Peter Parker, aka the amazing Spider-Man has made a name himself taking on his first big league opponent, The Lizard, yet despite saving the day reaction on him is still divided: hero or menace. J.J. Jameson is personally spearheading the ‘menace’ side from his newspaper the Daily Bugle.
Peter and his study partner Felicia Hardy as taking a leisurely strole down the quiet Ney York streets arguing over whether or not they should be dating; Peter says they should at least go for dinner but Felicia thinks it’s a bad idea to risk their friendship. Unbeknownst to the pair they are being followed by private investigator Mac Gargan until Peters’ spider-sense alerts him and he turns to see Mac darting into an alleyway. Hot in pursuit, Peter forgets to say goodnight to Felicia who is not impressed at being seemingly abandoned for something as trivial as a refusal to go for dinner. In his costume Spider-Man tracks the fleeing Mac but is thrown off the scent by an explosion from the building he is perching on that sends him tumbling, only avoiding the flames by inches as he web-lines to safety. Four thugs emerge from the wreckage, one carrying a duffle bag and another wielding a large and complex gun. Spider-Man webs up the one with the loot and confronts the remaining three, sarcastically gushing at them recognising him like some kind of adored celebrity, but his audience lack his humour and firing a rocket at him. Effortlessly dodging the first and second barrage Spidey enters the fray and webs up the thugs and leaves the scene, taking the camera he set up with him as he wonders where Mac disappeared to and who he was.
The next day Robbie Robertson is praising Peter for the photos he took of Spider-Man apprehending the thugs from last night, impressed at how he always manages to capture such great shots. J.J. Jameson enters and also admits he doesn’t know how Peter achieves them, though there is an edge to the man’s tone. He asks Peter what his secret is, Peter fumbling as he pins it on good telescopic lenses and a lot of luck – Jameson is not convinced and closes the distance between them, accusing Peter of being more involved with Spider-Man then he is letting on. Peter talks his way out of the uncomfortable situation, simultaneously backing out of the room and closing the door. In the corridor he muses over why he puts up with Jameson; he doesn’t like Peter; he downright hates Spider-Man; and he probably even hates himself. His line of thought is broken when Mac Gargan leaves the elevator and shuffles into Jameson’s office.
Mac apologises instantly for not getting any leads on Parker last night but he was almost spotted again – seems he can’t seem to sneak up on him no matter how hard he tries. Jameson isn’t all that surprised by another of Mac’s failings. Jameson is convinced there is a link between Parker and Spider-Man – they must be working together, however he can’t be sure until Mac follows him to Spider-Man’s hideout. From the window Spidey is listening in on the conversation, crawling in as Jameson hands over a wad of bills to Mac and announces his entrance. Mac makes a move and is webbed to the wall for his attempts. He rounds on Jameson, giving him a message for Parker that if he catches the photographer following him again he’ll beat him to a pulp, and his demands that Jameson should “get off his case” triggers a flashback for the editor of an identical threat he received before his wife was shot during a drive-by. Spider-Man’s voice snaps Jameson out of his trance and the web-slinger departs, convinced he’s thrown him off the trail. Jameson puts down his wedding photo and cryptically promises to himself that “he won’t let it happen again”. Mac still bound to the wall, protests being made to look a fool again and Jameson offers a chance to get back at Spider-Man for his troubles and make a name for himself in the process. He accepts. Jameson contacts Empire State University’s Genetics Lab, asking for Dr. Stillwell.
Dr. Stillwell leads Jameson and Mac into his laboratory that houses the Neogenic Recombinator and the battle suit Gargan will be wearing. The equipment is prepared so Jameson insists they get on with the experiment. A short time later Mac is waiting inside a chamber wearing the oversized green battle suit as Jameson watches Dr. Stillwell over at a control panel as he powers up the Neogenic Recombinator which inserts a small chamber containing a scorpion into the machine and fires a pulsing green beam at Mac. Mac questions what it is exactly that Dr. Stillwell is doing to him – he’s not feeling quite right. On the monitor his bio stats are increasing. Dr. Stillwell tells him not to worry, it’s just a side effect of the radiation – a fact that does not sit well with Mac, but Dr. Stillwell assures him that a man of his limited intelligence has nothing to fear; increasing the Neogenic Recombinator’s output. Jameson enquires to what the actual process is doing, Stillwell replying that the radiation is restructuring Mac’s DNA to match the genetic code of a scorpion – the spiders’ natural predator. The Recombinator is powered down and the rejuvenated, muscular Mac, now the Scorpion, gives a roaring battle cry.
News helicopters are scouring the city in search of Spider-Man. Upon locating him Jameson gives the coordinates to Scorpion, who leaps at Spidey, breaking the web-line and sending him falling onto a rooftop below. Spider-Man looks up at the hulking form of Scorpion standing defiantly over him. Scorpion introduces himself as a real hero to the city and lashes out with his tail; Spider-Man dodging it as it ploughs into the flooring with concrete cracking force, barely having time to offer a comedic quip before the next attack comes – this time a spray of highly concentrated acid which corrodes the wall as Spider-Man leaps away. Scorpion is already above Spider-Man as he lands on another wall, clearly proving he is as fast as he is strong, and lunges again at the spot previously occupied by Spider-Man and putting his fist through the wall. Spider-Man tries to get some distance but Scorpion is upon him once more, tearing the web-line and sending Spidey tumbling. Quickly recovering and taking a temporary perch, Spider-Man realises that Scorpion could hurt a lot of bystanders unless he can lure him to somewhere more secluded. Despite the logical request Scorpion continues the attack as Jameson’s’ helicopter circles the fight, however his shouts of encouragements that only enrages Scorpion and causing him to tail-whip a ledge, sending large chunks of mortar falling into the crowds below. Sacrificing his stance to web up the debris before it can cause any casualties; Spider-Man is taken off-guard by Scorpions tackle and heaved onto a lower roof. Fortunately he is able to recover quicker than his attacker and webs his up tight; however this is for nought as the sting blade on Scorpions tail rips through the webbing with ease and snares Spider-Man’s leg, launching his into a water tower. Scorpion blasts the legs of the tower with acid, pinning Spider-Man. Laughing triumphantly, he gloats over the victory as Jameson orders his to unmask the downed wall-crawler. As he reaches for the mask he notices that his hands have become claw-like, his reflection in the spilt water showing him his yellow-eyed and monstrously muscular new body which sends the man into a fit of rage. As Jameson takes matters into his own hands and lands the helicopter to unmask his trophy personally Scorpion rounds on the man for talking him into becoming a freak, lashing his tail which sends the vehicle spiralling. The pilot steadies the craft and evacuates the area despite Jameson’s protests.
Back at the Bugle Robbie and Jameson watch with horror as the Scorpion rampage carves a path of destruction throughout the city. Jameson laments creating a monster just to satisfy his promise to his deceased wife, telling Robbie about how she was fatally shot by a man in a mask under orders from a crime lord after Jameson refused to back down on a story; giving him a hatred for all masked men who operate as if they’re above the law. Robbie informs him that his guilt trip have caused a rash judgments and put others in danger. Jameson agrees that this has all been a horrible mistake.
Spider-Man surveys the damage spreading all over the city and pledges to stop Scorpion before he levels all of Manhattan, although still far from recovered after the fight.
Over at ESU Jameson urges Stillwell to do something about the berserk Scorpion. Stillwell’s research shows that the genetic realignment has made Mac psychologically unstable, conceding that Dr. Connors was right when he said neogenics was too unstable to use in human trials. Scorpion suddenly bursts through a wall, his eyes now more reptilian than human, begging Stillwell to help him but Stillwell informs him that the process is replicating to fast and that it’s impossible to return Mac to normal. Scorpion mutates further, growing bigger and stronger, his back arching so he takes on a hunched stance and his teeth becoming razor sharp fangs. He accuses Stillwell of lying and throws him across the lab before rounding on Jameson for talking him into undergoing the procedure just to settle a personal vendetta against Spider-Man. Scorpion snares Jameson with his tail, promising that the man will find out the new game plan soon enough. Police are unable to open fire because of the hostage situation as Scorpion makes his getaway over the rooftops. Spider-Man is on a public phone to Aunt May telling her he won’t be making dinner tonight; news which saddens May as her friend Anna is bringing her niece Mary Jane Watson along. Spider-Man spots Scorpion bonding away with Jameson in tow and ends the conversation to pursue the couple.
Scorpion arrives at the Oscorp Nuclear Reactor, deluded in his belief that radiation can change his back to normal, not concerned by Jameson’s distress of the countless people that will be affected by a radiation leak as he makes a hole in the roof with an acid blast. Spider-Man arrives on the scene, knocking Scorpion down through the hole and saving Jameson’s fall, lowering them both through into the facility; aware that Jameson is somehow involved with all this but not certain he wants to know why. A surprise attack from Scorpion is dodged, however the blow strikes an electrical box and activates the neutron absorbing control rods – removing them from the nuclear chamber and destabilising the rate of controlled reaction within the chamber which will inevitably lead to a nuclear meltdown. Luckily this can be avoided by pushing a large red button on the central control panel – Spidey rationalising that it’s always the red button. Jameson is impressed by Spider-Man’s knowledge on physics. Unfortunately the Scorpion is attempting to gain entry to the core chamber where the rods are located, forcing Spider-Man to intervene while Jameson goes for the control panel. Scorpion throws Spider-Man off his tail and stops Jameson before he can activate the shut down, unable to empathise with all those who will be killed by a melt down so long as he gets what he wants. He reengages Spider-Man, wrapping him in a bear-hug in an attempt to crush him to death until Jameson shoulder barges him. The suddenness of it causes Scorpion to drop his adversary, dumbfounded as to why Jameson would risk his life for Spider-Man’s. Jameson replies that Spider-Man is the lesser of two evils, and he’s the only one capable of stopping the madman. Spider-Man is still recovering as Scorpion readies to finish him off when Jameson successfully distracts Scorpion by insulting him – a weakness from his years as plain old Mac Gargan. Knocking him down before he can harm Jameson, Spider-Man charges for the control panel, having to avoid an acid attack in the process. The acid eats through a control box and the exposed electrical wires give Spider-Man an idea. He insults the Scorpion until the enraged villain lashes out with his tail, grabbing a wire and ramming it into the tail and electrocuting him, giving Jameson time to press the button and prevent the meltdown. Scorpion’s erratic flails smash the ceiling directly over Jameson; Spider-Man creating a web net above him which stops the debris. Finally overcome, Scorpion collapses as Spider-Man webs him securely to the ground. Spider-Man thanks Jameson for his help and offers out a hand with the belief that things between than will be different from here on, but Jameson states that this changes nothing. Spidey makes a wise crack about Jameson’s moustache and makes his getaway, declaring them even by reminding his that despite it all the man still saved his life, much to Jameson’s annoyance.
Peter dwells on how Jameson is already probably writing a vicious editorial about how Spider-Man nearly caused city wide destruction when Felicia pulls up alongside him, agreeing that he had a point to walk away from her the other night as she was admittedly being difficult. Peter gets his hopes up and asks if this means they can get dinner sometime and she tells him perhaps they’ll just do lunch before speeding off. Things are looking up for Peter Parker.
This episodes’ main focus is on the Spider-Man/Jameson relationship that successfully blends some great action pieces with character development without the viewer feeling short changed in either department. The Scorpion side of the story fits comfortably with the character piece B-side and injects many good fight scenes into the mix to balance out the drama that younger viewers might find slow. The pacing is tight and the dialogue, particularly Spidey’s’ occasionally awkward jokes, is well scripted, witty and engaging.
Scorpions’ TV redesign is nicely rendered and is actually better than his many other costumes over the previous decades, actually giving him a visually threatening appearance, especially his mask piece which I still find doesn’t quite work even for his more contemporary comic appearances (The alternate cover to Amazing Spider-Man #573 being the most recent). The tail here is a vast improvement to his original, most obviously because it actually resembles a scorpion tail whilst the acid gun built in is far better an aesthetic decision that the laser his mark II suit had. His appearance is made all the more interesting by the way he continues to mutate throughout the episode, his eyes turning yellow and cat-like; teeth becoming fangs; skin sallowing to a tinged green; hands to talons and posture hunching as he becomes a towering mass of muscle. Always a plus is when the origins and relationships with the cast supporting their genesis remain mainly the same but with some updates to make it better suited to the 90s audience’s expectations. For example Mac blames Jameson for his situation here just as he does in the comics, which is good to see, even though his means of transformation into a superhuman are more updated. His childish temperament is well realised, allowing Spidey to ultimately get the upper-hand, and plays up throughout the 20 minutes so it doesn’t feel like a tacked on cheap-shot to get him to loose control in the end. Mac Gargan is presented as weak and pathetic, willing to be lead along by those who would dominate him so it feels only natural that his lack of mental capacity would cause him to abuse his power and use it as a tool for vengeance rather than a force for good. Though I could sympathise with him, I couldn’t help but despise and pity him for his lack of self-worth which was a good mix to infuse in a villain.
We are also given a reason for Jameson’s bias hatred towards Spider-Man – which, seeing as this is essentially a children’s programme, makes his motives instantly clear, rather than the complexities of his motivations in the comics. I actually liked the way this was handled, with his wife being killed by a masked hitman triggering his detest of men in masks acting above the law. Although his actions are a tad hypocritical considering he would create another masked superman just to take out another simply because he assumed he could control Mac’s weak personality. Surely the law would frown upon mob style lynching like Jameson stoops to.
Introduced in this episode are Felicia, who will become an on and off player throughout the series until becoming Black Cat in season 4, and we get our first mention of Mary Jane, both of whom later become Peter’s love interests throughout. Growing up watching this before I was old enough to appreciate the source material, it’s interesting now to see how differently the series creators went about remaining the Spider-Man universe while giving teasing winks to the fans such as the fall of Eddie Brock during this season.
Once again the art style is light and smooth throughout and continues to do the series justice, as does its voice talents.
A good blend of action and drama that delves deeper into the relationships between Jameson and Spider-Man, and introduces a well rounded and well defined villain into the mix while remaining close to the characters’ origins.
As a side note I think it’s a shame that Gwen Stacy is ignored from the series aside from a cameo role in season 5’s ‘Spider Wars Chapter II: Farewell Spider-Man’. Granted the character was killed because writer Gerry Conway couldn’t think of what to do with her any more, but her character was largely omitted from most Spider-Man media outside of the comics (a mockingly short appearance in Spider-Man 3 is hardly worth arguing the case) until 2008’s ‘Spectacular Spider-Man’ series made her a key player in cartoons again.