Monday, March 31, 2014

X-BABIES REBORN #1 - January 2000

Beware the Babymaker!
Credits:  Ruben Diaz (writer), Juvaun J. Kirby (pencils & colors), Caleb Salstrom (inks), Comicraft (letters)

Summary:  While training in the Danger Playpen, Sugah accidentally touches Psychilde, which leaves Psychilde in a coma.  Soon, the X-Babies realize that her neoplasm is unstable.  They travel to Mojoworld, where they hope to find a cure.  Spiral, however, wants Psychilde’s neoplasm to create more stars for Mojo.  Her latest creations, the Mitey ‘Vengers, are unleashed on the X-Babies, but eventually they realize that Mojo is the true villain.  Iron Ace and Sugah attempt to repair Psychilde’s damaged neoplasm, but in the process alter her body into that of an Asian ninja.  Soon, Mojo is defeated by the united teams.  Later, however, Mojo creates more new creations…baby villains. 

Continuity Notes:  This story introduces the Mitey ‘Vengers, which consist of Captain Amerikid, Iron Ace, Big Boy, Thunderson, Wisp, and Hawkey.

I Love the '90s:  One corner of Mojoworld is revealed to be the Fad Dump, which houses last year’s hits, such as “digital pets, teen boy bands, yo-yos -- again.”  Unfortunately, boy bands don’t die out in 2000 as the comic predicted.

Review:The cover might fool you into thinking this was released during the Quesada/Jemas days, since the company name is written across the top and there’s no corner box (the new look adopted to signal Marvel’s new direction in 2001).  Plus, the interiors bring us lower-case lettering, when the X-Babies speak at least, another “innovation” from the Quesada/Jemas era.  The comic’s actually from the final year of the Bob Harras days, however.  It might be tempting to think this comic influenced the future look of Marvel Comics, but I can’t imagine any of Bob Harras’ replacements ever glanced at it.  I don’t even recall much of a fan response to this one-shot, even though the first one was received fairly well.  X-specials were far from “special” at this point, and virtually anything with the X-Babies on the cover was probably automatically rendered unimportant to most readers.  And fans of the original one-shot possibly didn’t even know this existed, because I certainly don’t remember any promotion for it.  

X-Babies Reborn isn’t as much fun as its predecessor, but it has its moments.  Aside from some cute jokes, including a running gag about where babies come from and the introduction of ninja-baby Psylocke, there is some legitimately good character work between Sugah and Psychilde that evokes a Claremontian feel without turning the sentiment into parody.  The plot has more than its share of puzzling diversions, however, such as a detour to an abandoned library that doesn’t seem to serve much of a purpose outside of making a joke about kids not reading books anymore.  Too often the story just feels padded in order to fill up the double-sized page count.  Like the previous one-shot, the real highlight of the issue is J. J. Kirby’s art.  I think his X-Babies rival the original Arthur Adams’ versions, and the ‘Vengers are great cartoony reinventions the heroes (especially tiny Hawkeye and Iron Man.)  If Kirby could apply this style to six-foot superheroes, I don’t see how he couldn’t have had Ed McGuinness’ career.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED #17 - August 1997

I, Robot Master
Credits:  Glenn Greenberg (writer), Howard Mackie (plot assist), Joe Bennett (penciler), Joe Pimentel (inks), Christie Scheele (colors), Jack Morelli (letters)

The Plot:  Betty Brant and Peter Parker investigate mysterious robotic toys left at various children's hospitals.  Peter recognizes one of the toys as a miniature Robot Master, leading him to suspect Mendell Stromm is still alive.  With Arthur Stacy’s help, Peter discerns which hospital will receive the next toy delivery.  As Spider-Man, he meets Stromm the next morning, and is shocked to discover he has amnesia.  Stromm takes Spider-Man to his old lab, explaining that he was wandering aimlessly until he passed the abandoned building and felt drawn to it.  He began to make toys for local children, inspired by vague memories of being a sick child.  When Spider-Man mentions Norman Osborn, Stromm’s demeanor changes.  He dons one of his robotic suits and attacks Spider-Man, assuming he’s associated with Osborn.  The building is destroyed, but Spider-Man saves Stromm with Arthur Stacy’s help.  

The Subplots:  Arthur Stacy visits the Daily Bugle to gain more information on Spider-Man’s connection to the deaths of George and Gwen Stacy.  Jonah Jameson sends him to lunch with a reluctant Peter, who was at the offices to research Mendell Stromm.  Later, Peter discovers MJ is still up at 3 AM studying.  She advises him not to allow his anger over Norman Osborn’s actions cloud his judgment when dealing with Stromm.

Web of Continuity:  
  • Mendell Stromm was left for dead by Norman Osborn in Amazing Spider-Man #418 as punishment for failing him.  His amnesia was caused by an electrical blast to the brain.  The reality is that Tom DeFalco meant for this to be an actual death scene, but Glenn Greenberg was interested in bringing Stromm back.
  • At the end of the story, Spider-Man takes Mendell Stromm to Dr. Kafka for an evaluation.  She confirms that most of his memories of the past nine years are gone, which means Spider-Man’s secret identity is safe.
  • Robbie Robertson and Arthur Stacy meet for the first time this issue.
  • Jonah Jameson is hale and hearty this issue, and Ashley Kafka is still employed at Ravencroft, meaning this is another story that has to occur before Spectacular Spider-Man #246.

Forever Young:  Speaking of Ashley Kafka, she mentions that Stromm’s heart attack, which was his first death scene back in Amazing Spider-Man #37, occurred nine years ago.  That means Peter Parker was a college freshman nine years ago, putting him firmly in his late 20s.  Marvel’s unofficial de-aging of the character is only a year away, at which point reboot co-architect John Byrne will declare Peter merely 22.

I Love the ‘90s:  While staking out the hospital early in the morning, Spider-Man wishes he had a portable TV to watch Dionne Warwick and the Psychic Friends Network.

Miscellaneous Note:  The title of this issue is a reference to Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot.

Review:  The best Spider-Man Unlimited issue in ages, no doubt about it.  Not only is this a much stronger Joe Bennett job, whose Amazing Spider-Man work I would say is obviously suffering from deadline problems, but it’s a well-constructed story that uses the current status quo of the titles in a thoughtful way.  I’d put this issue up against any of the contemporary monthly Spider-Man books, assuming we had to compare for some reason.  It just feels more like a Spider-Man story than the vast majority of the material being published at this time.  The characters are likable, past events are influencing current events in logical ways, and the connection between Peter’s life and Spidey’s life feels organic.  When MJ gives Peter a small lecture, (lovingly) telling him not to let his anger over what happened to them earlier cloud his thinking…when Betty realizes that visiting kids in a children’s hospital might be hard for Peter after losing his own daughter…when Arthur Stacy has a chance to unmask Spider-Man but instead saves Stromm’s life…these are simple human moments, sharply written, and it’s hard to think of too many of these scenes occurring in the monthly titles.  

As we discover in the final “Life of Reilly” installment, the inspiration for this issue came from Greenberg’s desire to tie up some loose ends from the Clone Saga, and to actually address a dangling plotline from the current titles.  What exactly was Arthur Stacy supposed to be doing in these books?  The only writer who even seemed interested in covering the Stacy family was Howard Mackie, and his interest was sporadic to say the least.  Why were the Stacys revived if no one was going to do anything with them?  What’s the point of establishing Arthur Stacy as obsessed with learning the truth about Spider-Man and then putting him far into the background?  It’s possible that Mackie did have plans to address this, and I’m sure he did help Greenberg to make this a better story when consulting with him, but it’s slightly ridiculous that it takes an issue of Unlimited to give this story any traction.  It’s a good use of Unlimited, which of course is usually filler, but these are ideas that should’ve been addressed months earlier.  And given Greenberg’s ability to effectively use the supporting cast, make good use of the line’s current status quo, and humanize a throwaway villain like Mendell Stromm, it’s a shame he wasn’t assigned more Spider-Man work during these days.  At the very least, he should’ve been given a chance to make something out of Unlimited on a regular basis.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ‘97 - September 1997

Before the Dawn
Credits:  Roger Stern (writer), Kurt Busiek (story assist), Tom Lyle (penciler), Robert Jones (inks), Matt Webb (colors), Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Sundown is released from prison after serving his full sentence.  Due to his refusal to return to Osborn Chemical, he’s unable to find steady work.  Mobster Lucky Lobo singles Sundown out as a potential enforcer, but he refuses to return to crime.  Lobo eventually threatens the life of Mary Kelleher, a girl that Sundown accidentally harmed years earlier after gaining his powers.  He agrees to kill Spider-Man for Lobo in exchange for Mary’s life.  Unbeknownst to Lobo, Spider-Man makes a deal with Sundown to save Mary from Lobo’s men.  Sundown physically threatens Lobo to stay away from Mary, then watches as Lobo is taken by the authorities.  Spider-Man suggests Sundown become a hero, but he decides he’d rather be forgotten.

The Subplots:  Peter reflects on his past while thinking about the years that have passed since Sundown’s first appearance.

Web of Continuity:  
  • Sundown debuted in the Untold Tales of Spider-Man ’97 annual.  
  • The amount of time Sundown spent in prison is referred to as “the last decade” and “nearly ten years” on separate occasions.  A year or so after this comic was published, Roger Stern would co-write the Lost Generation miniseries, which was based on the premise that the modern Marvel Universe began only seven years ago.  Irate fans often used the time references in this very issue to refute the “Seven Year Rule.”

*See _________ For Details:  Lucky Lobo was sent to prison all the way back in Amazing Spider-Man #23.  We discover this issue that Lobo met Sundown in prison, and was impressed by his reluctance to use his powers.

"Huh?" Moment:  Tombstone is on the back cover, even though he’s never even mentioned in the issue.  He’s presumably there to represent one of New York’s crimelords.

Review:  It was only a matter of time before one of the new villains created for Untold Tales of Spider-Man showed up in the modern continuity titles.  I’m not sure if anyone thought it would be Sundown, though.  Untold Tales of Spider-Man ’97 is probably remembered as the UTOS annual that didn’t have the Mike Allred Fantastic Four story, and for not much else.  It wasn’t a bad comic necessarily, but I wouldn’t hesitate to call it the weakest UTOS story.

The sequel, thankfully, is an improvement.  Tom Lyle is back as artist, and while I wish he could be paired with a more polished inker, he’s able to straddle the modern and retro styles the story requires.  Sundown himself works much better this time, as his rather generic origin is now out of the way and the story’s free to delve into his psyche a bit.  Portraying Sundown as one of the few truly repentant villains in Spider-Man’s rogues gallery is a nice angle to explore.  Stern points out more than once that Sundown never attempted to have his sentence reduced, and he could’ve escaped prison at any time, anyway.  He stayed to pay his penance; he accidentally harmed young Mary and was compelled to pay the price.  This is of course a convenient way to explain why this retconned character never appeared in any comic over the years, but it also works to humanize Sundown.  It’s a sober story about the passage of time and the consequences of paying for your mistakes, told as a competent superhero adventure.  I don’t know if he was willing, but Stern should’ve been called to do more of these done-in-one Spidey stories.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

PETER PARKER, SPIDER-MAN Annual ‘97 - March 1997

Dead Men Walking
Credits:  Glenn Herdling (writer), Glenn Greenberg (story assist), Shawn McManus (artist), John Kalisz (colors), Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Spider-Man encounters Ramon, a man drugged to act like a zombie.  The next day at the Daily Bugle, he learns Ramon is Glory Grant’s cousin.  After taking Glory to visit Ramon at Ravencroft, Peter discovers federal agent Shotgun at Glory’s apartment.  Shotgun is investigating Glory, since she was one of the survivors of a cruise ship that recently sank.  Shortly, Spider-Man is caught in a fight between Shotgun and the Zombie, who has arrived from New Orleans.  Glory saves Shotgun’s life, proving her innocence to him.  However, while later investigating the ship’s wreckage with Shotgun, Glory turns on him and leaves him to drown.  Glory, now dressed as Calypso, breaks Ramon out of Ravencroft and summons the Zombie to help her dig up Calypso’s grave.  Spider-Man arrives and allows Calypso to resurrect her body in order to save Glory.  Calypso escapes and Glory returns to normal.  The Zombie leaves after Glory gives him Calypso’s talisman.

The Subplots:  MJ and Peter spend a night watching movies at home.  When MJ falls asleep, he changes into Spider-Man to check on Glory again.  Drugs shipped from Haiti have turned Glory’s cousin into a “zombie.”  Shotgun claims that the latest shipment is on the cruise ship that sank.  While possessed by Calypso, Glory acts on her attraction to Shotgun and seduces him when he spends the night at her apartment.  Later, she’s relieved when Dr. Kafka revives Shotgun after his near-drowning.  Dr. Kafka also administers a cure to Ramon.

*See _________ For Details:  Calypso claims her physical body has been recovering since her death in Web of Spider-Man #109.  Her spirit resided in the Talisman of Damballah, which once controlled the Zombie.  One of Calypso’s agents knew to give the talisman to Glory during her Caribbean vacation because he sensed their mutual hatred of Spider-Man, which is a reference to the conclusion of the Lobos Brothers arc in Web of Spider-Man #55.

I Love the ‘90s:  Peter and MJ check out movies at a video store before their night at home.

Review:  You might recall that “Torment” was based on an idea by Glenn Herdling, who returns this issue to revive Calypso after her utterly pointless death in Terry Kavanagh’s Web of Spider-Man run.  Herdling was also the assistant editor on the titles during the extended Lobos Brothers arc, which ended with Glory Grant perfectly willing to kill Spider-Man for the werewolf mobster she loved.  (Yup.   Check the archives.)  That scene was casually ignored after the story ended, as Glory disappeared into obscurity as soon as Gerry Conway left the books in the early ‘90s.  I have no idea if Conway had any concrete plans on what was next for Glory following her relationship with Eduardo Lobo, but I kind of doubt he intended for her to be possessed by the spirit of Calypso.  

Unfortunately, what we have here is another case of a Daily Bugle cast member defying all odds and somehow getting dragged into a scheme involving one of Spider-Man's established villains.  Never one of Iron Fist's villains, oddly enough.  Glory just so happens to be on a cruise ship that takes in a boat of Haitian refugees, one of which is a servant of Calypso, who is able to discern that Glory has a subconscious hatred of Spider-Man going back to a story that hasn’t been referenced in years.  Simultaneously, the cruise ship is also carrying drugs from Haiti; drugs that will soon turn Glory’s cousin into a zombie back in America.  Those are just too many coincidences to accept in one story, and that’s before we even get to the fact that Ashley Kafka happens to be the doctor treating Ramon.

Now, for some reason, the story goes out of its way to differentiate between the “Zombieastral” (zombies created by chemicals) and “Zombiecadavre” (a resurrected corpse).  Both are used in the story, and neither adds much of anything.  The basic idea of Calypso possessing Glory Grant and using Glory to resurrect her original body has problems, but at least there’s nothing fundamentally convoluted about it.  For some reason, Herdling feels the need to complicate the plot with the old ‘70s Zombie, political strife in Haiti, a new street drug that zombifies people, Glory’s cousin, and, oh yeah, Shotgun.  You might remember Shotgun from practically any Marvel title drawn by John Romita, Jr. in the ‘90s.  (Romita, Jr. was even supposed to do a monthly Shotgun series during the heyday of Big Guns & Attitude, but it never materialized.)  This might just be Shotgun’s first appearance not drawn by Romita.  And the artist turns out to be Shawn McManus of all people, doing a job that’s just as polarizing as his Sensational Spider-Man annual in the previous year.  Initially, I had to wonder why Herdling felt the need to use Shotgun during the story, but eventually decided to shrug my shoulders and go along with it since Shotgun works about as well as any other government agent character.  Then again, Shotgun’s only here due to the inane “zombie drug” plot thread, the one that adds zilch to the plot, so he stands out as another distraction.  

All this said, I have to admit to some affection for this issue.  I love the original Lobos Brothers arc from Web, so any attempt to pick up on a loose thread and follow up on Glory Grant is appreciated.  And as much as “Torment” has become a source of ridicule over the years, it did reestablish Calypso as a real threat, so it’s nice to see the mistake of killing her off rectified.  I’m also impressed that Herdling somehow found a way to drag in two obscure characters from distant corners of the Marvel Universe like Zombie and Shotgun and put them into the same story.  It felt like a story grafted onto another story that didn’t need it at all, but still, that’s a decent quota of forgotten Marvel characters.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP #7 - June 1997


Old Scores
Credits:  Kurt Busiek (writer), Sal Buscema and Dick Giordano (art), Tom Smith (colors), Comicraft’s Team Dave (letters)

The Plot:  A Drone created by the Enclave robs a scientific firm, killing a security guard in the process.  The media blames Spider-Man, based on the testimony of the surviving guard.  The mayor orders the Thunderbolts to bring in Spider-Man, much to the delight of Mach-1, who previously faced Spider-Man as the Beetle.  Eventually, the Thunderbolts realize that Spider-Man is innocent and track the Drone to the Enclave’s headquarters.  Spider-Man follows, using the spider-tracer he placed on Mach-1.  During their fight with the Enclave, Spider-Man saves Mach-1’s life, and gives him the information he needs to stop the Enclave’s brainwashing scheme.  Later, Mach-1 gives Spider-Man a video recorded by Techno that implicates the Enclave.  He tells his teammates that this was in their own best interests, but later admits to himself that playing a hero is having an impact on him.

The Subplots:  J. Jonah Jameson is thrilled to have yet another opportunity to blast Spider-Man.  Later, Peter goes to the Daily Bugle to research the Thunderbolts, arousing Robbie Robertson’s curiosity.  I’ll also point out that Anna Watson is mentioned-but-not-seen yet again this issue.

Web of Continuity:  This story takes place early in the Thunderbolts’ career, when they are still villains-in-disguise.  And, like many stories, this issue has to take place prior to May 1997's Spectacular Spider-Man #246, due to Jonah's appearance.

*See _________ For Details:  The Enclave lost their original headquarters in Fantastic Four #67.  Some of their technology previously appeared in the Spider-Man: Dead Man’s Hand one-shot.  Mach-1 debuted as the Beetle in Strange Tales #123.  He points out that the Human Torch was his first opponent, but Spider-Man has been his main adversary over the years.  Finally, Spidey reminds the Thunderbolts that he said nice things about them in Thunderbolts #1.

I Love the ‘90s:  Dallas, the T-Bolts’ liaison with the mayor, says that she will “modem over the data” on Spider-Man’s alleged crime.

Production Note:  The tiny print is still incorrectly listing the year as 1996.  Also, this is the final issue of the series.  A new volume of Marvel Team-Up soon takes its place, but Spider-Man is no longer featured in every issue.

Review:  I believe this is the last time Sal Buscema provided pencils for a Spider-Man story, so there is some historical significance to the issue.  And it looks great, by the way.  Buscema has figured out how to make the post-McFarlane style work very well by this point, creating a stylized version of the character that’s still rooted in actual anatomy.  Buscema’s also asked to draw a lot of characters this issue, yet he never seems to be shirking on the work.  (Having Dick Giordano do the finishes doesn’t hurt, either.)  The story is probably more of a Thunderbolts story than a Spider-Man story, but Busiek is still careful to work in some of the Spidey hallmarks, such as Peter going to the Daily Bugle for research and JJJ gleefully blaming Spider-Man for the latest crime that he's been framed for.  Playing up Spidey’s past with Mach-1 also helps to make Spider-Man feel less like a generic hero, which is often a problem with team-up stories.  The Thunderbolts have a much more interesting role to play, as they debate just leaving Spider-Man out to dry, or actually finding the real culprit (if only to protect their image in the future.)  Mach-1’s character arc could easily come across as cheese, but Busiek executes the ending quite well.  

Monday, March 24, 2014

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #424 - June 1997

Then Came…Elektra
Credits:  Tom DeFalco (writer), Joe Bennett (penciler), Bud LaRosa & Ralph Cabrera (inks), Bob Sharen (colors), Comicraft (letters)

The Plot:  Elektra discovers Hand ninjas in New York and learns that they’ve arrived to kill the rogue True Believers clan.  Elektra searches for the True Believers and crosses paths with Spider-Man.  Meanwhile, a hit is placed on Dragonfly and her cousin Angela due to Dragonfly’s failure to kill Robbie Robertson.  Spider-Man and Elektra aid Dragonfly against a group of True Believers led by the assassin Yano.  After defeating them, Elektra urges Dragonfly to do what’s right.

The Subplots:  Spider-Man’s headaches continue.  He snaps at Aunt Anna when she walks in on him as he’s changing outfits, but he quickly apologizes, blaming the headache.  At the Daily Bugle, Jonah announces he’s leaving town with his wife.  Robbie assumes he’s leaving due to a potential threat from the True Believers.  

Web of Continuity:  And, yet again, the vertigo seen in the other titles is described as “headaches” in Amazing.

I Love the ‘90s:  Spider-Man claims that his head is going to erupt like Dante’s Peak.  Later, he asks Elektra if she's in town for a Xena convention.

How Did This Get Published?:  Most of the dialogue amongst the True Believers is straight out of a poorly dubbed 1970s martial arts movie, but there’s also this piece of smooth exposition from Jonah:  “I love how you (Robbie) tied these ridiculous-looking assassins to that Black Tarantula creep who’s been trying to muscle into the New York crime scene.”

Review:  More Green Ninjas!  More out-of-place martial arts action!  More Joe Bennett!  More languishing subplots!  Less Peter Parker, actually doing anything interesting!  Okay…in fairness, I can understand why Tom DeFalco thought pitting Spider-Man against a ninja clan could be a novel challenge for the hero, but I don’t understand why he felt we ever needed more than one issue of it.  And dragging in Elektra, apparently because her name almost sounds like "Electro" (it’s a joke in the issue), doesn’t do the story any favors.  She’s a hero during these days, non-lethally taking out the Green Ninjas and dispensing moral platitudes to Dragonfly, a character that remains a dull stereotype.  Spider-Man vs. the Frank Miller Elektra would’ve been fun.  Spider-Man teaming up with sanitized Elektra, now in her own monthly series?  Nah.

And what does Spider-Man get to do in the story?  He gets to complain about being drawn into more fights that really have nothing to do with him, then throws a tantrum when he reflects on how Electro humiliated him last issue.  Thankfully, this issue’s guest star, reformed master assassin Elektra is there to calm him down.  That’s what passes for an emotional arc now.  DeFalco’s post-clone run on this book really did have a promising start, but it’s depressing to see how quickly it’s gone downhill.  Amazing Spider-Man should not be running issue after issue of bombs, especially leading up to an anniversary issue.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spider-Man: The Video Game - 1991

I only saw this arcade game once during a family vacation in 1991.  I thought it looked incredible at the time.  Wiki has a profile of it here:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SPIDER-MAN Episode Eighteen - October 7, 1995

Mutants' Revenge
Story by John Semper & Michael Edens.  Teleplay by Francis Moss & Ted Pedersen.

Summary:  Wolverine and Spider-Man realize Herbert Landon is the true enemy and team up to stop him.  As they invade Landon’s headquarters, Hobgoblin uses Landon’s computer terminal to steal his mutant research.  When Landon pursues Hobgoblin, Landon falls into a vat of chemicals he intended to use on Beast.  The chemicals turn Landon into an irrational monster.  The X-Men arrive to help, but it’s ultimately Landon’s assistant Genevieve who calms Landon down with her psychic powers.  Landon returns to human form, and Spider-Man and the X-Men part as friends.

Continuity Notes:  
  • Genevieve is revealed as the person who saved Spider-Man’s life by telekinetically holding the ceiling together in the previous episode.
  • Half of Landon’s body is now green and scaly after he reverts to human form.  Visually, he’s now a doppelganger for Two-Face, a fact the producers had to be aware of.  He sticks around the show for quite a while, confusing little kids all across the country, I’m sure.

I Love the '90s:  Landon’s computer interface is represented by a hilariously bad CGI recreation of a woman.  After Hobgoblin copies the info on to a CD-ROM, he then programs his own CGI face into the computer to taunt Landon.

Review:  I had forgotten that the second chapter of this crossover is…not very good.  At all.  Spider-Man and Wolverine aren’t allowed to have much of a fight, due to censorship restrictions of the time (which were even tougher on Spider-Man than on X-Men).  And after they do inevitably decide to stop fighting and team up, they spend the next ten minutes fighting the same security guards over and over again.  By “fighting” I mean flipping them around like acrobats, since no punches can connect, and by “the same” I mean that literally, as the show recycles the same footage of two guards running towards the camera approximately five thousand times.  The guards look like a group of middle-aged dads who were kidnapped outside of a bowling alley and forced to wear goofy hats, pointless straps, ill-fitting pants, and emasculating ‘80s shoulder pads.  I can’t imagine why anyone thought the audience wanted to see an extended fight scene with these losers in the first place, but at the very least they could’ve had cool designs.  Couldn’t Landon have robot guards anyway, so Wolverine can cut something up with no censor notes?  

What’s after the fight?  Landon turns into a giant reptilian monster of all things, the X-Men show up, looking slightly more anime this episode, and the day is saved by…a peripheral character I barely noticed in the previous episode.  And Landon is now Two-Face, and somehow everyone was just okay with that.  I actually do like the twist that Landon has a mutant working for him, one who believes that a “cure” should be made available, I just think the revelation of Genevieve’s secret feels like a copout.  Genevieve, who I think is referred to by name only once during the storyline, hasn’t been fleshed out at all, so allowing her to suddenly save the day makes the ending feel even more noticeably abrupt.  That’s the ending we’re stuck with, however, as Spider-Man learns a lesson about friendship that inspires him to visit Dr. Mariah Crawford, setting up the next storyline on his show.  The X-Men return to their fully-rendered, hand-painted world and never think of this Spider-Man fella again.  Except for Storm, who turns up with her original voice during the show’s laughable Secret Wars adaptation, because Marvel wouldn’t pay to fly the entire X-Men cast from Canada.  That’s the commitment to quality I remember from the ‘90s Spider-Man series.

Credit to for the screencaps.
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