Ultimate Spider-Man TV (2012) - Season 1, Episode 2

Background

Previously: We have been introduced to Spidey/Peter, Aunt May, MJ, Harry, and Nick Fury (super-spy head-honcho of S.H.I.E.L.D.) Spidey has been invited to become an official protegé of S.H.I.E.L.D. and thus to receive some much-needed training.

Episode Two opens with Spider-Man in a hold of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier facing his first evaluation exercise – he has 60-seconds to take-down of a team of training robots. Of course, Captain America only needed 10 seconds...

Story 'Great Responsibility'

  Ultimate Spider-Man TV (2012) - Season 1, Episode 2
Summary: First Aired: April 1, 2012
Arc: Part 2 of 'Great Power/Great Responsibility' (1-2)
Director: Phil Pignotti, Tim Eldered
Writer: Paul Dini

While Spider-Man stumbles his way through ever-changing waves of well-armed robot attackers using his indubitable skills (but rough-and-ready technique), his progress is monitored on the helicarrier bridge by an amused Nick Fury – as well as by his four new teenage teammates-to-be.

These are of course White Tiger (Ava Ayala), Nova (Sam Alexander), Power Man (Luke Cage), and Iron Fist (Danny Rand). And they're not impressed. The only one who has any faith at all in the new recruit is Iron Fist. The other three make a bet with Iron Fist that Spider-Man won't even make it through evaluation. If Spidey succeeds, the other three have to clean the helicarrier for a month. Toilets too!

Spidey drops back down to Manhattan via web-parachute and reverts back to his civilian identity. He makes a brief hospital visit to Harry who was injured in last episode's attack on Midtown High by the Frightful Four (working for Otto Octavius, who is working for Norman Osborn).

Meanwhile, two other subplots tick along:

  1. Norman Osborn (wannabe criminal mastermind) is determined to obtain Spider-Man's abilities.
  2. Mary Jane (wannabe investigative journalist) is determined to interview Spider-Man.

Returning to the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, Spidey meets Doctor Curt Connors (technology and weapons expert) who introduces our web-swinging hero to the Spider-Cycle. But the first Spider-Cycle test-drive hurtles immediately out of control through the towers and streets of Manhattan, and it requires Spidey's new team-mates to rescue him from disaster.

Embarrassed by needing to be rescued, and afraid of responsibility, Spider-Man turns down Fury's invitation and leaves S.H.I.E.L.D. – only to be instantly attacked by Thundra, Wizard, and Klaw (the Frightful Four minus one). It's three against one!

Wait. No, it's three against five. Rejoined by the four teammates that he just abandoned, the good guys defeat the bad guys, and learn a few lessons about super-heroing in the process.

So Spider-Man decides to join S.H.I.E.L.D. as a part-time trainee, under the condition that he can keep on studying at Midtown High. Nick Fury thinks that's a great idea. In fact, such a great idea that Peter gains four new classmates named Ava, Sam, Danny, and Luke.

And oh yes, the school also has a new Acting Principal named Coulson.

General Comments

There's a lot packed into each 22-minute episode. Between the robot battle and web-parachute drop, the Spider-Cycle ride, and the Frightful Four (minus one) fight – that makes three extended action sequences.

Then there's the introduction of five major new characters (White Tiger, Power Man, Iron Fist, Nova, and Agent Coulson). All of this is embedded in a running stream of visual and spoken gags that never lets up from start to finish.

This cartoon runs on the principle that if you keep the jokes coming fast enough, it doesn't matter if some of them miss. Not everybody will catch the Ferris Bueller "oh yeah" reference, nor understand why the Iron Spider prototype is grey in the 1.5 second cameo. But I'm sure I missed plenty of other jokes too.

Overall Rating

When I first glimpsed this show, I immediately dismissed it as a pointless, irrelevant distraction that existed only to rake in some cash by repackaging Spider-Man for a new generation.

And that is 100% correct. This is Spider-Man for a new market, and it has little connection to the mainstream happenings in the comic books or the movies.

Yet underneath a veneer of childish superficiality, there's a very well-executed cartoon happening, which I did not expect at all. The relentless pace and constant stream of side-gags dovetails with a very post-modern self-referential and self-deprecating humor. The series has staked out a little domain all of its own in the Spider-Verse, and it's having a great time there, thank you very much.

Four Webs.

Footnote

Introducing Characters: White Tiger, Nova, Power Man, Iron First, Dr. Curt Connors, Agent Coulson.

Introduction in Cameo: Thor.

Also: Introducing the Spider-Cycle. Also introducing Spidey's shoulder-devil and shoulder-angel.