There seem to be two types of people in this world – folks who think Spider-Man should be in the Avengers, and folks who think the wall crawler should not be an Avenger. Where do you stand on the issue? In the comics, the web-slinger has been one of Earth’s Mightiest for some time now, but it took decades to happen. Now, Marvel’s latest animated version of Spider-Man joins the team in this weekend’s new episode of “Ultimate Spider-Man.” Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on “The Avenging Spider-Man.”
Long Time Coming
In comics, Spider-Man was always a candidate for Avengers membership and was actively sought by the team. Stan Lee seemed to have a standing policy that Spider-Man was a loner, and worked best that way – and he was right. For storytelling purposes, in a perfect world, Spidey works best as a solo act. If he has help, he basically no longer what he was created to be – someone with problems that we, the readers, can relate to. As an Avenger, many of his problems – money, friends, enemies – are solved. He becomes no longer interesting.
In the 1980s, after decades of swinging by with a helping hand, Spider-Man finally joined the Avengers as a provisional member. He hung out for almost a year, but eventually it didn’t work out. The stories by Roger Stern were more of an exercise in why Spidey shouldn’t be an Avenger if nothing else. Brian Michael Bendis recruited the web-slinger to the rebuilt Avengers team after the “Disassembled” event, and made it work. And some of what I talked about above happened. Peter Parker’s life was made much happier with a weekly Avengers stipend, and their headquarters provided sanctuary for his loved ones when his identity was exposed in “Civil War.”
And now that change in Spidey’s life, his membership in Earth’s Mightiest comes to the Marvel Animated Universe. At the end of the second season, Peter Parker’s S.H.I.E.L.D. training had finally culminated in an invitation to join the Avengers. This is perhaps both a way to make the Marvel Disney XD universe more cohesive, but also boost ratings of both series, “Ultimate Spider-Man” and “Avengers Assemble.”
That’s not all that is changing with the third season of the animated Spidey, the title is going through an overhaul as well. Now called “Ultimate Spider-Man: Web-Warriors,” it turns out that this Avengers adventure is composed of episodes one and two of the third season, and the special “Return of the Guardians of the Galaxy” episode we saw (and I reviewed) early last month is actually episode thirteen of this third season. So much for continuity and showing things in chronological order.
We open on the Avengers (even Black Widow! but surprisingly missing Falcon) observing Spider-Man lead his SHIELD team against a barely recognizable Doctor Octopus. They have given him a more octopus-like form, long hair and weirder goggles. I don’t get it. If it’s not broke, why ‘fix’ it? Seriously, if they hadn’t named him, I doubt I would’ve connected this character to Doc Ock, and it’s not like he’s that hard to miss in a crowd.
But it should be noted that the “Ultimate Spider-Man” series has been all about changes. Spider-Man works and trains with SHIELD. He leads a team of teenaged superheroes. Iron Fist is one of them, de-aged and partnered with the new Power Man rather than Luke Cage (or is he supposed to be a teen Luke? I can never tell). And the Daily Bugle is strictly background fluff, because Peter doesn’t work there.
As Spidey joins the Avengers, we’re shown video game fighting style matches with Fin Fang Foom, Attuma, and Batroc. Normally I can’t stand this crap when it’s done on this show usually, but here it’s done well, probably because Paul Dini wrote this two-parter. In his “Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.” there is a bit of silliness as well, but it’s usually blended with seriousness and of course a good knowledge of the characters and the universe. Sometimes I think the folks behind “Ultimate Spider-Man” and “Avengers Assemble” don’t even read comics.
Videogames aren’t the only games going on here though. Loki is skulking about and he frees the just captured Doc Ock. His plan is take revenge on the Avengers, Spider-Man, and of course his half-brother Thor by sheathing monsters in Venom and sending them after Earth’s Mightiest. He’ll also be doubling up on vengeance by switching bodies with Spider-Man, so their newest member will be leading the Venom monsters. Weird plan honestly, but I did like the shout outs to Superior Spider-Man and Spider-Ham, nice.
Body Snatchin’ Hijinks
Now folks who know me know that I am not a fan of this show, or “Avengers Assemble” for that matter, but I will give props when deserved. The hijinks that ensue when Spider-man and Loki switch bodies are hilarious. Spider-Loki tries fervently to convince the Avengers that he’s really Spider-Man and that Loki is n his body. Then when the Avengers figure out finally that it’s true, Loki switches them back… so the good guys are after the guy who looks like Spider-Man, who now, really is Spider-Man. Awesome.
It’s almost as awesome as when the two are fighting and begin to hurt themselves, so it will hurt the other when they switch back. Imagine Loki in Spider-Man’s body letting Spider-Man in Loki’s body beat him up, because it will hurt Spidey for weeks once the body switch is back to normal. It’s gives ‘stop hitting yourself’ a whole new meaning. And poor Spidey, while in Loki’s nigh-invulnerable Asgardian body, there’s not much he can do to fight back.
There’s a nice little skirmish between the Avengers and Spidey’s teen SHIELD squad that doesn’t last nearly long enough to be satisfying. Slugfests between superheroes are tradition in the Marvel Universe, and considering the length some of them go, over in the “Avengers Assemble” series, this was a real disappointment. We do however get an extended battle between all the good guys and the bad guys toward the end of the second episode.
All in all, this was not bad. We got lots of cameos and nods to comics Easter eggs, and in the end, as would be expected, Spider-Man returns to his SHIELD squad. It’s back to status quo, so no damage done if “Avengers Assemble” comes back. Granted I would have rather had more Fin Fang Foom than another Loki episode, and I really wish they could find a captioner who knew how to spell Spider-Man, but what can you do, right? So much for Spider-Man joining the Avengers, in animation… for now.