Welcome to Spider-Man for the new generation. This is the eight or ninth (depending on how you count) cartoon series to feature the wall-crawler, and this is the hippest, most self-referential, fourth-wall-breaking version yet.
How hip? So hip that the introduction and background to the episode is given by Peter himself. After a 5 second summary of what happened previously (i.e. an introduction to S.H.I.E..L.D., Nick Fury, and his fellow trainees/schoolmates) Peter then introduces us to the different non-hero social groups at the school's lunch room.
To make things tricky, each with their own super-hero nickname. The skateboarders are the "The Silver Surfers". The jocks are "The Hulks". Is that foreshadowing? Are these guys going to become relevant later, or is this just a bit of scene-setting? I don't know. But enough introductions, let's get on with episode 3.
|Director:||Gary Hartle, Jeff Allen|
|Writer:||Duncan Rouleau (as Man of Action), Joe Casey (as Man of Action), Joe Kelly (as Man of Action), Steven T. Seagle (as Man of Action)|
|Adapted By:||Marvel Play Time (UK Magazine) #3|
|Adapted By:||Marvel Universe Ultimate Spider-Man: Great Power (Screen Cap Digest) (Story 3)|
|Adapted By:||Ultimate Spider-Man #3: Doomed!|
But fortunately, Peter has his own social group with MJ and Harry. Except... what's this? Sam (aka Nova) is muscling-in on Peter's Table! Bad enough that Nova and Spidey are butting heads over who is the "leader" of the junior super-group, now Peter has Sam competing for the attention of his friends!
Their feuding attracts the attention of Principal Coulson (their temporary high school headmaster, as well as their S.H.I.E.L.D. supervisor). He calls them into detention, except... it was just a trick to get the five team-members into a room so they could swap into super-hero mode. The heroes are thrown into costume, then rocketed through tunnels into the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier (which is currently underwater, but rises above the surface).
Fury promptly challenges the heroes with a training exercise. Spider-Man and Nova immediately go into highly-competitive mode and compete with each other to destroy ten robots... until Fury points out that the aim of the exercise was to cross the room without setting off any traps. Ooops.
That means they all get zero points, and the real-world field exercise is promptly cancelled. The heroes are all grounded and they have to spend the rest of the day cleaning up the mess they made.
How can the heroes restore their credibility in Fury's eyes and gain some respect? Clearly the smart move here is to pick a villain from S.H.I.E.L.D.'s foes-file, and then sneak off to bring them to justice all by themselves. That's bound to win points for initiative and demonstrate that they're ready for the big time, right?
For the purpose of allocating blame in 6 minutes time when everything has all gone wrong, I'd like to just clarify people's roles in this fiasco:
To his credit, Spider-Man immediately came to the conclusion that Doom was out of Nova's league. But the web-head says nothing, wanting to watch Nova get his comeuppance in the attempt. So they all sneak into a S.H.I.E.L.D. airship and figure out how to set the controls for Latvia.
At the last minute, White Tiger and Spider-Man get a sudden attack of common-sense and decide that this all a bad idea. That's the moment where the autopilot kicks in and the ship is on its way. Spidey decides to let the joke run a bit further before pulling the plug.
So do the heroes have a plan? Not really. And even if they did, they don't really get time to put anything in action, since as soon as they get near Latveria, Nova decides to play tag with the local defense technology until he is overrun by robots and taken out of action. The rest of the team have no choice but to join the fight. The battle goes well for 30 seconds until Doom himself turns up.
But surprisingly, even Doom's arrival doesn't spell complete disaster. Even more surprisingly, Spidey and Nova manage to jointly KO Doctor Doom. Spidey webs him up and there's a race to get the villain back to the helicarrier and claim the credit.
So, Fury is going to be delighted, right? Spider-Man is already thinking about what kind of reward he'll get. Probably a jet-pack, right? I mean, this is Doctor D. The Big D. The D-Man!
So what kind of reward do you get for going Latveria, picking up a nice big Doom Robot, and bringing it back to the bridge of the S.H.I.E.L.D. heli-carrier? Oooh... it's a robot? No, it's six robots. So... no jet-pack then?
Well, it all goes to heck. The Doombot is loose in the ship. No, wait. The Doombots plural are loose in the ship, heading for the power core. But even now, Nova and Spidey can't stop competing for three seconds, and their inability to co-operate with each other at all is really starting to aggravate Power Man, Iron Fist, and White Tiger.
With the helicarrier crippled and threatening to go nuclear over New York City, Spider-Man finally manages to overcome his ego and start acting like a leader. Needless to say, the junior team does managed to defeat the Doombots in time – with a little long-overdue teamwork.
In the wrap-up. Nick Fury is mad as heck and is looking to find somebody to blame. But you'll have to watch the episode to see how that turns out.
This episode turned a corner for me. For the first couple of episodes, I felt that I could see from a distance what the creators were trying to achieve in appealing to their target audience.
But now, I feel that I am part of that audience. Instead of being merely a reviewing chore, I genuinely enjoyed watching. I was entertained, amused, and even a little bit moved by the ending.
Ultimate Spider-Man packs a lot of material into 22 minutes. The jokes (verbal and visual) come thick and fast, and have a pretty high success rate. I genuinely laughed out loud more than once.
The plots are consistent and polished. The universe they are creating is well-imagined and well-executed. Sure, it's not "Classic Spider-Man", but honestly, I can absolutely see why they decided to go the direction they went.
Fast, Fresh, and Frequently Funny. (The other Fantastic Four).
Four Webs. I'm officially (though belatedly) a fan.
Introducing Characters: Doctor Doom.
Also: Introducing the Spider-Jetpack, although that only happened in Spidey's imagination.