Nov 29, 2017

[TV] Ultimate Spider-Man: Season 1 Review

My continued explorations of the Disney-enhanced content library of iflix. And that led me to the odd single season if the Ultimate Spider-man animated TV series. Wikipedia tells me that the show ran for 4 seasons but we only get 1, but beggars can't  be choosers, eh?

This is not to disparage the show right off the bat, but I have to consider the fact that there have been a LOT of Spider-Man cartoons over the years. He's right up there for sheer variety of animated incarnations over the years. And the target demographic wildly between the very young child to the very hormonal teen.

This version of Spider-Man, as is the case of many Disney-Marvel ventures since the acquisition, definitely feels quite kid-centric. And so I was prepare to dislike the show as going full kid means that it's going to dumb thing down and reboot his continuity again.

And while that did happen...I didn't quite hate the show as much as I thought I would have. But it was hard to like it as well.

Synopsis: Ultimate Spider-Man is an animated television series created by Marvel Animation with a creative team that has included the likes of Brian Michael Bendis, Paul Dini and the Man of Action group. The show feels like an echo of the recent Spider-Man movie and ironically it was cancelled to make way for a new animated series closer in tone to the same movie.

The show is set during Peter Parker's first year as Spider-Man (Drake Bell). He's had limited successes but continues to struggle with D-list villains like the Trapster (Steven Weber). But he does manage to attract the attention of Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Chi McBride). He eventually offers Spider-Man training to be a better hero, and with reluctance he eventually signs on.

But what he wasn't prepared for is that he'd be training with other young heroes also under S.H.I.E.L.D.'s care as part of an informal team. The group includes Nova (Logan Miller), White Tiger (Caitlyn Taylor Love), Luke Cage (Ogie Banks), and Iron Fist (Greg Cipes). The team doesn't quite work well together at first and it means a lot of incidents of Spider-Man going off and eventually needing help. But they do manage to learn together as they deal with some of  the most infamous villains from Spider-Man's rogue's gallery.

What I Liked: I do appreciate how much the show pulled from the comics to bring  in various characters into the show. We also get staples like Venom and the Lizard in most shows but I didn't expect to start things off with the Trapster, who has always been insulted as being "Paste Pot Pete" in the comics. And they tried to really keep things interesting with how they'd spin characters to fit the show. So we also got the Wrecking Crew along with a strange in-universe appearance of Agent Phil Coulson as still voiced Clark Gregg.

They even brought in Mesmero (Dwight Schultz).

Their take on Doctor Octopus (Tom Kenny) initially felt odd but later developed into something seriously wicked and totally worked. His arc as a villain was pretty good but his obsession with Spider-Man's blood felt a little odd.

What Could Have Been Better: I didn't see why they needed to bring in the whole crew of super teens to train alongside Spider-Man right off the bat. Spider-Man has largely been a self-made hero in most incarnations of the character. The team dynamic wasn't there by design so it felt very odd at the start and I don't understand why they felt this was necessary. We could have gone with numerous cameos maybe leading up to the team but instead it's an awkward team from day one.

And a lot of the re-writing to center around Osborn's obsession with using Spider-Man's blood for his own ends was very odd and felt not quite in the tone of the character as I had wanted. Sure it was something very different from this show but the way it was handled felt quite silly at times, especially since it made it feel like he had no other achievements without getting his hands on the blood. And the fact that this same blood resulted in Venom felt very odd indeed.

TL;DR: The show is a creative one and the Ulltimate Spider-Man borrows some of the reimagined concepts from the comic book series of the same name but also tries to tone things down. It's a solo hero story that happens to have other heroes vying for the spotlight unnecessarily. And so the series only gets 3 strange new versions of villains out of a possible 5.

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