I’m a bit behind here. I didn’t know the series was already launching. I thought it was a preview, like they did with Ducktales. Instead they’re already up to episode three and the first two episodes claim to be a two-part story but really isn’t. My review is on the first two episodes plus the online origin shorts, all of which you can watch at the playlist below (except episode two, which isn’t officially online) before getting into the review. Or just watch the review but there will be some minor spoilers.
Possibly to help push Spider-Man: Homecoming, although the movie’s been out over a month by now, Disney XD decided to create a brand new Spider-Man cartoon rather than continuing the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon that was already outdated from its comic counterpart. Marvel’s Spider-Man is a new take on Spider-Man. A very new take as you’ll see. But was it any good?
Heck yeah it was! The animation is good for those of you that care, but the story was really good. In this new take Peter gets the chance to go Horizon High, a school for geniuses. He makes friends, he still fights crime, and there’s a good storytelling potential, with the Smythes trying to destroy Horizon High, threats against Max himself, Peter trying to convince his best friend that his alter-ego isn’t a bad guy, and divide his time between his studies and crimefighting.
I have to say I do really like this version of Peter Parker as a character. He’s an unrepentant science geek and getting to go to a school for science geeks is a great move for the character. They’re embracing his science side, which even Spectacular never really did, but he still gets to be awkward and unsure of himself. And yes he does get the classic duds in part 2, but his “prototype” outfit actually wasn’t that bad, just not a Spider-Man outfit. You probably noticed that they’re borrowing more from the movies. The web shooter is a lower-tech version of the ones Tony Stark gives him in Homecoming if I’m following the trailers and clips right. (I still haven’t seen it.) Peter’s wrestling opponent is Bonesaw rather than Crusher Hogan. However, I think it works for anyone not well versed in the comics.
And that may be the only weakness of this show. It really doesn’t tie to the comics, or even the movies beyond two nods I mentioned. We have yet another “high school” setting rather than where Spider-Man has been for decades. Peter graduated high school, went on to college (which is where his larger supporting cast came from besides Aunt May, Flash Thompson, and the Daily Bugle staff, who so far aren’t in this), and only went to high school to teach–until One More Day ruined that too. (OMD ruined a lot really.) And yet every comic, show, and movie since Ultimate Spider-Man shoves Peter back into high school, de-aging much of his supporting cast along with it to shove him into high school, and (ever since Spectacular Spider-Man) turning Gwen Stacy into a science geek like Peter just to put them together. (Yep, they teased Gwen Frickin’ Stacy in part two so I’m going to have to put up with Geek Gwen instead of actual Gwen again. At least when Marvel Adventures Spider-Man came out they only de-aged Gwen and dropped the party girl angle to make her a would-be reporter.) It worked for Iron Man: Armored Adventures because it was the first time. It keeps happening to Peter. I was sure I was going to hate this show for that, and they could have made Peter into a ninja (possibly charged by magic or something, which would make a nice counterpoint to the science angle) and nothing would have been lost.
But the show somehow won me over. Peter and his friends are interesting and I want to see where this goes. Hopefully it goes with Peter telling Harry he’s Spider-Man before they become mortal enemies and Harry can back-up Peter. The new takes on the Spider-Foes only bear a passing tie to their comic counterparts but they are interesting and the subplot involving people wanting to destroy Horizon High (including a hinted at “boss”) could be interesting. I do want to see where this show goes. It also drops a lot of the problems fans had with the Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon early on. No goofy looks into Peter’s head, no fourth-wall breaking beyond narration, and the humor comes from the situation rather than adding in gags that would have been out-of-place in the previous Teen Titans cartoon.
The most interesting part however is that Uncle Ben is still part of the show, flashing back to advice he gave Peter growing up that he uses to solve problems both as himself and as Spider-Man. I’ve been waiting for either Spider-Man or Superman (advice from his parents) going this route as it helps connect to his past and human side. Man Of Steel screwed up their flashbacks, but Marvel’s Spider-Man seems to be making great use of this to show Peter’s ties to Ben and the lessons he taught beyond “with great power comes great responsibility”.
I personally want to keep watching the show. What it lacks in Spider-Man it makes up for with good stories and good characters. Give the show a chance and maybe it will find its own path and win its own fans, if not the Spider-Fans.