In a desperate attempt to retain his power hold over the assorted cartels of New York, Kingpin Wilson Fisk has gathered the greatest active threats of Spider-Man's rogues gallery to take down the hero has been upsetting business since he first appeared on the scene. The line-up includes former Fisk goons for hire Shocker and Rhino, with newbie’s to the nefarious organisation Chameleon, Scorpion, Mysterio and Dr. Octopus, each one in it for the money and personal satisfaction to be gained from eliminating their common foe. Not that that should prove too difficult not that Spidey’s powers are failing him, leading to the narrowest of escapes during their first encounter, due to the in-squabbling of the Insidious Six. Now they have taken Aunt May hostage, believing Parker to be the key to accessing Spider-Man’s attention, and have lured him into their clutches. With his powers down and nowhere to run, the Insidious Six are closing in on the trapped hero, ready for the kill.
May is waiting for an update on Peters’ condition, believing him to have been taken ill since Dr. Octavius informed her he had been admitted to hospital (thus leading to her unwitting capture), blindly unaware that in the basement Peter is fighting for his life against the good doctor and his cohorts. During the fracas Mysterio’s virtual reality hologram cubes are spilt, allowing them to get the drop on him and take him captive. As Kingpin congratulates his Insidious Six on their efforts Silvermane contacts him to announce that his failure to apprehend Spider-Man has forced him to take action on behest of the cartels. Proudly Fisk patches in into the video link of the defeated hero, satisfying Silvermane but an off-hand comment about Fisk’s placating to their desires riles Kingpin enough for his to suggest that he’ll take affirmative action against the mob families once he has finished his business here, demanding his prisoner be unmasked to reveal Peter Parker. Shocked, Doc Ock holds back the riled Mysterio on the grounds that Parker has been posing as Spider-Man to retrieve his aunt, explaining the lack of wise-cracks and recognisable fighting style associated with their previous encounters. Despite himself Octavius is proud that Parker was so resourceful, even going so far as to knock him away from a potentially killing blow from Shocker, allowing him to scoop up a handful of the VR cubes. Peter agrees to take them to the real Spider-Man in exchange for May’s safety. All the while Silverman has been watching, rounding once more on Fisk for his premature declaration of victory, calling his pathetic for kidnapping an old woman and strong-arming her nephew into playing to this charade – he signs off is disgust, informing Hammerhead that it’s time to put an end of Kingpins’ sovereignty. Fisk knows retaliation is imminent, however he intends to strike first and harder, giving the Six their new secretive orders as Spidey wonders who is behind the operation.
May is allowed to see Peter in his fake hospital room , then ushered to safety; he’s then warned that if he fails to provide what they need then they’ll go back for her. Elsewhere the Fisk attack on Silvermane has begun; Rhino, Shocker and Scorpion raid Silvermane tower, while Chameleon runs interference that allows the old crime lord to be kidnapped. Chameleon poses as Silvermane to inform the other crime lords that the attack on Fisk is cancelled.
Later Peter takes Octavius and Chameleon to his ‘regular Spidey meeting spot’ where the other members of the Insidious Six are already waiting. Mysterio disguises the team to lay an ambush, granting Peter enough time to use a hologram cube to run a distraction that allows his escape by faking his own death. His powers have come back to some extent, but likely not enough to take on all six opponents in such a confined space. Fisk’s helicopter circles above. Inside Silvermane is to be treated to a front row seat of the death of Spider-Man, thereafter contacting the cartels and ordering all power and executive control handed to King Pin; Silvermane refuses and is pushed from the helicopter where he dangles helpless from a tie-line. Unwilling to fight with his current handicap and unable to let a civilian die (unaware that Silvermane is one of the top ranking crime bosses of the area), Spider-Man leaps to the old man’s’ aid, freeing him; Fisk now believes the two men to be in cahoots. They haven’t gotton too far; making it only several floors into the same building whose roof the Six are standing on. They are ordered to find and eliminate both escapees. Silvermane plays up to Spidey’s ignorance, claiming to be a wealthy businessman kidnapped for ransom while leaving out that he is an influential mob boss whom has been menacing the city and beyond his whole life. Rhino gets the drop on Spider-Man; posing as the Chameleon is disguise to grab Silvermane, Spidey easily outsmarts the dim-witted thug, setting him on Shocker and Mysterio, then turning on the real Chameleon for making a fool out of him. In the confusion Spider-Man leads Silvermane away, spider-sense returning in time to take down Dr. Octopus and leave through an open window. As he readies for a attack Shocker is hurled from his perch be Spider-Man into a water tower across the street – the rip caused to his suit in Rhinos’ charge causing his equipment to malfunctions; he jumps to safety in as the tower explodes: one member removed from combat. Back outside Spider-Man is tracked effortlessly by the enraged King Pin from his helicopter. He lowers Silvermane down a chimney as the remaining villains drop in and resume the assault. Scorpion misses and sprays the helicopter tail with his acid, taking it out of commission, then goes on to melting one of Dr. Octopus’ tentacles as Spider-Man draws his fire; the abusive mocking from Octavius triggers Scorpions self-loathing anger and the two men fight as Spider-Man slips away. In the street he meets Silvermane and is thanked for saving him. Spidey is pretty on top of the world; May is safe, the Insidious Six will never pose a joint problem again, and he saved a “sweet old man” in the process, unaware that the rattled pensioner is that very moment making calls for the complete eradication of Wilson Fisk.
Having settled their personal differences, the Insidious Six decide that King Pin has failed on his intentions and promises to them. They go their separate ways. Fisk now has no muscle and the combined might of Silvermane and the cartels’ to concern himself with; a trifling matter to be sure.
Peter catches up with Felicia Hardy as she heads for class, apologising for standing her up the other night. She says she’s okay with it, however declines his invite for dinner; she has a date with Michael Morbius – every night this week. Things aren’t all bad as May is safe and even manages to get some face time with Mary Jane, even if she does act cold. However Dr. Connors has some troubling information regarding his powers. It transpires that his manifest powers so far are just the first stage in a mutagenic reaction, and his DNA is rapidly changing him into...something: Spider-Man is mutating, and the end result won’t be human.
Despite being powerless Spider-Man was able to outwit and outfought the combined efforts of 6 of his deadliest foes, under the command of the yet unknown to him King Pin of Crime Wilson Fisk, whose carefully build house of crime is now set to collapse around him as the assorted crime bosses of New York make plans to eliminate him; smelling blood in the water, they know he is at his weakest after the Hobgoblin affair, and his continuing failure in bringing down Spider-Man, whose actions are undermining their illegal ventures, show Fisk as no longer fit or able to serve them. In retaliation, Fisk kidnaps Silvermane to demand his authorisation in standing the crime families down before a war can erupt, and naming him all-powerful head of the cartels. Spider-Man rescues Silvermane before this can become reality, unaware that he has just saved one of the most influential mob bosses around, and in doing so could have sparked a gang war that’ll tear the city apart. Knowing May is no longer in harm’s way is of little comfort to Peter though; even being cold-shouldered by MJ and Felicia is of small concern to him, for his powers are changing him into something inhuman, and there seems to be no stopping the rapid mutation.
Often with double-part episodes the strength of the first set-up episode is followed the next instalment failing to deliver, whether because there is little intrigue, a weaker story, poor pay off, or the content is lacking as it all went into the previous episode. Fortunately this is not the case here, as not only does it continue to keep the pace of the exciting first part, it manages to build-upon this season’s over-arching narrative, while never at the expense of the well directed action sequences that are a trademark of this programme. With his powers down it’s up to Spider-Man to rely on his Parker ingenuity and outwit his foes, playing their pride, insecurities, arrogance and trifling smarts against them to keep a level playing field. Given that the staff could have easily let this episode (or mini-arch) become one long fight scene, that would have quickly become tiring, and instead we are treated to some good old fashioned Spider-Man variety that establishes the villains’ relationships to one another as Spidey gets into their heads. This also shows that Spider-Man has been learning how his enemies think, a refreshing approach to just hitting them till they fall.
On this note, the characters are as well established as ever, only now we get to see how they react with their peers, rather than their captives, ‘creators’ or Spidey. And there is nothing quite as entertaining as watching super villains argue amongst themselves, whether it be Fisk playing power games with Silvermane, Rhino venting his frustrations at his mental inadequacy on the Chameleon, or the self-doubting rage-aholic Scorpion lashing out at Doc Ocks’ snide belittling comments. It’s this sort of thing that keeps you interested, far more than a series of token showdown brawls. Hell, the final fight doesn’t even involve Spider-Man; he just hops around making other hit each other. The final hook of Peter’s uncontrollable metamorphosis is a brilliant cliff hanger that hints at the impending involvement of the X-Men; a great ending to one of the best episodes in the 5 season run of the show. Spidey perfection.
If you are new to the series and need validation as to why this is the most fondly remembered of all the Spider-Man series in decades, this double parter is all you need to be convinced.