Howdy ladies and gentlemen, today I’m going to do a review that I’ve been meaning to get off my chest for a while now, I am going to be reviewing the first season of the Ultimate Spider-Man. Now any of you that have followed this blog since 2012 will know that I started watching this show and did reviews up until episode 9. After that I just couldn’t take the show anymore and gave up. Now 2 years later, this show is in its 3rd season and is even more popular than before (how I don’t know). So back in the summer I got curious and decided to give this show another chance, and while it was a painful experience I made it and I was meant to have this review done back in July but I haven’t gotten around to writing it now so please bare with me. So how does this show’s 1st season fare? Well read on and find out.
So the story for this show can summarised up as the following:
Peter Parker has been Spider-Man for a little while now, but then he is recruited by Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. who offers him the opportunity to become a better superhero. So then Spider-Men joins a team of teenage superheroes, including While Tiger, Nova, Iron Fist and Power Man, and together they must battle villains of varying levels of danger while also trying to bond and become an efficient crime-fighting team.
Let me get this out of the way first, if you’ve started watching this show straight after the brilliance that is The Spectacular Spider-Man, it will seem like a MASSIVE let down. This show in terms of its stories, character development and interaction and just the level of intelligence is astronomically lower in quality and it takes a while to adjust. The main problems I have with this show are high in number, but when it comes to the story, these things come to mind:
- There’s a Lack of Interesting Stories & Overarching Plots: For the first half of the show I found incredibly hard to be invested in some the episodic stories because they weren’t terribly interesting, important or cool. And I was waiting for some long-term story to take place over the course of the season, but that kind of storytelling didn’t take place until way down the line.
- Too Much Humour & Not Enough Seriousness: This show likes its jokes, a lot, to the point where it can be overbearing and worst part is that most of it isn’t funny at all. Besides a few chuckles or smiles, this show’s humour is juvenile at best, so many cut-aways and not enough time to write actual funny material. So with all that time devoted to humour, there’s no time for moments of seriousness or drama, and when it comes it barely connects because of the humour overload.
- The Show Ignores The Best Elements of What Makes Spider-Man Good: Whether it is the emphasis on characters other than Spider-Man or taking aspects of the comics and messing with their origins, it seems like the team behind this show are determined to make a Spider-Man cartoon without some of the key elements that make it good. There’s no sense of drama, relationships with girls, problems with his dual life, actions and consequences and proper lack of Uncle Ben too, all the things that make Peter Parker’s life so engaging.
- The Writers Think Spider-Man is For Kids Only: I have watched a number of children’s shows that were educational or had mature/adult themes that were awesome like the 90’s cartoon adaptations of Batman, Spider-Man and X-Men, those were smart and incredibly deep shows with well-thought out stories, characters. This show on the other hand, thinks that there are only children watching so it uses the lowest forms of humour, throws out generic and dull storylines and has little to no educational values at all. Spider-Man has always been about learning life lessons and this show doesn’t seem like it wants to teach anything and when it does the execution is dodgy.
By the end of the show I could see that things had improved somewhat from the beginning, but even then, several of the things I wasn’t keen on still remained by the time the final episode was over.
Somewhat memorable episodes:
- Field Trip
- Beetle Mania
- Snow Day
- Not a Toy
- Rise of the Goblin
When it comes to the characters, good gravy, if they aren’t annoying as hell, then they lack common sense, always crack jokes or are just dull. I understand that things can’t stay the same forever and some character traits need to be updated for modern times, but there is updating and then there’s completely changing things for the worst.
Firstly, there’s Peter Parker/Spider-Man, he’s awful. The tried and tested formula of a teenager dealing with the responsibility related to being a superhero while also dealing with school, his job and his friends and family has been replaced with a bumbling buffoon who’s constantly messing up, has no sense of logic and isn’t very cool as a superhero. This iteration of Spider-Man is just painful to watch and it is made so much wore by the whiny voice of Drake Bell. White Tiger is a character it took me a long time to like, she constantly argues with her teammates (especially Spider-Man), she’s always made out to be smarter and more tactical than the boys and when it comes to fights she hardly has anything amazing to add to combat. Then there’s Iron Fist and Power Man, the former of which is the cooler of the two. I like Iron Fist mainly due to his calm demeanor, martial arts moves and interesting sayings and there’s Powerman who is pretty strong, but a little on the dumb side a bit generic as a young black superhero. Both of these characters are decent, but lack their trademark comic book flair and style and never get as much screen time as some of the other members of the team. And then there’s Nova, bloody hell that guy is annoying. He’s a hot head who says and does things without thinking, he’s constantly butting heads with Spidey and bring out the worst him, but worst of all, he’s always talking smack and cracking jokes but he’s not funny or cool. I just don’t like the guy and he has no credibility as a member of the team at all.
The villains don’t fare much better, there’s too many to mention, I mean they butchered so many characters like Doc Ock and Venom, but the one villain they did well with was Sandman, that was kind of cool. I didn’t care much for the Green Goblin because it was the Ultimate version rather than the classic one that I love. The addition of other heroes like Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Captain America is a bit hit and miss, they best ones were clearly Cap and Iron Man.
Also, Nick Fury wasn’t nearly as cool or badass as he should have been, I felt like he was just there to bitch and moan, but wasn’t some badass leader and man of battle and justice. I wasn’t keen on the treatment of Mary Jane Watson either, I mean I appreciated that she was more active and not just some nice girl who was the object of Peter’s affections, however, she was still in the thick of danger on numerous occasions and constantly kept needing to be saved by Spider-Man because of absurd and illogical decisions. Harry Osborn was alright, but all of the dramatic elements of his character that made me him cool were absent and what they did with his character in terms of making him one oft he most classic villains ever, that just annoyed me. Aunt May she was just horrible, she has no value in this show and never has relevance to any of the stories besides one awkward one involving her and Agent Coulson, I feel like she could be written out of the show and it would have made no difference. Having JK Simmons back as J. Jonah Jameson was nice, but I feel like his character didn’t have the same style an impact that he did in the films. Seeing Agent Coulson in this show with a pretty big supporting role was cool, however sometimes I feel like his character is used too much in the humour department rather than the cool guy we know from the MCU and lastly, the Stan Lee cameos are pretty nice and offer up moments of awesomeness and humour.
At least the visual presentation is up to par as it is the best part of the Ultimate Spider-Man. The animation is fluid, full of detail and has some great use of camera angles and tracking shots, while the art is good for the most part with most characters looking like their comic book counterparts, besides some updated hero and villain designs which really aren’t that cool, some are dull and some rely too heavily on recent live-action films. This is the best spider-Man has ever looked in a cartoon and it is arguably Marvel’s best-looking animated show so far.
In conclusion the first season of Ultimate Spider-Man is a bit a mixed bag, but it has worse than it is good. While the art and animation is amazing and the fact that Spidey gets into interact with so many famous other superheroes is cool, it doesn’t make up for the bad jokes, poor character development, unengaging characters and lack of proper storytelling. Hopefully season 2 will improve on the good points of this show.
Rating: 6/10 (It isn’t a complete waste of time, but it is a bumpy ride. Approach with caution)