I got very excited to see Brian Michael Bendis credited as the sole writer of this episode—perhaps the creator of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic title would bring some of the pathos and compelling serialization this show has been light on. Don’t get me wrong, Bendis can bring the funny too, but that’s not where Ultimate Spider-Man has been lacking.
But with a major guest-starring role for Wolverine, and a villainous appearance by Mesmero, of all people (a C-list X-Men villain at best), it became clear that this episode would adapt the silliest storyline Bendis ever attempted in the comics—a Freaky Friday-esque body-swap between Spider-Man and Wolverine that was appropriately titled “Jump The Shark.”
I’m not sure that wacky supernatural comedy is what Ultimate Spider-Man really needs, but sadly, it fits in pretty perfectly with the tone of the show so far. Now, I’m not plugged-in enough to the comics community to know whether or not “Jump The Shark” was despised when it came out a few years ago—I remember enjoying it heartily, but also remember that it followed some of the book’s darkest material yet, so it was a welcome relief. That’s less of an issue here.
From what I remember of the comic, Spidey and Wolverine had an established enmity before the whole body-swap, but on the show he needs to be introduced, so we get an opening battle with Mesmero, who’s robbing a bank and hypnotizing the locals into attacking our heroes. This is a pretty run-of-the-mill Wolverine, voiced by v/o vet Steve Blum (who also played him in the short-lived Wolverine And The X-Men and 2011 X-Men shows). He’s growly, he doesn’t play well with others, he gets the job done through unorthodox means, including the classic “pop two claws around a person’s face” technique.
He’s no match with the wiseacre, responsibility-obsessed Peter Parker, that’s for sure. So what could be craaaazier than him waking up in Peter’s high school in his teenage body while Peter wakes up in Wolverine’s apartment, beset by an attack from his greatest rival Sabretooth. Shucks, I guess it’s gonna be one of those days, right?
Sabretooth is pretty underused, existing only as a goon for Wolverine/Spidey to pummel in an episode that probably could have done without the big action sequence. The big problem with “Freaky” isn’t the core concept—of course it’s ridiculous, but this show exists in a fairly silly universe already. But Bendis doesn’t get to have enough fun with the body-swapping. Peter growls at his classmates and throws Flash Thompson into some lockers, and Wolverine’s claws pop in and out as if they’re malfunctioning, but that’s pretty much the extent of it.
Ultimate Spider-Man is going to have action sequences, of course, but it needs to realize that it doesn’t have to rely on them. Maybe spacing the big set-pieces out more would stop them being so slapdash and dull. There were some nice flashes of humor to the fight—I liked Logan-Spidey just dangling from a bridge by a web, unsure of what to do next—but when it got to the pummeling, I lost interest. It didn’t help that Wolverine was weirdly overpowered here, consistently knocking Sabretooth around like a rag-doll and punching him across city blocks or knocking over school buses. I’m no stickler, but that’s not really what Wolverine is all about.
Things work themselves out pretty simply—Sabretooth gets K.O.ed, Mesmero puts everything back to normal, and Wolverine tells Peter to value his high school years while he’s still got them, valuable advice that didn’t make a lot of contextual sense. Wolverine’s main takeaway from his few minutes in high school seemed to be that Mary-Jane was hot and Flash Thompson a jerk. Still, I guess he’s gotta say something before jetting off, or else this episode would feel really pointless.
The “technical difficulties’ cutaway gag was cute, then not funny, then back to being funny again. Hit a joke enough times, that’ll usually work.
Wolverine appeared to be drinking a can of apple juice after fighting Mesmero. What a badass!
The soap opera credits were sorta funny, but only Doctor Doom’s appearance at the end really sold it.
Liked the cameo by Deadpool on the cover of “Timely” magazine.