Spider-Man has had a whole lot of shows and movies over the years. He is Marvel’s most popular character of all time after all so you would expect nothing less. The character tends to churn out a lot of quality content. Ultimate Spiderman may not have set the world ablaze but it was definitely a solid show with good animation and a lot of guest stars. This show tries to take the character back to its roots as more of an origin and then slowly starts to build things up. It definitely had a solid run and I’ll look forward to seeing what’s next.
The show starts off by getting the usual origin out of the way with Peter being bitten by a radioactive spider and then allows Uncle Ben to be murdered. We then cut forward to Peter being accepted into Horizon High on scholarship. It’s a very prestigious school, one of the top ones in the entire country for technology. He’ll now be surrounded by other geniuses at the school and Aunt May is naturally very proud. He’ll continue to work as Spider-Man on the side but this school is hiding more secrets than Peter would have initially suspected. Can he continue to hide his double identity while also keeping his grades up and uncovering the school’s mysteries?
For people who grew up with the Spider-Man comics from the 60s, they’ll feel pretty nostalgic. It’s fair to say that we haven’t had a proper Peter Parker story in a TV show since the 90’s version and that was quite a while ago. Ultimate Spiderman while fun, was absolutely a Spider-Man story first and foremost. It was about him constantly teaming up with other heroes and even working as an instructor. That show was going for a team up approach while this one is going for a more personal feel.
It’s like comparing Batman the Brave and the Bold to the classic 90’s Batman story. Both have very different approaches. Now I’m more of a team-up guy personally but that doesn’t mean a solo story will lose. You’d have a hard time finding people who prefer Brave and the Bold to the 90’s show or saying that Ultimate Spider-Man beats the 90’s version. Solo stories can be a blast as well and then when they have their guest stars it feels like a bigger deal. With constant team up series you do run into the issue of how to increase the threat each time or how to make the individual stories feel threatening after having end of the world stakes.
Ultimate Spiderman had that issue to an extent at times as it’s hard to go from Spider-Man taking on the Beyonder to stop the universe and then going back to Paste Pot Pete. This Spider-Man show starts out with far more street level threats for Spider-Man to take down which then leads up to the season 3 finale where he has to defend the Earth from Venom. Now lets talk about where this show ranks real quick. Naturally it does not beat the 90’s show but I would put it above Spider-Man Unlimited, The Amazing Friends, the original cartoon, and the CGI show. Pitting this one against Ultimate Spider-Man is tricky. Ultimately I would give that one the slight edge. It’s close but ultimately that one does win in animation and it had a healthy episode count with a lot of solid adventures. Who can forget the mobile game adaption right?
So that would still put this on the higher end for Spider-Man shows. If you look at the show on its own then it absolutely stands out quite well. I thought the show handled the approach of seeing Spider-Man slowly mature and become his own hero really well. An interesting angle is also how it introduces the other Spider characters like Gwen, Miles, and Spider-Girl early on. In a way it’s like a look at the 60’s Spider-Man if he grew up in the modern day where there are just so many heroes. Now, while it may have been even more interesting to have kept Spider-Man by his lonesome to really start off small, it is kind of nice to have other characters trying to hide their secret identities for a change. It’s like a big game of cat and mouse as nobody knows what the other is doing. I always like that kind of tension.
For the animation, it’s not nearly as vibrant as Ultimate Spiderman was, but it does look very clear. I think once you get used to the more pale colors, the actual flow of the animation is quite solid. The hand to hand action is really good and the choreography even for the energy attacks is always on point. You can follow along with the action really well. The soundtrack is less noticeable but unfortunately that is really the norm for most shows. Really if you look at post Justice League there aren’t many comic book shows where you can point to a really vibrant soundtrack. (Ignoring the animes) The only one I would name would be Avengers Assemble as to this day I say they ripped some of the themes straight out of Justice League. It was always cool to hear them of course. That said, there is one theme I really liked here. I would unofficially call it the Cloak & Dagger theme since it always appears in an episode where they show up. That can’t be coincidence right?
Season 1 is mainly episodic but with a lot of plot lines being foreshadowed. This was a nice touch because it’s one of those things the original comics did so well and any superhero show starting out should absolutely do this. Yeah it can be risky if you don’t get future seasons but it’s worth it. Early on in season 1 the show already starts to foreshadow the Jackal, Spider-Gwen, Doc Ock, Norman, Alistair Smythe, and many more characters. you have all of their human personas walking around so you know what’s going to happen to them even before the characters themselves do. For some characters the payoff is quick while for others it takes a very long time.
One of the big sagas in season 1 was the big Spider-Island adaption. I remember when that arc was still going on in the comics and the show handles it pretty well. Suddenly every character has spider powers and you can imagine how society would go absolutely nuts at this point. If everyone is super then nobody is or at least that’s how the saying goes. Spider-Man would just have a lot of competition in standing out. Doctor Octopus also gets several episodes to himself as he is introduced. This guy would go on to have a pretty massive role so that makes sense. The first season does a great job of setting the stage and getting all of the characters introduced.
Season 2 starts to ramp things up for Spider-Man from street level threats to more high end villains. First off, Peter gets a job at the Daily Bugle so we’ve got that iconic storyline now. Meanwhile Doc Ock is trying his best to work as a hero but can Spider-Man really trust such a guy? It’ll really test his whole motto about giving everyone a second chance. Venom also finally merged with Eddie Brock, leading to the most famous version of the character. Even the Avengers show up and get kidnapped so Spider-Man has to save them. Yes, Spider-Man is a rookie no longer. Now he is a full hero and people are counting on him.
The Venom two part saga was pretty hype. Eddie definitely makes for a powerful villain and it add some tension since he knows who Spider-Man is and how to reach him. When someone like Aunt May is put into a dangerous spot naturally Spider-Man isn’t going to take that well. The Avengers episode is admittedly a little cheesy that they were captured so easily. By the way, it was A.I.M. that captured them so…I’m having a hard time buying it.
Season 2 doesn’t end there with the big events though. Next up we have a saga where a bounty is put on Spider-Man so every villain wants a crack at him. This leads to many episodes where Spider-Man has to deal with many villains back to back. It was a good way to show off his stamina and really illustrate that Spider-Man is not an easy guy to bring down. This all leads up to the whole Superior Spider-Man event where he trades bodies with Doc Ock. Now that was an intense storyline both in the comics and the show.
You do feel bad for Peter though because Ock puts his life through the wringer. It’s the kind of thing where no matter what Peter does or says later on about someone else being in his head, people will never trust him quite the same way again. Ock does a great job while trading places though and shows Spider-Man several ways he can improve. Now, he’s not an improvement in every way of course as he’s more of an anti-hero but he does make some valid points about Spider-Man installing better web equipment and having tech around to monitor the city. Ock took the whole job very seriously.
This also helped introduce Cloak and Dagger who would never become main characters in the show but looked good whenever they showed up. I rather like that duo so it’d be cool to see more of them. Their great theme song helps as well. If anything you might miss Otto when he’s gone. Although I didn’t really care for his possible romance plot though. The show mainly stays away from any romance which is probably for the best since in a school setting that could get overly dramatic pretty fast.
With Peter back we get the Avengers getting kidnapped again which is always fun. Beyond that the final episodes are all about the Goblin War. Norman’s making his big play..or is it Norman? Either way Spider-Man and the other wall crawlers will have to try and take down this army of goblins. Fortunately most of them are just grunts with a costume but it is concerning that so many have appeared to spread chaos.
Definitely a solid way to wrap up season 2 for sure. The stakes were increased and it was nice to get a change of pace here with the whole body swapping thing. The Avengers admittedly looked very bad in this season and it would continue to an extent in season 3. I guess that’s the one thing with having a lot of guest stars here. To show off how powerful the new threat is it can be tempting to have them lose so Spider-Man has to save the day but you have a hard time believing that the Avengers would lose first to A.I.M. and then to Regent.
Finally we make it to the final season which is easily the shortest one at 6 episodes but at least each episode was double length. The title of the season is Maximum Venom so you can imagine who the big villain is. So Venom is coming back and this time he has brought an entire planet of symbiotes with him. Together they manage to take over the planet, the Avengers, and just about every supporting character there is. Characters like Aunt May have to form a resistance and we even get Moon Knight on the team. For many of the heroes Earth is already lost so they plan to fight back a little bit here and there or wait it out in the sewers.
Now I’m not going to say this is executed quite as seriously as it all sounds on paper but I wouldn’t say it’s comedic either. The show actually plays this out pretty straight and Venom is really shown to be a fierce opponent. We also get Mary Jane introduced to the season at long last. They may play up how awkward Peter is around her at times though especially with baby Groot messing with him during their appearances. You feel like Mary Jane would make herself scarce after the opening scenes but at least she took it all pretty well and just seems like a very nice person the whole time. I suppose she just barely made it into the show before it ended since she showed up for the final episodes of the series.
Season 3 ended the show off pretty well. We got to close out a lot of the big plots here. All of the heroes are on good terms now and they’re pretty much ready to leave the school. I still don’t like Max but at least he should have less things to hide now though. Spider-Man is also ready to become an Avenger so things are looking up. If we got a season 4 then I’m guessing everything would go sideways again on account of the Parker Luck but at least like this things went well for him.
Lets talk about some of the characters. Peter is the main character of course and he’s really good. He may make his share of mistakes but throughout the show he is portrayed as a nice guy who does what he can to help out. Balancing his work as a superhero and an everyday student is naturally pretty difficult as it is. While it takes him some time, he does live up to his reputation for giving people a second chance when he forgives Otto Octavius which is pretty tough after all the things that guy did. The show also takes time out to show what a genius he can be as well which is something we don’t always see a lot of lately. The school setting and expanded take on his origin days helped to give him time to show this off instead of just overwhelming opponents with his physical power.
Then we have Harry who gets a pretty big role and character arc here. At first he starts out as Peter’s best friend and then of course things get pretty heated once he learns more about the Goblin heritage. He also gets a bit jealous when Otto enters the picture as well. It takes a while for all of them to really form one close unit but I liked him and the cool fire sword he got as Hobgoblin. It helped to make him more of a threat and not just another one of the friends. Since Peter’s friends all had super powers here that may have easily overshadowed him.
I definitely did not like Max though. I found him to be one of the most ungrateful characters in the series and he was always quick to go against Peter despite how much the lead did for him. Peter had his back every step of the way and the guy never did anything to try and help him. The worst of it was in the final season when Peter tried to save his job twice including disclosing his secret identity and Max just slammed the door in his face. Mix that in with all the dubious experiments and Max is just not a good guy.
Anya is one of Peter’s best friends in the show and she becomes Spider-Girl. Anya’s a fun addition to the cast and from the main members I certainly haven’t seen her as much as the others so it was nice to see her get some extra screen time here. She doesn’t really have any big personal plots compared to some of the other characters but she’s always ready to fight and help out.
Miles gets the biggest role from the friends as he helps Peter a lot and they share secret identities pretty early on. He also has the plot with his uncle/father (I forget which but I think it’s his father in this version) being a super villain so that adds a personal element to things. Surprisingly it’s a bit of a smaller role than you would expect. He’s typically the comic relief member of the group and tries to make sure everyone is having fun.
Then we have Gwen and naturally she has a big role since the Jackal is always around. Surprisingly Captain Stacy doesn’t show up as much as you would expect. Gwen’s a solid friend and may be the most fleshed out character from Peter’s inner circle. This family development definitely helped a lot in giving her things to do aside from just fighting the villains off. Her battles with Jackal definitely tend to get pretty intense. The Jackal’s also a fun villain. I’m always up for seeing more of him as I consider the guy to be a far more compelling evil scientist than Otto. It also opens up the door to the Spider-Clones although the show didn’t get into that yet.
Aunt May is solid as always. I did like that she was able to fight here like when she took her giant gun out. It shows that she was ready to rumble which is always important. I like to think that she knows Peter is Spider-Man as well even if she doesn’t say anything. Jameson’s role here is small but he does look good in the Venom episodes when he puts his life on the line to buy his staff some time. It shows that while he is a pretty gruff fellow he’s ultimately still a good guy. He’s a solid boss who thinks of his employees first.
Otto gets a really big role in the series since he starts out as a hero, turns evil, turns good, turns evil again, then he turns into Spider-Man, then he turns good again. He had a whole lot of things going on that’s for sure. I never really became a fan of his though. I guess the character just never really interested me but he’s better than in Ultimate Spiderman so I’ll give him that. While I usually didn’t care for his episodes much next to the other characters, I did like the Superior Spider-Man story arc quite a lot so that one worked out really well. At the very least his fans should be happy with how he looked.
Likewise, Norman gets a lot of props here. He’s the big mastermind behind a lot of the villains which is very fitting to his character. He’s always been the kind of guy who manipulates others from the shadows. He seems to return over and over again throughout the series. Harry finally got some closure from his character by the end which was a good way to wrap up the cycle. Norman’s always been one of the most compelling Spider-Man villains and the show did him justice.
Sandman doesn’t appear much but his opening episode was very memorable. It actually gets rather tragic by the end of it too. His powerset is always fun to watch and he does make for a pretty sympathetic villain the whole time. Speaking of minor roles, the Avengers look decent at best but most of the time they come across as pros who talk a good game but really can’t back it up. Being kidnapped and having to be saved by Spider-Man multiple times isn’t the best look after all. As the Superior Spider-Man Ock was also able to defeat them rather easily.
Finally there is Venom and naturally he looks pretty great here. He has several hosts during the series and in each one he is able to dominate pretty quickly. I’m still not a big fan of the whole twist that he was one of the weaker symbiotes on the planet though. That always seemed a bit cheesy to me. I like to think of Venom as one of the tougher ones. That’s just how I’ve grown up with him after all. Seeing him be humiliated and mocked by the others doesn’t feel right. Beyond that he does have his own sense of pride though and makes for a pretty intimidating villain. He was a fitting choice for the final boss.
Spider-Man definitely had a good run. There were a lot of solid adventures here and characters to meet. It’s not quite a great show as it would need that extra boost to reach the next level but it was quite consistent. As the seasons went on the show just kept bringing more plots forward and it felt like a pretty strong continuity was established here. Whether something happened a season ago or two the show would remember. If it had kept on going it would have been nice to see how everything else was adapted. Alas, all shows must end at some point.
Overall, Spider-Man is definitely a show that all fans of the character should check out. In general if you enjoy superhero shows then this will be a good one to check out. The story is sound and you have a good blend of action and adventure. It’s a pretty light hearted show and you can also expect some decent comedy. The jokes don’t tend to drag on for the most part or anything like that so you’ll be able to focus on the story. The show doesn’t really have any weaknesses so it makes for a pretty fun experience from start to finish.