Monday, October 20, 2014

Ultimate Spider-Man: "Blade & The Howling Commandos"

Premiered October 5, 2013.

"You ruined my Halloween, so smell my feet!"
-Spider-Man to Dracula

It's Halloween Night,Spider-Man (Drake Bell) and his fellow teenage superheroes are meeting a S.H.I.E.L.D. contact. They're clowning around in a cemetery, telling "scary" stories, jumping out of the shadows and startling each other.  
Nova(Logan Miller) scares Spidey & Iron Fist (Greg Cipes) with a "Doctor Doom" mask.
Their fun is broken up when the team is attacked by vampires!  The vamps have the upper hand, but the battle is joined by a sword-wielding man who calls himself Blade (Terry Crews), who helps the heroes.  
Blade slashes at some vampires.
Blade is the world's greatest vampire hunter.  Spider-Man objects to Blade "killing" the vampires, but Blade tells him they were "shadow vampires, undead drones, never alive".  

Blade & Nick Fury have a heated discussion.
They reconvene on the Helicarrier,where S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Chi McBride) and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) fill them them in on their mission.  The heroes learn that Dracula (Corey Burton) is trying to take over the world.  The king of vampires is seeking an ancient Egyptian artifact called Tekament's Ankh.   Blade has the other half.  

If Dracula captures both halves, he will be invulnerable, able to walk in the sunlight, immune to any of the usual vampire weaknesses.  The other half is kept at the American Museum of Natural History.  Fury tells the teen heroes that Blade will go to the museum alone, his mission is out of their depth.  But they tail Blade until he reluctantly allows them to tag along.  

Dracula decks Blade!
The heroes gather at the museum to protect the other half of the ankh.  Dracula and his minions appear and attack.  He hypnotizes everyone but Blade and Spider-Man, the heroes teleports them away and takes them prisoner.

Spidey hits Drac with some artificial sunlight, just as effective as the real thing.
Blade and Spidey return to the Helicarrier where Fury tells them it's time to bring in the big guns:The Howling Commandos!  They consist of Werewolf By Night (Ross Lynch), Frankenstein's Monster (Kevin Michael Richardson), N'Kantu, the Living Mummy (Oded Fehr)...

...and last-but-not-least, the macabre Man-Thing!  The monsters will join Spider-Man and Blade in their battle against Dracula.

But they take a minor detour.  Dracula learns that Spidey has an aunt in Queens, NY and sends his drones to capture her.  Blade, Spider-Man and the commandos save Aunt May, defeating the drones.  

During the fight, the wallcrawler learns that Blade had been a member of the Howling Commandos, but they had a falling out. 

Spider-Man and the commandos then prepare to attack Dracula's castle in Transylvania.  Can they free the other heroes and defeat Dracula?  Even if they're able to stop the vampire, another enemy is waiting in the (bat?) wings!

J.A. Morris says:

It should be noted that "Blade & The Howling Commandos" premiered as an hour-long special on the Disney Channel.  Since then, on tv and home video, it's been broken up into two episodes, one titled "Blade", the other called "The Howling Commandos."

If you've read either of my comic book blogs, then you know I'm a huge fan of Marvel characters, especially Spider-Man.  But the Ultimate Spider-Man series has been somewhat disappointing.  This iteration of Spidey isn't very likable and it has too many cut-away gags, reminiscent of shows like Family Guy.  

Having said that, this is the strongest episode of the series.  The presence of the monsters gives it a fun "Universal Horror" atmosphere.  I appreciated the scene where Spider-Man made a point of telling Blade that he doesn't kill, which is consistent with the character's history.  The webhead's interaction with Aunt May, where he unmasks, was funny.  Dracula's plan to conquer the world is good megalomaniacal villainy, and Tekament's Ankh is a good MacGuffin.

One of the coolest things about Marvel comics and animation is that the stories take place in "real" cities (instead of Gotham City or Metropolis).  So it was nice to see a battle take place New York's American Museum of Natural History.

The voice actors are all well cast.  Blade is portrayed by guest star Terry Crews, best known for his rolls on Brooklyn 99 and Everybody Hates Chris

If I have a problem with it (besides the usual cut-aways), it's Dracula's appearance.  I realize that Dracula has been depicted in various ways since he was created.  But the long, white hair and red armor just doesn't "look like Dracula" to me.  But he acts like him and makes a good villain, especially in a Halloween episode.  

"Blade & The Howling Commandos" may never become a classic, but it's full of action and Halloween-themed fun.  Recommended to audiences of all ages, especially fans of Marvel Superheroes.

J.A. Morris' rating:

3 Jack o'lanterns.

RigbyMel says: 

This is an amusing Halloween-themed offering from an otherwise mediocre series.   
The monster spin on the Howling Commandos was inspired, as was their mode of transport -- a "Monster truck."  *rimshot* 

As J.A. Morris mentions above, there are some great moments in this installment of the series, my particular favorite involves the fact that Agent Coulson has a super-secret all access pass to the Natural History Museum (of COURSE!!!)  and that he even gets a moment to do some Indiana Jones-ish Halloween cosplay.   It's also great that Clark Gregg -- who plays Coulson on Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.  tv show and various other Marvel movies -- voices the same character on this series, which does give it a little boost in terms of cachet.  (Clark Gregg seems to make most things he's involved in better by being in them!) 

"Indiana" Coulson gives our heroes some ankh exposition
Unlike J.A. Morris,  I don't really have a problem with Dracula's appearance in this episode,  sure he doesn't look like Bela Lugosi,  but his gear certainly has a sort of updated Eastern European warlord feel to it, which works ok even if it isn't "traditional."     

The main problem I have with the episode is an issue I have with the whole Ultimate Spider-Man series, most specifically the characterization of Spider-Man/Peter Parker.   Spidey comes off as a lazy, jerk. 

Spidey's smart alecky sense of humor was always something I enjoyed about the character, but he has to be SMART for it to work.  Unfortunately, Ultimate Spidey comes off as more willfully ignorant than smart.   Peter Parker may be a teenager and make mistakes, but he'd NEVER skip out on studying up on things scientific or otherwise.  Moreover, he would probably know that Transylvania was a real place before being told!  Spidey is supposed to be the hero, but I find it difficult to enjoy him in this iteration. 

Aunt May is unimpressed with Petey's "lame" Spider-suit costume
So this episode gets kudos for Halloween fun and the inclusion of Clark Gregg, but major deductions for bad hero characterization (and annoying jump cutting).  

RigbyMel's rating:  

2 and a half Jack o'lanterns

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