This week’s episode rolled out two villains from the sillier side of the Marvel universe for Spider-Man to throw down with, but it was inventive and fun enough to work as a piece of Saturday morning entertainment, if nothing else. The involvement of Juggernaut was an immediate red flag: cartoon depictions of ol’ Juggs are always on notice because of the “Juggernaut bitch!” meme that even wormed its way into Brett Ratner’s X-Men movie. Thankfully, there was none of that, although Juggernaut was deployed just as a city-wrecking machine with no particular motivation or target—he was just causing trouble, and for whatever reason Spidey had to clean it up.
The episode (co-written by the Man of Action team) was smart enough to have Spidey wonder aloud where everyone else was, and to focus on Spidey’s insistence on working alone when he has a perfectly capable team of teenaged superhumans wiling to back him up. I guess this is always going to be a story element, even though things should have progressed by now. But when you have a show about a team of heroes that’s called Ultimate Spider-Man, that conflict is probably never going to go away.
Anyway, Spidey is trying to take on the Juggernaut, who really seems to be causing a lot of trouble. At one point, we see a police car embedded in the side of a skyscraper. That’s no good. Isn’t Juggernaut usually the X-Men’s problem? His relationship with Professor X is certainly what brings out his pathos. Oh well, whatever. As Spidey tries to subdue Juggs, he gets a call from Luke Cage, who reminds him that they’re partners on a science fair project in school and they only have…one day!?!??!?!! To complete it. Wuh-oh!
I’ll admit I rolled my eyes at this plot development, because “science fair” is pretty much the laziest way to play with the “superhero in high school” theme. I guess an overdue book report would be even worse, but this is almost as tired. While Spidey’s been fighting crime, all our other heroes have had time to create x-ray glasses and liquid nitrogen freezers using only the Midtown High science lab, which is pretty impressive.
So Spidey nabs something from the S.H.I.E.L.D. hellicarrier, an innocuous-looking rubbery brick with seemingly magical properties. I guess this could have been a way to introduce the Venom suit, but they already did that, so instead this is the Awesome Android, a wacky 60s villain firmly from the Stan Lee bag of tricks (I think it was first introduced in Fantastic Four) who consumes inorganic matter to gain strength and then smashes things.
I know—two smashy, personality-free villains in one episode? But “Awesome” still made things work with some inventive visual humor, the clever nullification of Juggernaut (who the gang incites the android to eat, removing his armor without harming him) and the eventual, obvious use of the kids’ science project to take it down. Everyone gets a chance to do something, Spidey learns a lesson about teamwork, and so on and so forth.
I know that I often clamor for this show to be more serious and pursue longer arcs, and that’s still something I’m hoping for (even though its tone doesn’t point in that direction). Silly one-shots like this can be perfectly diverting, but mostly help aid the notion that this show is just destined for the scrapheap of forgotten animated Spidey efforts. But even as we hear news that the amazing Spider-Ham will be making an appearance later on this year, I hold out hope that the darker core of this show gets expanded on sometime. You can keep the jokes and cutaways! Just make more use of Spider-Man as a character.
- So, Aunt May just sold Spidey’s chemistry set? Damn, that’s cold! She doesn’t get that he likes science?
- Among the objects Spidey considers stealing from S.H.I.E.L.D.: the Ultimate Nullifier, the Cosmic Cube, Howard the Duck.