Peter Parker, average teenager, is secretly (GASP!) Spider-Man. Yet, this is not good enough. Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D., will train him to become the ULTIMATE Spider-Man. Buckle up, let’s see how this goes.
ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN Season One, Episode One
Written By: Paul Dini
So it begins. *Deep Breaths* Okay, this is my first review. You guys ready? Me, too. Let’s do this.
THE STORY: Spider-Man, after being yelled at by a broadcast of “100-Foot-Tall Cranky-Pants” J. Jonah Jameson, encounters the eternally-awesome villain, “The Trapster”! After a quick fight, the Helicarrier drops to the street. Samuel L. Jac… I mean… Nick Fury tells Spidey how terrible a display of super-heroics this was. Nick calls our hero a “rookie” and says he wants S.H.I.E.L.D. to train Spidey to become the “Ultimate Spider-Man”. Uninterested, Spidey swings away. Norman Osborn is shown planning something creepy, and we move to Midtown High. Peter Parker, average teenager, introduces us to MJ, Harry, and the very annoying Flash Thompson. Very soon afterwards, the Frightful Four (minus the Trapster) break into the cafeteria, with the knowledge that Spidey attends Midtown. Peter starts a food fight, changes into Spider-Man, and a battle begins. Spidey takes on the evil trio, Harry is hurt, and Spider-Man tricks Flash into getting trapped in a locker. Okay. Harry is hospitalized, and we see that this version of Aunt May keeps herself busy. Peter comes to the conclusion that he is actually a rookie, and decides to take Nick Fury up on his very generous offer.
THOUGHTS: Oh, boy. Okay, let me start by giving you a bit of information about myself. I promise, I’ll do this quick. I’m fourteen, a freshman in high school. I have been a Spider-Man fan for as far back as my memory goes, and before you dismiss me as a newbie, let me tell you this. I’ve read a huge chunk of Spider-Man’s history, and I absolutely love it. Although, everyone has a starter comic, and mine was the original Ultimate Spider-Man, all those years ago. Yes, I’m one of those guys. Quickly, I went over to the mainstream (or 616, if you like) continuity, but Ultimate Spidey was my start. So naturally, I was very excited when this show was announced. Did it live up to the excitement?
Yes and no. Mostly no. This was not a terrible first episode, really. It’s the rest of the show that bothers me, but I’ll get to that later. Overall, this episode, despite the breakneck pace, was entertaining. This episode, and the rest of the show, is very comedy-centered, rather than being focused on story and character. This is a large change from the previous series, Spectacular Spider-Man, though not necessarily a change for the worse. The constant humor really makes this series feel like it’s for a younger audience, but that’s okay. Some of the jokes landed, some didn’t quite fit. The pace is ridiculous. Just ridiculous. I felt like my head hurt a little at the end, but that’s fine because it gets much worse in later episodes. The Frightful Four were rather lame, but if they were more serious and intimidating, it wouldn’t really fit where the episode was going. One thing that is just GREAT about this show is the animation quality. The show just looks great. The thing that really gets to me about this is that it honestly just doesn’t feel like Spider-Man. To elaborate, I’m going to quickly look at each character.
Spider-Man mostly feels like he should. Peter Parker feels very off. Spidey is funny like he should be, he’s a bit of a jerk to his villains, that’s just how he is. It’s when they try to make you understand he’s a rookie that he feels out of character. Peter is at a genius-level intellect, and yet Spider-Man comes across as somewhat of an idiot. Again, this gets worse in later episodes. Peter feels VERY out of character to me. He is very average, most likely to make him seem more relatable, but it comes across wrong. The constant breaking of the fourth wall is just so unnecessary. It’s so hard to take a scene seriously when Spidey turns to the audience and is like, “Are you guys seeing this?! This is insane, right?! Teenagers don’t deal with this stuff!”. I wish they could just stick to Peter’s narration.
Mary Jane is not in any way the MJ I know, nor the Ultimate MJ I know. I do not understand the journalist thing. A counter-point would be, “Well, Ethan, MJ wanted to be a TV journalist in the USM comic series” but I disagree. This is not the same. She desires a journalist position at the Daily Bugle, and the way the dialogue goes, she sounds exactly like a teenage Lois Lane.
Harry is fine here. He’s similar enough to Ultimate Harry, just with less character.
Norman Osborn is introduced in a very interesting way here. (We’ll see how that goes.)
Flash is so annoying.
Aunt May is… younger and more active than any version of Aunt May I have ever seen, to the point that she seems like, without the white hair, she could be Peter’s 35-year-old mother. Oy.
Finally, I want to talk about the voice acting. The opinion has largely been that Drake Bell talks quickly and loudly because he’s trying to sound younger. That’s probably true, but I feel like he’s REALLY trying to keep Spidey sounding fun, and upbeat, which he does overdo a bit. One thing thing that bothers me (sorry, I can’t help it, I’m a nitpicker) is that when Peter puts on the mask, he’s essentially becoming a different part of himself. He’s more confident, he’s braver, he has a huge sense of humor. As Peter, though, he’s softspoken, he’s shy, and very separate from the world. Whether it’s the script or the voice acting, Peter feels the exact same as Spider-Man. He’s confident and joking all the time, so the change between Peter and his alter ego really just seems like a change in appearance.