In the previous episode: Spidey’s short circuiting powers came back on line, the Insidious Six broke up, Kingpin & Silvermane swore vengeance on each other, Felicia Hardy started dating noted Eastern European douchebag Michael Morbius, and Dr. Connors told Spidey that he’s mutating.
I hope you remember all that, because none of it is really important in this episode. While titled as a chapter in the “Neogenic Nightmare” saga, this episode only slightly mentions some of the running themes and doesn’t really add anything overall.
Chapter three starts with Spider-Man reading the paper about a string of robberies in which it’s clear that the thief must have had some sort of super powers. Naturally, our favorite wall crawler is the number one suspect. Why him and not any of the myriad other super powered beings in New York? Because it’s the Daily Bugle, published by the intrepid J. Jonah Jameson, who would blame Spider-Man for bad weather. Spidey is lamenting this, his lack of a love life, and the continuing mutation of his DNA that could turn him into some kinda weirdo freak (not like the cool kinda freak he is now).
While this is happening, someone is stealing some valuable giant pearls from a nearby aquarium. Spidey over hears the alarm and goes to investigate. After a massive torrent of water knocks him into a tank full of vicious moray eels, he escapes à la Jaws by making them bite down on pressurized web cartridges. He has to web up some cops to get out of the aquarium to chase down the pearl thief, which I’m sure will work wonders for his image in the papers.
Later, while hanging out with Peter Parker, Mary Jane gets a phone call from an old boyfriend named Morrie asking her to come meet him. She doesn’t want to go but seems too afraid not to, so she storms out without telling Peter where she’s going. Tailing her as Spidey, he sees her meet this Morrie character and tell him off but good. It turns out that the two of them used to date but Mary Jane broken it off. Morrie was convinced that the only thing MJ didn’t like about him was that he was broke. Well, his fortunes have turned around now after a freak accident has given him the ability to turn into & control water, making him the Hydro-Man.
The C-list Spidey villain Hydro-Man was created by Denny O’Neil & John Romita Jr., first appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #212 in 1981. A crewman on a scientific vessel that was lowering an experimental energy generator to the ocean floor, Morris Bench was accidentally knocked overboard when an electrical wire snapped and Spider-Man sprang into action to save other crew members. Spidey saved Morrie too, but not before prolonged exposure to the water and the fluctuating energies of the generator changed his cellular structure. To put his origin story in the simplest of terms, he got his powers after being bitten by radioactive water. Morrie, of course, blamed Spider-Man for this and swore vengeance. After over exerting himself in a battle during the hottest summer on record in New York City (after Spidey made him chase him through a bunch of absorbent obstacles) Hydro-Man couldn’t keep himself together anymore and evaporated. He’s still around, but hasn’t really done anything noteworthy. At no point did he have a relationship with Mary Jane Watson. In this episode, he used to date MJ in high school, then joined the Navy and got his powers in a pretty similar way (only with no Spidey involvement in this version). He’s voiced by Rob Paulsen, who you might recognize from every cartoon ever.
After a short fight, Spidey manages to get MJ away from Hyrdo-Man and hiding out at her friend Liz’s house. Peter breaks out the chemistry set to mix up a little special something for Hyrdo-Man the next time they tangle and goes to check up on Mary Jane only to find out that Morrie has already found her. He tosses her out of the window and onto the street like Cleveland in his bathtub on Family Guy.
Hydro-Man takes Mary Jane to his hideout to show her all the treasure he’s hoarding like a goddamn pirate. You’d think it would just be easier to rob banks and cut out the middle man, but Morrie isn’t a very bright fellow. He figures now that he’s rich & powerful MJ will love him again only for her to shout that she never loved him. It wasn’t about the money, it was that he was a huge asshole. As the great philosophers Lennon and McCartney once said, you “can’t buy me love.”
Just then, Spider-Man shows up and hits Hyrdo-Man with his new chemically modified webshooters, having earlier mixed in a coagulant that turns Hydro-Man into basically a big Jell-O statue. It doesn’t hold for long, but it gives MJ enough time to run away. Morrie chases her to a paper recycling plant where she topples over several big stacks of paper onto him. When he oozes his way out from under that she throws a big bucket of sand in his face which causes him to stumble too close to a steaming hot furnace. You can probably see where this is going. Hydro-Man chases MJ up to the rooftop where he has one more showdown with Spider-Man with the blistering hot sun beating down on them. After one last desperate lunge, Hydro-Man splashes across the rooftop and doesn’t get back up. This version of the character was dispatched in a manner very similar to that of his comic counterpart.
After what’s left of Hydro-Man evaporates in the midday son, Peter & Mary Jane spend some time together at Coney Island where Peter tries to take a lesson from MJ’s constant optimism and not be so worried about possibly becoming a horrible mutant freak. As they get caught in the rain, things get a little cozy.
I wonder where this is going? Remember that possible X-Men crossover they hinted at last episode? That’s where it’s going, as Neogenic Nightmare picks back up with Chapter IV, “The Mutant Agenda”.
Till next time, true believers!