Ultimate Spider-Man: “Strange”
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Ultimate Spider-Man: “Strange”

For a Spider-Man series, Ultimate Spider-Man has been surprisingly light on web-slinger-specific rogues, so it’s fitting that one of our hero’s greatest villains would make his way out of the shadows when Spidey goes solo. When Peter Parker is left alone at home while Aunt May goes ATV riding, he discovers a S.H.I.E.L.D.-planted camera in the corner of his living room ceiling and throws a hissy fit in front of Nick Fury. Tired of the suffocating hold Fury has over his life, Peter decides to spend the day getting some me time, triggering that classic Parker luck when he’s attacked by Dr. Octopus an amusement park.

Dr. Octopus has been lurking in the background since the start of this series, and when Norman Osborn threatens to cut off funding for his underwater lab, Otto Octavius takes it upon himself to bring Spider-Man in. It’s crazy that Venom has had three episodes before Dr. Octopus is even named on this show, and as much as I like seeing other areas of the Marvel Universe explored, Spider-Man’s awesome rogues gallery deserves more screen-time.

“Me Time” is a fine episode, but we never really get a sense of who Otto Octavius is beyond “eight-limbed lunatic scientist.” I appreciate that this series doesn’t feel the need to go into expository segments detailing the characters’ origins, but with an important villain like Dr. Octopus, it’s important for the viewer to know who he is and what he’s fighting for. I hoped that Paul Dini’s presence as creative consultant would mean that this show would explore the more emotional, personal aspects of these characters; it’s beginning to look like he was hired for his madcap Tiny Toons work instead of his deeper Batman: The Animated Series experience. Venom is the only villain with any sort of extensive backstory in this universe, and I wish the writers put that much effort into other characters rather than just using them for extended action-comedy sequences.

This is a kid’s show first and foremost, so it’s a bit unfair to ask for heaps of emotional pathos, but this series needs that last piece of the puzzle to truly achieve greatness. As is, Ultimate Spider-Man is enjoyable but starting to get repetitive, and we haven’t been given a strong reason to care about these characters. Peter’s relationships with Mary Jane and Aunt May have gone almost completely unexplored, and his interactions with the S.H.I.E.L.D. teens are less than gripping. Spider-Man is on his own this episode, and all he does is fight and crack wise, which is par for the course on this show, but also pretty boring.

There are some fun comedy bits in this episode—Risky Business on the ceiling, the huge-chinned caricature of Nick Fury during the “This ain’t my first rodeo” bit—but this episode’s heavy reliance on cutaways diminishes the impact of Spidey and Doc Ock’s big brawl. Last week’s episode put less of an emphasis on the comedy, and I thought it was one of this series’ most effective stories. I love a good joke about Doc Ock’s bowl cut, but for a high-drama plot like this week’s, it would be nice to see the series adjust its tone a bit. If anything, just minimizing the amount of cutaways would be a welcome shift: the joke referees are a cute visual at first, but are obnoxious by the time they make their third appearance.

There are some cool visuals in this episode, including a Spider-Man/Whirlwind tussle inside a tornado at the start of the episdoe that shows some nice fight choreography from director Alex Soto. The Dr. Octopus design for this series is a very cool illusion, with two circular vents on Octavius’ chest mimicking octopus eyes. Because there’s an amusement park, there has to be a funhouse mirror fight, and it looks very sharp in Soto’s hands. But like the comedy, the action starts to get repetitive as the episode continues, and there are only so many times Dr. Octopus can have his own tentacles used against him before you start wondering just how much of a genius he really is.

In terms of overarching plot, this episode marks the end of Dr. Octopus and Norman Osborn’s relationship, as Norman destroy Octavius’ lab when he doesn’t deliver Spider-Man. An Osborn vs. Octavius storyline with Spider-Man caught in the middle could be fun, although I’d like to see a few more rogues get in on the action and have ourselves a good old-fashioned Sinister Six situation. While the story could have been stronger, the best thing “Me Time” does is shift away from the S.H.I.E.L.D. and put the focus solely on Spider-Man, and it’s something that I’d like to see happen more often on this show.

Stray observations:

  • I like the idea that with Uncle Ben gone, Aunt May is having a bit of a mid-life crisis and trying to recapture her youth. Also, this show need more Aunt May.
  • Dr. Kurt Conners works at S.H.I.E.L.D. That’s going to be fun.
  • Good thing no one is in those roller coaster cars Spider-Man crashes into Doc Ock.
  • How can Spidey be susceptible to vertigo he’s web-slinging all day?
  • “Of course I signed! Lovin’ my jetpack, by the way!”
  • “Feels like you can fall out at any minute!” Yoink!
  • “Who’s ‘he’? You should reference all your pronouns!”

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