Marvel’s brand new Spider-Man animated series (which is officially known as Marvel’s Spider-Man if you can believe that) arrives on Disney XD this week. As someone who never really quite warmed to Marvel’s recent animated efforts like Ultimate Spider-Man and others, and especially as someone who will never, ever forgive the fact that the absolutely brilliant Spectacular Spider-Man was canned after only two seasons, I tend to approach new Spidey shows with some trepidation. So I’m pleased to report that Marvel’s Spider-Man gets it right.
The series kicks off two weeks into Peter Parker’s career as Spidey. How early is it? He’s still wearing the sweatsuit/homemade costume for most of the first two episodes, a fun bit of synergy with what we just saw on the big screen in Spider-Man: Homecoming (don’t worry, he eventually gets into the classic threads). There’s no origin story (nobody needs another refresher), although Uncle Ben appears in flashback, and there’s a neat new twist on “with great power comes great responsibility.”
The show has a kind of sparse, anime style to it, which might put off viewers expecting the more traditionally heroic look from the Amazing Friends or ’90s animated series days. But with the surprising amount of time the show spends focusing on Peter and his classmates at the science/genius-centric Horizon High (as much, if not more time is spent on introducing Peter’s high school supporting cast as on superheroics) this turns out to be a perfect fit, and allows for some terrific visual characterizations for Peter’s friends and teachers.
And watch closely for plenty of cool Easter eggs! And no, these aren’t really of the “building the Marvel Universe” variety you get in the movies. It’s little things, like Midtown High being founded in 1922 (the year Stan Lee was born) or the fact that the kids hang out at a coffee shop with a name and logo familiar to Marvel fans, or sentimental touches like the wallpaper on Peter’s phone, or ummm…wait until you see who Harry Osborn’s chauffeur is (it isn’t someone from the Marvel Universe).
My only real complaint? Get this Spidey a theme song! Marvel’s Spider-Man is stuck with a forgettable, instrumental superhero theme, and at the very least, the screeners I saw of the first two episodes didn’t contain any kind of opening sequence. I get that an extended opening would feel pretty old fashioned these days, and hey, there’s more time for story, right? But c’mon, after all the killer Spidey theme tunes we’ve had – the incredible music of the classic 1960s animated series, the synth-y perfection of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Joe Perry’s memorable theme to the beloved ’90s series to the virtually perfect opener for the much missed Spectacular Spider-Man – music has always been a key component of Spidey’s identity. Hell, they even got it right on the big screen with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Put a little more effort into this for season two, please!
Anyway, that was a long digression for such a minor complaint. Marvel’s Spider-Man is a really pleasant surprise. It’s just different enough from what has come before, especially with its visual style and the renewed focus on Peter and his high school life. There’s the potential for long-term, serialized storytelling (no Spidey series ever did that quite as well as Spectacular Spider-Man, so hopefully this lasts longer to get the audience some payoffs), an engaging voice cast, and a real “classic Spidey” vibe that doesn’t feel like they’re going through the motions.
Marvel’s Spider-Man premieres on Disney XD on August 19.
Mike Cecchini has seen every episode of every Spider-Man cartoon and he isn’t sorry. Mock him on Twitter.
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