Monday, December 7, 2015

Spectacular Spider-Man: "Reinforcement"

Premiered October 20, 2009.

"Guys, Feliz Navidad, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice!  Can't we put our differences aside for just one night?"

It's Christmas time in New York City, but Spider-Man (Josh Keaton) has little time to enjoy the season.

"Ho, Ho, Ho, I'm Spidey Claus."
A shadowy villain known only as the Master Planner has freed some of Spidey's enemies from police custody and re-formed the Sinister Six.

Master Planner briefs the Sinister Six via video monitor.
This team of bad guys consists of Mysterio (Xander Berkeley), Sandman (John DiMaggio), Rhino (Clancy Brown), Vulture (Robert Englund), Electro (Crispin Freeman) and Kraven the Hunter (Eric Vesbit). They're assisted by an evil computer genius known as the Tinkerer (Thom Adcox-Hernandez).   Doctor Octopus (Peter MacNicol) has declined to rejoin the team and remains in a mental hospital.  The Master Planner tells the Six he wants to "inaugurate the age of the supercriminal."  The first step towards that "age" is the elimination of Spider-Man.

Spider-Man's alter ego Peter Parker is having difficulties as well.  Peter is out skating with some other kids at Rockefeller Center ice rink.

He and his friend Gwen Stacy (Lacey Chabert) recently shared a kiss but they haven't spoken since it happened.  She thinks Peter would prefer to date Liz Allen (Alanna Ubach) and doesn't want to be anyone's second choice.

Peter asks their mutual friend Mary Jane (Vanessa Marshall) for advice on how to make things right with Gwen.

Using Kraven's sense of smell, the Sinister Six track Spider-Man to the ice rink.  Electro calls out the webhead.

Peter changes into Spider-Man to confront Electro and Vulture joins the fray.  The villains endanger Gwen, Mary Jane and the other kids, so Spidey lures them away from the ice.  Electro accidentally takes out Vulture, but he knocks down the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in the process!

Vulture takes a bolt of electricity!
Spider-Man subdues Electro, but he's attacked by Rhino and Sandman.  They battle at New York Harbor, which is frozen over.

Shortly after that, Mysterio and Kraven chase Spider-Man into a department store that's decorated for Christmas.

A battle ensues and Spidey tries to keep all the shoppers safe.

Can Spider-Man overcome the odds beat the Sinister Six?  Will Spider-Man finish off the bad guys in time to celebrate Christmas with his Aunt May (Deborah Strang)?  Will Peter be able to smooth things over with Gwen?

J.A. Morris says:

This is a great Christmas episode of a somewhat-overlooked series.  I grew up reading Spider-Man comic books and in my opinion, Spectacular Spider-Man captured the spirit of Spidey better than any other film or TV adaptation of the wallcrawler's adventures.

I've always felt that Spider-Man is more of a New Yorker than any other Marvel hero.  This episode takes advantage of the New York setting and gives us a great fight scene at Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve.

Spider-Man stories in any media have always focused equally on Spidey's adventures and Peter's private life.  This is no exception, giving us a good subplot featuring the teen love triangle of Parker, Gwen and Liz.

Gwen & Mary Jane react to the toppling of the Christmas Tree
There are also some nice allusions to other Christmas programming.

The soundtrack contains a nice jazz piano version of "Deck The Halls", which is meant to remind us of Vince Guaraldi's music from A Charlie Brown Christmas.  When Spider-Man is battling Mysterio and Kraven, he exclaims "Oh Fudge!," a humorous reference to A Christmas Story.

The Parkers' block decorated for Christmas.
The best part is the department store battle.  It's accompanied by music from Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker Suite" and it's a perfect scene.

Spidey even rescues a mall Santa from the Sinister Six.

Spider-Man asks "Santa" to put the Sinister Six on his naughty list!
One thing I appreciated about "Reinforcement" is that it shows superheroes' primary job is keeping people safe.  On two occasions, Spider-Man flees from his opponents so that civilians have a chance to escape.

But it's not all fights and superpowers.  There's a very touching moment at the end of the episode, when  Peter and his Aunt May celebrate Christmas morning together.  I won't spoil it, but let's just say it involves Peter's late Uncle Ben.

All the voice actors are great, Josh Keaton nails both Peter and Spider-Man.  Speaking of the voice actors, fans of Nightmare On Elm Street will appreciate that Vulture is voiced by Freddy Krueger himself, Robert Englund!

Englund gives the Vulture a very memorable evil laugh!

This episode has been released on the The Spectacular Spider-Man: The Complete Series blu-ray set.  It's also available on a standalone DVD titled The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Five.

"Reinforcement" is recommended Christmas viewing, especially for anyone who's ever been a fan of Spider-Man.  The serialized nature of this series means that you may not quite understand what's going on, so it doesn't get my highest rating.

J.A. Morris' rating:


3 and a half candy canes.

RigbyMel says:

This is a fun episode of a series that didn't get enough attention when it was originally on the air.    

Christmas chaos!
Personally, one of the things I always liked about Spidey (in both the comics and on screen) was his banter and sarcasm which is well deployed in this episode.  And he's not all talk, of course,  Spidey manages to use his wits many times in the course of his encounter with the Sinister Six.  (The use of a perfume bottle to befuddle Kraven the Hunter was particularly inspired, I thought!)

"Yikes!  Lock your chimneys, folks!"
I also like that this episode gets into how confusing and distracting it can be to a teenager.    (Adding superpowers and super villains into the mix just adds to the melee of distraction!!)    Peter and Gwen's awkwardness around each other is completely believable.

They also tie the distraction element into Spidey's battle with the Sinister Six, which gives this episode a little bit more thematic heft than the average kid's cartoon show.

I also enjoyed the use of New York City locations like Rockefeller Center in this special, but do think that said locations seem oddly depopulated for the holidays in NYC.   (This is probably a factor of animation budget issues though, and I'd rather see the main cast of the series rather than a host of background characters.)

Kraven gets a little tied up in a sleigh. 
As J.A. Morris says above, there are several great references to other classic Christmas programming and the department store fight sequence is a highlight.   There's also an amusing Warriors reference when Electro taunts Spider-Man - not Christmas-y but definitely amusing!

"Spider-Man come out to plaaaay!"
The episode does drop new viewers into the middle of an ongoing story arc featuring Peter and Gwen,  but I don't think this detracts much from the overall effect of the episode in and of itself.

Peter and Aunt May share a Christmas moment.
"Reinforcement" is recommended for Spider-Man fans and animation fans alike.

RigbyMel's rating:

3 candy canes

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