Ultimate Spider-Man Episodes 1and 2 -“Great Power”, “Great Responsibility” Double Review

 On the anniversary of Ben Parker’s death/life, Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. gives Spider-Man an offer he can’t refuse…or can he? Ultimate Spider-Man begins here! But is it any good?







“Great Power”, “Great Responsibility”

Written by Paul Dini

Directed by Alex Soto, Phil Pignotti and Tim Eldred

THE PLOT: One year has passed since Peter Parker dove into the Super Heroing biz as Spider-Man. He’s managed to make a name for himself in the city and has become a decent crime fighter. However an encounter with the Trapster and an offer from Nick Fury puts forth the proposition to Peter that if he were to train with S.H.I.E.L.D., he’d become a more efficient Spider-Man.

LONG STORY SHORT: The Frightful Four (three-fourths of them) attack Midtown High under orders from Doctor Octopus, who with Norman Osborn is working to find out who Spider-Man is and bring him over to the Dark Side. Spidey saves the day, but Harry Osborn is injured in the process. The battle also makes Peter forget to get the birthday cake for Uncle Ben’s posthumous birthday. All this makes Peter decide to take up Fury’s offer, and he agrees to join S.H.I.E.L.D. Fury teams him up with four other teenage heroes, Power Man, White Tiger, Nova and Iron Fist. At first, Spidey is reticent to be part of a team, but after another battle with the Frightful Four, and the team’s enrollment in Midtown High, he reluctantly accepts their occasional assistance.

MY THOUGHTS: This is going to prove to be a very polarizing Spider-Man cartoon.

One the one hand, it’s capitalizing on the Ultimate Spider-Man concepts with the basic designs of the characters, the relationship between Nick Fury and Peter, the youth of the character and the plot with Norman Osborn. It also brings Spider-Man into the Avengers game with S.H.I.E.L.D. being a consistent concept and the movie designs of Cap, Thor and Iron Man being used. (Even the clip of Iron Man bouncing around in his hanger was right out of the first Iron Man movie)

On the other hand, to many this will come as a cynical and cheap usurper of the modern Spider-Man cartoon after the untimely demise of the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series which still remains to be the best Spidey was ever done on the small screen. Also, the tone of the series will be compared to Marvel Super Hero Squad and Batman: The Brave and the Bold respectively. Right off the bat, this series is littered with pummelings of the fourth wall, wacky technology gags, and nutty cutaways which make little sense out of context. This is the first Spider-Man cartoon to ironically be innately “cartoony”, and that’s going to bother a lot of people.

So how does this show come off to me personally?

  For what it’s going for, I really enjoyed it. The overall thesis of the show was sold with the first two episodes, and it felt different than all the other Spider-Man cartoons that had come before, whilst still being a Spider-Man show. This series is barely meant to be taken seriously, to the point where a lot of easy complaints with certain characters like Curt Connors fly right out the window from the get-go.

First and foremost, this remains a Peter Parker focused show. Despite the presence of a ton of characters, both from the overarching Marvel Universe and Spidey’s own supporting cast, we never lose the sense that Peter drives his own story. Reviewing the MTV series has really given me an awareness of how that can happen, and it’s this cartoon’s good fortune that such a misstep has been avoided. The show would really be as bad as people could say it is if Peter wasn’t at the heart of the story. For the character himself, Drake Bell does a very good job in what to my knowledge is his first major voice acting role. His voice for Peter/Spider-Man is a bit juvenile and certainly not a voice I would hear when reading the comics, but the performance is done well enough that you can buy into the voice for this type of world. To some, it could take some getting used to. I wish Josh Keaton were voicing, but Bell does succeed with what he’s given

Another achievement is that the show is not afraid to stop dead for the sake of exposition, as the way in which it’s delivered is done well. The video game-esque cutscenes where Peter address which character does what is entertaining enough to where even if you know all about who he’s referring to, it draws your attention to see how it’s interpreted. The Harry and Flash intro sequences were especially engaging, as we saw how Peter sees these characters subjectively. The scene in the Osborn limousine is creepy yet understated enough that it means more when you know exactly who Norman Osborn is to Peter.

 Talking about all the jokes, some of them are par for the course in terms of super hero antics in a cartoon. I.E. Spider-Man clogs up the Trapster’s gun, and just before it blows he makes an “UH OH!” face. Luckily, the show does know how to go beyond such easy gags to really sell the hyper-animated feel it has without coming off as lazy. The first two episodes were written by Paul Dini, in what must be to my knowledge his first foray into animated Marvel shows. Dini can do humor just as well as he does drama, and he gets the voices of the characters down pat. One of the best lines in the third act is when Jameson says on the teleprompter “Believe me ladies and gentlemen, it gives this humble commentator less pleasure than I imagine to say…I told ya so.” That’s a pitch perfect Jameson right there, nailing both his playing to the audience and bigging up his ego. Spidey’s one-liners are solid as well right off the bat , when after defeating the Trapster. “This is where I leave a note that reads ‘Courtesy of your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man’. Have a pen I can borrow?” Even the cutaway gags, crazy as they were, made me laugh every now and then. Such like Spider-Man being in Peter’s Spanish class, Peter’s fear of being exposed as Spider-Man in a tabloid, and the signal for turning off S.H.I.E.L.D.’s defense systems sound like a car-lock button.

The tone isn’t wall-to-wall wackyness, as it really can’t be when dealing with Spider-Man, and it does well when it wants to be serious. The ending where after all the craziness that occurred during the day, Peter forgot to get the cake for Uncle Ben’s birthday was very well done. It shows how at the end of the day, he’s more Peter Parker than Spider-Man in how his normal responsibilities to his family are more important to him than everything else. The fight sequence in the cafeteria, zany as it got every now and then, did have a sense of menace when Wizard first began threatening the kids and began torturing Peter in front of everyone. Bell sells it as both his acting and the animation make it look like Peter’s really going to die.

Admittedly though, I had a lot more fun with the first episode than I did while watching the second. Not really due to quality but due to preference. I don’t care for Spider-Man being given super gadgets that very clearly are made to be toys, and the whole team-up aspect rang hollow. When Nova, Luke Cage, White Tiger and Iron Fist were talking bad on Spider-Man, I was rolling my eyes. I felt like this was an uninspired way to go about having Spider-Man interact with other heroes by making him the rookie under everyone else. Luckily though, Dini’s smarter than that, and made it so Spidey knew more about being a hero than any of them. He even rejected the Spider-Cycle up front, saying he doesn’t need a vehicle. This is what makes the show worthwhile, that conceits with Saturday Morning cartoons which could potentially go against the characters are confronted right away and dealt with. The Spider-Cycle was just a set piece so Peter could meet the other heroes (and to sell toys) so I don’t really see him using it in every episode happening any time soon. I’ll also say that although one could argue having Spider-Man as a teenager doesn’t go against the source material, doing the same thing to Luke Cage, Nova, Iron Fist and White Tiger might. Although when you think about it, those characters (Cage, Iron Fist and Nova at least) all premiered in the comics in the 70s, whereas Spider-Man debuted in the 60s. Having him as a more experienced hero in comparison to them is a nice bit of thematic writing. In any case, the ending to the second episode made me laugh. I thought the four teens joining Midtown High was a little bit too “X-Men: Evolution” where every super powered character was at the high school. But again, Peter’s having none of it and immediately tries to transfer out, only to discover that the whole school’s rigged by S.H.I.E.L.D’s watchful eye with Agent Coulson as the principal. It’s silly, but it’s also kind of fun.

 Bottom line, if you’re more inclined to watch a Spider-Man show that goes after the source material as close as possible, this honestly isn’t the show for you. In the strictest sense of the word, it’s a cartoon. Pure and simple. It’s not the best entry into Spider-Man’s animation history in comparison to other shows, but it’s far from awful and no where near as bad as it could have been. Who knows, it could fall off later on down the season. For my money, Ultimate Spider-Man is off to a great start.

 4/5 webs

All images taken from Marvel.toonzone.net

(25) Comments

  1. smper

    I'm glad i'm not alone....this show is horrible, i quit reading the comics about a year ago because they screwed that up, now we cant even get a decent cartoon....this character they call Spider-Man on the show....is NO Spider-Man!!

  2. Baba Fat

    Honestly, every time something visual would pop up, I desired to choke myself, and then come back to life and choke every single character on the show! this show is a huge insult to the intelligence of the viewers and the biggest F... you to Spider-Man fans

  3. Hombre Araña

    I actually liked Teen Titans for its balance between goofiness and seriousness, which was noticeable since day 1. I like goofy things, but there is a thin line separating good-goofy from bad-goofy (note: this line may be completelly subjective) In this new spidey show, I see bad-goofy most of the time. I just watched episode 3 and all my fears have been confirmed: this is the most stupid incarnation of the character and the first Spider-Man I would like to personally kill, LOL. Not in the "erasing painlessly from the timeline" I desire for Maguire´s portrayal (which I really, REALLY, Hate) but in a very, very painful way; Like in an "eaten by army ants" way. And the way they manage other characters like Nova, Coulson (whom I LOVE in the movies) and Doctor Doom (specially when compared to his magnificent portrayal in the recent Avengers EMH episode) makes things even worse. Sorry for bitching this much, but I am pissed off, maybe because I recentlly aquired the Spectacular Spider-Man dvds and I´m submerged in its awesomeness.

  4. kwed

    @Enigma - look I was by no means a campy Batman guy, but Hombre said it best when he said B&B was a love letter to the Silver Age of comics. There were so many things in there for all the fans of Batman...even the episode when Kevin Conroy voices Batman of Zur-En-Arrh and the rest of the cast is made up of the Superman DCAU show. It's little things like that that when I watch it, I can respect. I never watched Teen Titans cause it rubbed me the wrong way from the first trailer...kind of like US. So yeah, I guess that's where this one is going.

  5. Enigma_2099

    @kwed ANYTHING that reminds me of 60's Batman can go to hell. Yeah, I like my Batman dark and brooding. This however does NOT excuse the later crap Frank Miller shoveled out. This smells so much like Teen Titans that it gives me nightmares. @Hombre Araña Ya THINK?!?!?!

  6. Spec Spider Fan

    Have watched episode 2 and can honestly say...this is intensely disappointing...kiddy Nova, White Tiger, etc. Everyone is more experienced and better than Spidey? Spider-bike...Peter's character borders on buffoonery. Very, very disappointed..the animation is splendid..but references to Brave and the Bold Batman are apt...this makes me yearn for the "excellence" that was Spiderman Unlimited with the cape and High Evolutionary silliness...I have been a Spider-man fan since I was old enough to read..and truly as a Spidey fan...we have all had to take a lot..Brand New Day, the infantilization of Pete as a complete "overwrite" of the responsible, stalwart character he has always been. Although, current story arcs seem to be attempting to restorie him to his former splendor, barring the Daredevil/Black Cat humiliation storyline. This show's gonna get a pass from me...it is marketing the Super Hero Squad kid vote..and I guess I can't complain too much if Spidey gets a broader fan base and viewership, but as with this is not for me....I raise my hands in a gesture of frustation and state as many of you have..."This is what they cancelled Spectacular Spiderman for?"..:( Oh and finally, what "broke me"..was Ultra Hip Pilates, "it's your birthday"..Aunt May...I mean, I understand they don't want her frail, but come on......

  7. Hombre Araña

    Batman: The Brave and The Bold was a love letter to the silver age of comics. I haven´t seen much of it (I have to) but it´s entertaining as hell. This new Spidey show... I don´t know what is about. It kinda reminds me of those awful teen shows Disney produces. Coincidence?

  8. Jettwinlock

    Spider-man is supposed to be funny, but not like this. He mocks the villains and makes cracks to annoy them. He's a fun super hero, yet has such tragedies that he has to over come usually in his personal life that you can help but love him. This came off of cartoony without substance, from Cheap product placements, saying Ultimate Spider-man way too many times to the point of it being sad, a weaker whining annoying peter and just weird goofy things that would have worked better in Deadpool series. I read Ultimate Spider-man comic love it but this isn't Ultimate Spider-man. Why would they make Ultimate Spider-man cartoon only after they killed off Peter in the Ultimate Comics than to replace him with someone new. This doesn't even create good synergy for the comic and show since the new ultimate Spider man guy sales have fallen below 40,000(not related to the show) so it's in freefall. Having a show with with Peter and a comic with Miles (With the same name) isn't a good business decision. I know the show was in development for sometime but you think they would have kept Peter around in the comic to help the show. This shouldn't even be considered canon in the Ultimate spider-man universe nothing in makes any sense. It looks like a combination of Ultimate Universe and the Marvel Movies and somehow they get neither, why try even connecting them at this point to Avengers since Sony owns the movie rights for now anyway.

  9. Spec Spider Fan

    Avengers Season II was so damn good..FF and Avengers.....so damn sweet.....Spidey was palatable..but if I miss an episode, I will not consider it too great a loss....meh, will watch for now...

  10. SpiderVenom

    I watched the first two episodes yesterday and I was mostly disappointed. I don't want Spidey on a team. I want him fighting villains on his own. I wish they would take all the good from Spider Man the Animated Series and Spectacular and make it better, but that's not gonna happen. Anyway my day wasn't ruined because I also saw the Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes and that kicked all kinds of ass.

  11. kwed

    @Enigma - Let me clarify, I never watched B&B, minus a few episodes, but I could respect it for all the Easter eggs of past Batman eras, good list here comicsastonish.com/2011/11/18/top-ten-episodes-of-batman-the-brave-and-the-bold/. This version of Spider-Man looks like it is just sort of doing what it wants, on top of being of being cartoonish.

  12. Enigma_2099

    "I agree with the Batman Brave & the Bold comparisons except that Brace & the Bold went deep into the history of Batman and was that 60′s campy Batman..." THAT'S why I can't stand Batman BATB "The animation is good, but when he got on the motorcycle I felt like I was watching a commercial for a kid’s toy." YOU WERE.

  13. kwed

    This show is the worst version of Spider-Man I have seen...probably gonna be worse than the 2003 Mtv series...yeah it's that bad. Too cartoony for me. I agree with the Batman Brave & the Bold comparisons except that Brace & the Bold went deep into the history of Batman and was that 60's campy Batman, this kills the history...what's up with Aunt May being this cool hip old lady? MJ wants to be a journalist? huh? Speaking of MJ...what the heck is up with her eye brows? Kind of thick don't you think? Picking I know, but when you hate something you see all the flaws. Spider-Man is the leader of the New Warriors/Avengers Academy? Coulson is the best part of the show...that's pretty sad. The breaking of the 4th wall occurs too often and just doesn't work for me. Spider-Man comes off more of the Spider-Man before Uncle Ben was killed, cocky and self centered for the most part. The animation is good, but when he got on the motorcycle I felt like I was watching a commercial for a kid's toy. I am giving this show a couple more times simply because my son likes Spider-Man, but I doubt I will watch it much longer. It's sad cause The Avengers cartoon is the best cartoon Marvel has ever done...it's moving up into DCAU status, especially with their season opener with The Fantastic Four.

  14. smper

    I agree with Daemoncorps...too much Shield and Nick Fury(getting over saturated...the new wolverine) and him unmasking....sheesh...everyone knows his identity in this universe, not for me.

  15. Hombre Araña

    It´s not awful (IMO it´s watchable and I will keep doing it) but subjectively I am tempted to hate it, if only because I am still hurt for the death of the "awesomeness" that was Spectacular Spider-Man

  16. Enigma_2099

    On the other hand, to many this will come as a cynical and cheap usurper of the modern Spider-Man cartoon after the untimely demise of the Spectacular Spider-Man animated series which still remains to be the best Spidey was ever done on the small screen. Also, the tone of the series will be compared to Marvel Super Hero Squad and Batman: The Brave and the Bold respectively. Right off the bat, this series is littered with pummelings of the fourth wall, wacky technology gags, and nutty cutaways which make little sense out of context. This is the first Spider-Man cartoon to ironically be innately “cartoony”, and that’s going to bother a lot of people. Aaaaaaaaaand I'm done. Enjoy the show folks. It's not for me. And it has such good animation, too.

  17. Aziz

    Two episodes ended with Eugen (maybe he's named Fred this time) stuck in the locker, I hope they don't keep it all the time

  18. DaemonCorps

    I'm sorry, but after checking out the first two episodes, I can confidently say that this show wasn't for me. What really got me was when Spidey drops in on SHIELD and he not only removes his mask in front of Fury, but salutes him. Spidey just came off as too much of an eager beaver that wanted to get on the grown-up superheroes' sides, which I don't see the character to do... at least not to such an extent.

  19. Tabularasa

    For a beginning, I think it worked. The concept and most of the jokes worked for me. It was a lot of fun and I'm really interested to see where they take the whole concept of the team. I was expecting to hate this show, but I was really surprised.

  20. Andy M

    I liked the character designs more here than in Spectacular Spider-man. In Spectacular Spider-man he looked like he was 6 years old. It was too silly looking for me to take seriously.

  21. Sarcasmic

    More worked than didn't for this show, but there was still a lot of problems, including some of the character designs (Ock) and while I laughed a lot, I remember the jokes that failed more than the ones that succeeded. And I hate when anything comes grinding to a halt like that for exposition. It should flow naturally with the story. But I did like most of the other points you brought up with your review.

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