Last week, I found myself delighted by the premiere of Ultimate Spider-Man, Disney’s opener to their brand-new Marvel Universe cartoon hour. In the first two episodes, they found a fun, light-hearted voice balanced with some great action scenes and interesting character dynamics. I mentioned in the post that I would be DVRing the series to see if they could keep this momentum up. Yesterday was the third episode and … it was good, but maybe not as good as the premiere. In “Doomed,” there was more of a focus on Peter’s new-found relationships with the rest of his team, and that included some head-butting between Peter/Spider-Man and Sam/Nova at both school and during training. They start to get past their differences and work as a team by the end of the episode, but the storyline started slow with Peter acting like a bit of a whiny snob. These moments aren’t deal-breakers for me, but they are a bit discouraging if the characters don’t actually move on from this pettiness. Beginning with flaws is great, but learning from these experiences and growing as the series progresses … that’s even better. However, one lone character completely stole the show — Clark Gregg‘s Agent Coulson in his secret identity as Principal Coulson.
You see, while he’s put in charge of Peter’s school to keep an eye on the team and ensure that the kids have excuses for when they have to go on missions, Agent Coulson still has to be the principal … and it turns out that running the school is a handful. When the kids go off the grid and Nick Fury calls him to figure out just where the heck they are, Coulson frantically replies, “Sir, I’m in the middle of a crisis. the school’s budget is a mess! I’m trimming the fat — no more doors on boy’s bathroom stalls, rougher toilet paper … hey, maybe S.H.I.E.L.D. could donate –” and then he gets cut off. In Fury’s words, he’s “gone native.” And that made me laugh like crazy.
We originally met Agent Coulson in the first Iron Man movie, where he first mentions the existence of the “Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.” While he was a character created for the movie, Marvel fans quickly understood that his group’s involvement with Tony Stark meant that S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers could very well be a major part of the Iron Man movie franchise. There was something about Coulson that I liked right away, which was why I really enjoyed seeing him again in both Iron Man 2 and Thor. A lot of that has to do with Clark Gregg’s fine walk between quiet stoicism and underlining snarkiness — in addition to the actual movies, the live-action Marvel shorts “The Consultant” and the especially hilarious and bad-ass “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer” completely solidified my love of this character.
And that’s why I was loving how much fun Gregg was having with this episode. After the kids learn save the day from disaster (a disaster they directly caused, by the way), Coulson comes in to tell them they have homework to make up. On top of that, Coulson urgently tells Commander Fury, “I need the full power of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s legal team, stat! We need to limit how much actual meat you need to legally call something ‘meat loaf.’ We can save the budget, man!” I know it’s silly, but after you see a man take down armed crooks using only a bag of flour, it’s really, really funny to hear his cartoon variant pontificate about public school lunches.
Look, there were two actors in the Ultimate Spider-Man cast that convinced me to at least give the show a try — J.K. Simmons and Clark Gregg, because they were both reprising their roles from their corresponding movie series and they both happen to be awesome character actors. Gregg is fantastic in Ultimate Spider-Man so far and the series is getting me excited for The Avengers in less than a month. I just want my favorite agent to survive Joss Whedon‘s habit of breaking fans’ hearts. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to knock on wood for the next three and a half weeks.
Oh, and as if I needed another reason to love this actor, he’s playing Leonato in Whedon’s upcoming Much Ado About Nothing, which happens to be my favorite Shakespeare play. I can’t wait!