This is not your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. If you’re at all like me, you grew up on the 1960’s cartoon series and, of course, the Marvel comic. A lot has changed since those early days of the web slinger. There’s been a not too successful television live action attempt. The comics themselves have changed significantly. You can’t discount the enormously profitable Sam Raimi films, that have given new legs to an old superhero. It stands to reason that a new cartoon series was in order. Enter The Spectacular Spider-Man, the 10th series based on the Marvel character. This recent cartoon series updates the world of Spidey. The shows take from both the original comics and the film series to create a new fusion of the hero. Like in the comics, Parker is the loner high school kid teased constantly by bullies like Flash Thompson. He has a few girls on his radar like Gwen Stacey and Mary Jane Watson. He still lives with his kind old Aunt May. Unlike the film, Spider-Man was not endowed with his web slinging ability by the radioactive spider. He developed the shooters and the chemical mixture that makes them work. That means he can run out of fluid and lose his ability to shoot webs. The Osborne relationship from the movies exists here. It’s also likely no coincidence that the villains featured in the film have prominence here. Doc Ock, Sand Man, The Goblin, and even Venom are hinted at in the last episode of this collection.
These cartoons are actually pretty good. The animation is pretty solid. Some of the characters look rather strange. Aunt May looks like she’s a 20 year old with white hair. Character jaw lines have a distinctive angular style that makes everyone look like they’re posing for some tough guy magazine cover. MJ looks like a matchstick and says “tiger” way too often. They are not really standalone episodes. Unlike the 1960’s series there is a story arc that connects the episodes into a longer form. The character’s mythology is also played with quite a bit. The cartoons work in a few origin stories and connect them together as a master plan plot devised by OsCorp and spearheaded by Dr. Octavius. The only real complaint I have is that each disc, sold separately, contains a mere 3 episodes. While this is great for bit rate and picture quality, it’s not much of a bargain material wise. The total running time for each disc is just 69 minutes. (That’s about 23 minutes an episode.) Because the stories are continuous, you never really reach the end of the plot. I think Sony would have done much better to wait and release season sets of the cartoon. I wouldn’t be surprised if that comes, making these discs unnecessary in the long run, except to add more money in the Sony cash registers.
The discs are sold separately.
Market Forces: The Big Man has sent the cowboy Montana after Spider-Man after empowering him with a special weapon and protective suit. As Shocker, the master villain has his sites set on our friendly Web Slinger. As for poor old Peter Parker, he has a dilemma of his own. When the Bugle pays him for his pictures, he must decide whether to buy a better camera to further his career or help Aunt May pay her overdue bills. Peter also has to blow off his friend Harry who needs his help studying. Parker’s inattention might just push his meek friend over the edge with the help of an OsCorp formula he’s found.
Competition: Now Parker and Harry are both trying out for the football team. Parker’s tired of being picked on and hiding his incredible abilities. Flint Marko is brought over to OsCorp where Dr. Octavius transforms him into the super villain, Sandman. These super villains are really only intended as a distraction so that Hammerhead and The Big Man can rob in peace.
The Invisible Hand: Alex O’Hirn, Marko’s partner, is brought to Dr. Octavius for a super charge of his own. This time the creation is The Rhino. Again the monster is only expected to keep Spider-Man busy. Parker is trying to get Bugle secretary Betty Brant to go to the formal with him, but Aunt May thinks she’s too old for Peter. Aunt May has her own plans for Parker’s date. Through the Rhino Spider-Man learns the real name of The Big Man. When Spider-Man confronts the albino named Tombstone, aka The Big Man, he finds that this villain is the strongest yet. Finally, upset that Brant won’t be going to the formal with him, Peter answers the door to find a red-head waiting for him. He’s astonished at her looks, and she proclaims: “That’s right, Tiger. You hit the jackpot”.
Catalysts: It’s the night of the formal and Parker is the envy of the whole school when he walks in with MJ. Unfortunately for Peter, Spider-Man’s going to be very busy that night. He has to leave MJ at the formal while he goes after The Goblin, who has crashed a black tie affair thrown in honor of Jameson’s son, the astronaut and hero. Now Spider-Man must actually protect Tombstone from this new menace, a prospect he’s not to thrilled about. It doesn’t help that he’s left MJ alone at the prom with Flash Thompson.
Reaction: Doc Ock is born when Osborne allows a power overload to trap the whining Octavius inside the chamber. Now the newly formed menace is out to prove himself. He’s in search of an ultimate power pack he developed, and he’s willing to rip apart all of OsCorp to get it. That means Parker’s Coney Island date with MJ will be another outing interrupted by Spider-Man.
The Uncertainty Principle: Jameson’s son is in orbit on the shuttle when it is barraged by meteors. Meanwhile back on Earth, the Green Goblin is trying to recruit The Big Man’s crew and offering to kill anyone who refuses. As Spider-Man faces off against the Green Goblin, he is surprised to find out who is under the mask. Jameson’s son makes it safely back to Earth, but a strange black substance on the hull of the shuttle looks ominous.
Each episode of the series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. You get a very solid image here. Colors are very clean and bright. Contrast is excellent, as evidenced by Spidey’s costume. There is a little unexpected jitter during some of the action sequences that I don’t quite understand. There’s a solid bit rate, and the rest of the picture looks as good, or better, than its original broadcast.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is also pretty good. The mix isn’t very aggressive, but the sound is spread rather nicely. You can hear the dynamic musical cues and dialog just fine.
Nothing but previews.
I haven’t caught the new show on the CW as of yet. I’m impressed with the cartoon and wouldn’t mind seeing more of it. I do, however, have to resist recommending such limited value for the money. Three episodes at a time is a painfully slow, and rather expensive, way to release this series. Except for the limited offerings, I found the show itself to be “a page one web head blowout”.