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There continues to be a lot of fun Marvel synergy going on in Ultimate Spider-Man, which is picking and choosing from the regular comics, the Ultimate brand and the movies to design its universe. That’s a big pool of cool storylines to play around with, but once again I thought the payoff was a little lacking. My review partner Oliver’s definitely a bigger fan than I, but I am coming around to this show a little—its frenetic energy takes getting used to, but it works better when it’s not being used for wacky high school hijinks.
“Flight of the Iron Spider” took its inspiration from one of Spidey’s recent transformations from the comics—the tech-boosted armor Iron Man gifted him during the big Civil War arc. There, it was a shocking reveal, a sign of Spider-Man’s alliance with the hero-registration initiative being championed by Tony Stark, and, when he shed the armor, symbolic of his rediscovered vigilante freedom. Here, it’s another lesson for Peter Parker to learn about running before he can walk. Not a bad story concept for this show, but there’s one too many scenes of Spidey knocking things down and blowing things up because he doesn’t know how to fly the stupid thing.
The Stark of this show (voiced by Adrian Pasdar, who last played him in the short-lived 2010 Iron Man animated series) is closer to the smirking playboy of the silver age comics and the films, but even so, his decision to gift Spidey with advanced armor he clearly doesn’t know how to work seems crazily reckless—Iron Man tends not to part with his proprietary technology unless he has to (or for the right price, I suppose). But something about Spidey’s nerdy energy is enough to pique his interest, although not enough to try mentoring him once he has the armor.
The villain of this episode is the Living Laser, another D-list Marvel nobody they dug up because of his embarrassingly simple powers: he’s “made of photons,” so he can blast away at people without too much of a sense of danger. Later on, he invades Spidey’s suit and starts running it himself like a computer virus, which is explained away simply: “I’m living energy. Your suit runs on energy. Do the math!” I think I would have preferred if he just hadn’t asked me to do the math.
Even before the Laser gets to work on Stark’s tech (he is a former Stark employee himself), Spidey is pretty much useless this episode, intending to dazzle his teammates with his cool new powers and instead mostly causing massive property damage. Things turn around by the end, of course, but the big hero moment for Spidey this week is that he pulls a lever when Stark tells him to.
I didn’t actually mind so much, because it gave the rest of the team something to do apart from bitch at Peter about his recklessness (although there was a fair bit of that going on too). None of those four heroes have too much going on right now—Iron Fist is serene, Nova’s a hothead, Luke is pretty chill, and White Tiger is a scold—but at least they get a little bit of action before they commence with the tut-tutting. I liked, however, that they don’t just ditch Spidey after he screws up, but help him figure out how to save Tony. That means we’re getting past the team-building phase of their relationship, which will be all the better for exploring more complicated terrain.
The visuals remain crisp, if a little generic, but the quality of the cutaway gags is improving and the amount of “boinks” is going down. I liked the Spidey-Toast (which we used as an image for last week, but popped up here) and the brief guest spot by the Super Hero Squad Show (as the parallel universe the Laser ends up in). I don’t know if things are settling down, or if I’m just getting used to the ADD atmosphere, but at this point there’s definitely worse things to do than watch Ultimate Spider-Man on a Sunday morning.
My biggest letdown in this episode was how aggressively lame Iron Man was, even though he was presented as being totally cool. All that winking at models does not a superhero make.
Nick Fury is also continually undermined by the fact that every week the gang disobeys him and generally causes havoc, and he lets them off with a warning. Don’t tolerate that shit, Fury!