First things first: I planned out this series of pitches before Marvel and Sony had started talking about doing a new MCU Spidey trilogy. This is important, because I am pitching a Spidey-heavy slate in large part because I wanted to demonstrate that Spider-Man is better in the MCU, and vice versa. So if you were noticing an awful lot of Spiders flying your way, your Marvel no-prize isn’t in the mail.
We open on the Gallows family; this is the last time we’re going to see Jake Gallows happy. They’re leaving a show, when they’re accosted. Jake wants to fight back, but his wife tries to hold him back; she only succeeds in getting him shot. His Public Eye badge clatters to the ground, and the muggers freak out. They gun down the rest of the Gallows, before fleeing.
We cut to the inside of Alchemax. Miguel O’Hara gets waved through security, as he watches the head of Alchemax, Tyler Stone, talking to his son, Kron, who we recognize as the head mugger from the previous scene. Miguel doesn’t care about either of them. He’s got bigger fish to fry. Miguel heads up to his lab. Only Tyler stops the elevator, and slides in.
Tyler pressures him for progress. He’s oily, and is sure that they’re so close to a breakthrough. Miguel snaps at him. “A woman died.” The words reverberate. We’re in Miguel’s lab, as a woman named Angela Rose becomes sand. We continue to hear his words. “She disintegrated before my eyes, Tyler. The only thing we’re close to is a new, more efficient way to cremate people.”
Back in the elevator, Tyler says he noticed Miguel hasn’t touched his allotment of Rapture, and that a productive employee is a happy employee. For the first time we notice that Miguel is looking a little twitchy, a little sweaty, a little worse for wear. He tells Stone he doesn’t always use it; sometimes it makes it harder for him to concentrate or sleep. Stone stops the elevator a moment. “You remember why you helped me develop Rapture, Miguel?”
Miguel remembers Stone’s answer, even if he disagrees with him, philosophically, and parrots it back: they developed it because it acts as a stimulant, getting the best work out of employees on the clock, but also relaxes the employee off the clock, so they return the next day refreshed. The fact that it’s addictive and prohibitively expensive without it being subsidized by the company keeps employees loyal. Miguel tells him he’ll take his next dose soon.
In his lab, Miguel is confronted by two bots of his design, Electro and Mysterio, riffing on the classic Spider-Man villains. Electro was designed first, to handle electrical and magnetic lab tasks that could be dangerous; Mysterio does the same for chemicals, and as a consequence is essentially a mobile chemistry lab with an overdeveloped sense of the dramatic. Mysterio is playful, up to and including sewing himself a cape and making mist wherever he goes; Miguel teases him about it being to cover up his exhaust cloud.
Miguel also has a lab assistant, Aaron Delgato. He’ll mostly be a background presence, this go round, but he is essentially Tyler’s eyes and ears into Miguel’s work. Miguel is working with spider genetics, specifically working on a serum using their genetics as a curative to the addictive compounds in Rapture. Miguel is doing a head count as he slides into a lab coat. His spiders have been engineered to have numbers on their abdomens to make it easier to count them. He asks where one of the numbers is, I’ll say 15 (I believe it was Amazing Fantasy 15 Spider-Man debuted in, though please don’t take my nerd card away if I’m wrong, I use it to defend my honor- that’s right, duct-taped to my junk like a chastity belt, which has proved incredibly effective at keeping people from untaping my duct).
We cut to the inside collar of his lab coat, where the spider is. Miguel scratches at his neck, which compresses the spider, who reacts by biting. Miguel cries out, twisting out of his coat. The spider runs off, as he collapses.
We hear the beeping of a heart monitor in a fancy-looking hospital room. Miguel is across the way from the monitored man; his vitals are good, we overhear his doctor say, no need for the same kind of equipment as Mr. Gallows is hooked up. “Gallows?” the woman visiting Miguel asks, as we pan towards the TV, which is showing the trial of Kron Stone.
The prosecutor is wrapping up. “Even now, one of the brave officers from our Public Eye is fighting for his life, barely clinging to it while this scum has the audacity to smile and make jokes. If only his wife or children had been so lucky. You’ve seen the vids; his guilt isn’t even in question. The only decision you have to make is the kind of justice he’ll face.” The judge instructs the jury to register their verdicts, and an instant later tells them the verdict is in. He instructs the defendant to stand, but he refuses, so the judge has two bailiffs force him to his feet, then reads out the verdict: death. We start to hear the heart monitor again.
This time the mugger goes into his pocket, and retrieves a black card. The bailiff holds out a panel, which he swipes the card against; the card changes to a slightly lighter gray. The courtroom gasps, as his shackles deactivate and fall to the floor. A man narrates that because of his family’s wealth, being caught committing multiple murders on camera essentially amounts to only a credit downgrade, that he’ll only be able to crash his sports car every other day from now on.
We hear the heart monitor go into full alarm, as we pull back out, into the hospital room. We see now that the window is open, with the cord for the heart monitor trailing out, threatening to pull the monitor out of the window, before going slack. We pan over to see that Jake’s bed is now empty.
We pan back to the TV. We hear reporters mobbing the defendant, in particular the newscaster who narrated earlier. “What would you say to people who say that you got away with murder?”
The mugger mugs for the camera (see what I did there?) before saying, “Don’t do the crime if you can’t pay the fine, kids!” before cackling. The camera pans to the interviewer. He’s John Eisenhart. “There you have it: an ending nearly as horrifying as the crime that preceded it.” While John is a little too slick, a little too massaged, we can see some genuine emotion bleeding out of him. We cut a little later, as he’s driving down the freeway, while his camera woman cycles through their footage, including that last line.
“I hate this job,” he says.
“The fame? The fortune.”
“That I’m not paid that well, or paid to punch little shits like that on camera.”
“That’s why we moonlight,” she tells him. “So we can get at the stories that really matter. You really think these guys are legit?”
“I think these guys are certifiable. If half what I’ve heard about the Knights of Banner can be believed, I think they’ve been soaking up too many gamma rays.” He laughs to himself, before turning stone-faced. “No, they’re zealots. They’re definitely legit. Maybe too legit.”
“To not be dangerous. But danger’s sexy. Danger means eyeballs.”
“If we can get them to sign on for broadcast rights. Otherwise you got to tell their story with sock puppets again.”
“I can be very persuasive. I got an exclusive quote from Kron Stone.”
“Yeah, because you elbowed that Jameson girl from the Bugle in the boob.”
“An ace news hound follows his instincts, and doesn’t have time for chivalry.”
“Yeah, you elbowed me in the boob, too, dude.”
“Sorry about that.”
“S’okay,” she says sulkily, before striking, elbowing him in the chest.
“Driving!” he says. She grabs and yanks the wheel, but the car doesn’t respond.
“Yeah, but the car won’t let you drive badly. So whatever.”
We get a relatively low-key tour of the compound for the Knights of Banner. They’re really more monks; yes, they’re experimenting with gamma radiation, half because they claim it has the potential to be a true, and cheap, power source, one not controlled by the MegaCorps… but also because it can make worthy men of mortal ones- their world needs more than these knights, it’s going to take sterner material to tame this future. He relates the history, how most of Marvel’s heroes fell defending mutants- the strongest defending the weak, how when they fell mutants became hunted, and even the mention of most of the heroes became against the law. The Thorites got around it by making Asgardian worship a major religion again. Most of the other heroes faded into obscurity. Their leader pleads with Eisenhart- that he gave him this tour not to whet his appetite, but to help him understand how vital their mission is- and also how vital it remain a secret until their work is completed.
But seeing their secrets he’s convinced there’s fame and money in the story. He tries to convince the guy, that with publicity would come funding, enough to get his reactor online, but he’s having none of it. John and his camera woman return to his car, and he tells her there’s a way around this, that he can call the authorities, then film the Knights under an emergency public interest license. She’s pissed, because his big break was exactly like that, and instead of right place at the wrong time, he created the storm that got people killed. “My footage got those people justice.”
“Your ego got those people killed. It doesn’t justify it, just because you got their killers a slap on the wrist to soothe your conscious.” She storms off, leaving the camera. He hesitates, before calling the Public Eye. But the cops don’t just roust them, or arrest the Knights- they slaughter them. John pleads with them to stop, stop the violence, stop the madness, even threatens to expose them. They tell him the cops learned from his last shenanigan, and cut his feed- he isn’t broadcasting. They smash his camera. Eisenhart ends up barricaded in with the other Knights in their gamma reactor. The Knights work to dismantle their reactor, both to do so safely and prevent a meltdown, and to prevent their tech from being seized by the MegaCorps and then patented. They give John their plans, and ask him to get them out. He laughs bitterly, because none of them are getting out. The head knight offers Eisenhart their crucible; every knight has taken it, and that is why every one of them is dying of radiation sickness, some more swiftly than others. They have been incrementally closing in on Banner’s original experiment.
“You want to kill me slow so the cops don’t kill me fast? What kind of sense does that make?”
“I want to transform you into something the cops cannot kill.” They argue for a bit. The head knight’s stance is basically, “I believe in destiny. I do not believe we would toil here, in secret, for decades, and only as we close on our quarry be shut out. I believe this is fate, John Eisenhart. I believe you are here to complete our work. Perhaps I’m a zealot; if I’m wrong, the Eye will murder you long before radiation poisoning can damage you. If I’m right… there are many people you will be able to save from them.”
John finally relents, because “Dead men don’t file stories,” and this one is big enough to be worth chasing, even at this cost. We cut to the outside of the reactor compound, as the cops blow it. Subtly, we’re watching through a news camera. The cops infiltrate the reactor. They’re surprised the Knights managed to render the reactor safe in the time they had. One of the Knights, badly burned, tells them it’s because the Knights respect gamma, and is shot for his troubles. The cops execute the remaining Knights, before finding John Eisenhart. His clothes have been destroyed, save for a pair of purple boxers that are shredded. The cop who found him is about to shoot him, when one of the other officers stops him, and points back at a camera being held by his returned camera woman.
“Who cares, we cut his feed?”
“They’re live.” The executioner holsters his pistol, swears, and calls in an ambulance. John’s hand flutters, and we see the data chip that the Knights gave him. John Eisenhart ends up in the hospital room where Miguel is.
Jake Gallows calls a friend from the force, one who was fired for a lack of brutality. He has him bring him to Old York, formerly Hell’s Kitchen, where the pair discovered the Punisher’s old cache, including a diary. We hear narration, “You who find my war journal, I charge with carrying on my work.” We realize then it’s Gallows friend, quoting. He helps Gallows inside, and dresses his wounds. He’s torn stitches and is bleeding worse, now.
Miguel comes to sleeping on the ceiling. When he realizes that’s where he is, he falls painfully flat into the bed, just as the doctor comes in to check on him. “Feeling better, Mr. O’Hara?”
“Not really,” Miguel mutters into his pillow, having had the wind knocked out of him.
“It’s all relative, Miguel. You nearly died. Anywhere north of dead is better.” The doctor asks the nurse how long he’s been up. They tell him according to his EKG less than a minute ago. The doctor is curious what woke him up. Then they notice the noise coming from John. He’s breathing like a dragon. An angry one.
The doctor turns towards John to check him. John wakes, and attacks both the doctor and nurse, before lunging bestially, growing more hulking and monstrous with each moment, at Miguel. Miguel leaps over him once. Then twice. The third time Hulk 2099 manages to connect, knocking him out the window. Miguel falls. And falls. We think that’s the end of him, until he shoots webbing from his wrist, and swings to (relative safety). A homeless man tells him he can see his ass (because he’s still wearing a hospital gown), and he says he’ll have to figure something out.
Jake has been researching while injured. Kron has been gathering organs for his father because what Miguel never knew is that fresh human organs were necessary to ‘tame’ Rapture; without them it’s lethally toxic to humans. The synthetics and vat-grown just don’t cut it; only filtering it through human organs cuts the toxicity enough for it to be used in humans, and Kron’s gang have been providing these organs.
Alchemax also runs the Public Eye, and have been feeding their officers into setups like the one that killed the Gallows family- basically doing it to any officers not otherwise on the take or deep enough under their control. They were also instrumental in the fall of the Knights of Banner- giving John Eisenhart the tip that led him there, knowing that he’d used his trick of calling out the cops to get his story- and once John finds this out he’s on board taking on Alchemax. He has a fight with his partner, who doesn’t want to help him kill people, and also doesn’t think he’s up to the fight yet, and isn’t willing to help Jake kill himself.
Gallows dismantles Kron’s gang violently, using relatively low-tech from Punisher’s stores. However, Kron isn’t there. Jake finds out interrogating the last of his lieutenants (who is wearing the mech suit Jake will put a skull on to complete his look). The lieutenant tells Jake Alchemax is experimenting on Miguel and on John, trying to use them to create superhuman organs that can survive Rapture. “Who?” he asks, and the lieutenant points to a screen on the wall, Eisenhart and O’Hara on security cameras in the hospital room. The lieutenant pleads for his life, saying he has the exact same family as Jake did, that they won’t survive their crippling debt without him. Jake notices a girl, cowering in the corner. Her name is Polly, she’s a Venus 8 Gene Doll, illegal on-world; and they’re sentient, the feel pain, and fear- whether or not it’s against the law to beat on one, it’s wrong, the kind of wrong that needs correction, needs punishment. We pan back towards the TV as the Jake looms over the lieutenant; over his shoulder we see Polly, watching intently, studyiously.
Miguel has stolen a Day of the Dead costume that is 90% of the way to his final costume. Hulk is rampaging, and smashes out of the hospital. Spider-Man pursues, first trying to get him to stop, then trying to get him away from crowds. Then, he’s able to talk John down, realizing his rage is feeding the cycle of his Hulking. Jake appears, telling them he had a shot (from a ludicrously large future cannon), but worried they were going to need the big man, so he let it play out; he’s added the skull motif to his stolen armor. He says that their accidents weren’t accidents, but real-world human experimentation, and that to get the proof they’re going to need to go hard at Alchemax. Miguel insists they not kill anyone. Jake says he doesn’t have to, but Punisher’s going to do what he needs.
The trio attack Alchemax, and are confronted primarily by corrupt members of the Public Eye. Jake ‘kills’ Kron, calling him ‘sewage’ and dropping him into the sewer with the intention of letting all of his stab wounds become septic and kill him as slowly and painfully as possible. We’ll show him get attacked in the sewers by something dark and shadowy (it’s the Venom symbiote). The corrupt Public Eye deliberately weaken the building, threatening everyone working there (save the executives, who escaped already via helicopter), as well as anyone who will be in range of falling debris. The heroes have to abandon their assault, deciding to save innocent people rather than pursue their personal missions. Alchemax-owned news stations paint them as terrorists anyway, attributing the damage the corporation and its henchpeople caused to them. John tells Spider-Man that the Knights gave him the designs for a reactor; they believed an Alchemax scientist named O’Hara could be trusted with it. He’s not so sure anyone working inside that company should be trusted. Spider-Man takes off his mask, and introduces himself.
Mid Credits Scene
Tyler Stone leads Aaron Delgato into a basement at Alchemax. Aaron is nervous, even chattering about how he half-expected Stone to put the Public Eye on him, or pin Miguel’s accident on him. Stone admits that would be fair, since Aaron was the cause of Miguel’s accident, but tells him he values loyalty over anything else, and believes it should be rewarded. That’s why he wants to introduce Aaron to his silent partner. When he and Miguel would get stuck, and Stone would whisper answers into Aaron’s ear, it was this genius who whispered them in Stone’s. Aaron’s surprised/confused when the room is filled with a vast tank of water. Inside, however, there’s a full complement of scientific equipment, including computers. That’s when we meet Dr. Octopus, an Atlantean/octopus hybrid (he created the hybrid process himself). He’s a genius. And terrifying.
End Credits Scene
Very science fictiony space, lots of tech, machines going. There’s a cocoon not unlike the one used to creative Vision in one corner. A red light flashes green, before it opens, and a metal gauntlet matching Dr. Doom’s grabs the edge of the cocoon to life him out, obscured mostly by smoke/steam as he says, “Doom rises again.”