an unwieldy scenario he helped create, and Brock and Jameson endeavour to bring in their common foe. However, each character’s deck of cards begins to topple as events spiral out of control:
What this and the previous episode really showcase is the domino effect one action has within this series’ universe, thanks mainly to sharp writing and a skilful eye on continuity. Shocker is an unusually welcomed addition to the cast, thanks mainly to a great design and the vocal talent provided by V.O. veteran Jim Cummings. The several action scenes are counter balanced with equally enjoyable dialogue-heavy/exposition scenes and character development, and although the humour in this episode is all but absent to reflect the darker side of Spider-Man’s personality as a result of his bonding with the alien it is still extremely enjoyable for all ages. All together, an exceptionally good episode.
Tight storytelling, crisp animation, empathetic and believable characters are just the main reasons this show is a must-see.