Monday, February 16, 2009

First Steps

Season: 1
Episode Number: 18
Season Episode Number: 5
Production Number: 205
Airdate: February 15, 2009

Writer: Kevin Hopps
Director: Kevin Altieri

Voices: Josh Keaton (Spider-Man), Lacey Chabert (Gwen Stacy), James Arnold Taylor (Harry Osborne), Joshua LeBar (Flash Thompson), Vanessa Marshall (Mary Jane Watson, Rosie Thompson), Alanna Ubach (Liz Allen), Grey DeLisle (Sally Avril), Phil LaMarr (Randy 'Rand' Robertson), Andrew Kishino (Kenny Kong), Cree Summer (Glory Grant), Steve Blum (Seymore O'Reilly, Dilbert Trilby, Green Goblin), Eric Lopez (Mark Allen), Kevin Michael Richardson (Principal Davis), John DiMaggio (Sandman, Hammerhead), Ben Diskin (Eddie Brock).

Plot: The Sandman is back and is looking for his big score! And with his new enhanced powers, Spider-Man may not even be able to stop him. That is, if Peter can pull himself away from Flash's birthday party and his new girlfriend, Liz Allen!

Review (Warning! Spoilers!): Sandman has been an underused character in past animated series and he wasn't even in the 90s cartoon, so I was happy with the amount of screentime he was getting in this show. But upon seeing him again at the beginning of this episode, I felt that maybe Sandman was being overused in this series. He has appeared in more episodes than any other villain so far.

I am happy to say that I spoke too soon. First Steps brings Sandman up to level of the other major players by giving him an enhanced set of powers that really make him a powerful force not to be messed with. Having Flint go soft toward the end is a nod to when Sandman became an ally of Spidey's in the 90s and started dating Silver Sable. Maybe we'll get a little of this in a future episode?

The animation shines as the animators and storyboard artists obviously had fun creating and showing off this new Sandman. And Kevin Altieri provides excellent direction to the episode splicing this plot together with the sub-plot of Flash's birthday party (which features a dozen or so supporting cast members!) and the sub-sub-plot about Eddie Brock.

I love the treatment of Mary Jane in this show. She is just another friend at school. We all know that Mary Jane and Peter are fated to be together but it is really nice to watch these stories be told as they have never been told before.

I am much more interested in a love triangle between Peter, Gwen and Liz as I have not idea how it will turn out. I'm rooting for Gwen. Mary Jane can stay on the sidelines in this series for all I care.

Harry returns in this episode, reminding us how much we loved this trio of misfits at the beginning of the last season. Yes, I'm sure that the Green Goblin will be a feature of an upcoming storyarc, but lets just have these three be friends for a while, okay?

Also returning in this episode is Hammerhead, who hints at the mob relationship between the Big Man and the Master Planner when he takes a cut of Sandman's pay claiming it to be part of the payment for Sandman being on loan to the Master Planner in the last storyarc. We may see some tension between the two mob 'families' in the future, with Spider-Man in the middle of course! Villains everywhere!

And I must say, Eddie Brock popping up everywhere was a blast! Watch the episode carefully, he even pops up in the background when Peter doesn't notice him!

First Steps is an excellent episode. Excellent writing, excellent story, excellent animation, excellent action. It captures everything that I love about this show as well as everything I love about Spider-Man.

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