THE PLOT THUS FAR This adventure finds our hero tackling more Super Villains both old and new, including Chameleon, Venom and the Sinister Six: Electro, Doctor Octopus, Vulture, Sandman,...


This adventure finds our hero tackling more Super Villains both old and new, including Chameleon, Venom and the Sinister Six: Electro, Doctor Octopus, Vulture, Sandman, Rhino and Shocker. While these criminals are almost more than Spidey can handle, his real struggle becomes an internal one. The stress is enough to drive a high school Super Hero over the edge, but making mistakes and learning lessons is all in a days work for the Spectacular Spider-Man!


This incarnation returns Peter Parker to basics and to nerdy teenhood. Pete is back in high school, and all the angst and acne that goes with that. Classic themes resurface as Peter strives to juggle crimefighting with school and with domestic life with his Aunt May. The Parker household suffers from financial woes. Peter is highly intelligent but unpopular at school. As Spidey, he applies science and logic (and jokes) to best his opponents. And, as ever, Peter clings to that hard-earned life lesson: “With great power comes great responsibility.” Which means, Spidey is righteous, but broke.

What’s new? Well, Gwen Stacy becomes a regular for the first time in a Spidey animated series, and she’s been revamped into a brainy, glasses-sporting girl. She’s still cute, though, and she’s one of Peter’s best friends (along with Harry Osborn). Fans of Venom will recognize Eddie Brock’s name, but, here, he’s now a college freshman, instead of a disgraced newspaper journalist. And he’s chums with Peter and Gwen. Meanwhile, Flash Thompson is still a first-class bully and jock. And if you’re wondering about a certain redhead, well, she shows up later in the season.

In Spidey’s personal timeline, it’s only been less than a year since he’d gone public. He’s still mostly thought of as an urban legend, but, geez, how badly does Daily Bugle publisher, J. Jonah Jameson, want a photo of him? Peter enters his high school junior year convinced that things for him have changed for the better, since, you know, he’s now got super powers (“Peter Parker is a wallcrawler, not a wallflower.”). Instants later, a popular cheerleader humiliates him in public when he asks her out on a date. So it’s back to dorkhood for Peter.

The show’s style is interesting as well. The animation is colorful, but also very simplistic in a way. It reminds me of the animation from Kim Possible. The characters are recognizably human, but rarely realistic looking. Spider-Man is drawn as somewhat thin and wispy, similar to the art of Erik Larsen from the early 90s. As Spider-Man is, in reality, a slender high-school kid, this approach makes sense

As with its content, the show’s animation is simple, with no frills. With the exception of the villains, the characters are all virtually interchangeable and lack the dynamic design of the films and the comics. The villains, and Spider-Man himself, are all rendered nicely, with slight updates to their classic designs.

Older fans will still have a hard time getting used to the series. Though the look is slightly different, the tone and content and spirit of animation easily evoke the comic-book hero and his stories. The wry wisecracks are here, along with the web shenanigans and the cops arriving just in time to unwrap another “package” with a calling card from their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

The DVD is a collection of the thirteen or so previously released episodes. SONY realized that they got your cash four times prior, so it’s time to capture the last grab. Hopefully, this practice won’t return with the show’s second season. There’s two featurettes about the efforts by Marvel to bring Spider-Man to a new generation. But, how does that differ from the umpteen other incarnations of animated Spider-Man? Still, it’s neat to see the design work. However, I’ll only recommend the release for a rental.

RELEASE DATE: 07/28/09
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