Sunday, July 1, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Ultimate Spider-Man

Ultimate Spider-Man is a cartoon that began airing on Disney XD in 2012. Season one has been completed with 16 episodes.
Good visual analogy for how I feel about this show.
The creators of this show really decided to give this cartoon a different feel than the previous six Spider-Man cartoons. In that they succeeded. This show is very different from all of the previous Spider-Man cartoons before it.

First, there's no theme song. In fact, no opening credits at all! Odd choice but I won't hold it against the show.

This show can be very "cartoony," if it makes sense to describe a cartoon as "cartoony." Stylistically this show has more in common with Spongebob Squarepants than previous Spider-Man series. Spider-Man's eyes are very expressive, very frequently changing shape to show emotion despite the fact that they're cloth and should never change shape. We often see what's happening in Peter's head as the action stops and a small, cartoony clip plays. These clips often feature mini-Spider-Man. Sometimes, these "asides" can be confusing to little kids. In one episode, Peter ponders what would happen if he publicly revealed his identity and the clips show him doing so and the repercussions. My five year old didn't understand that this was just a hypothetical, however, and he really thought he had revealed his identity.

The series does tend to be narration-heavy. The breaks in the action for the little, cartoony asides, while sometimes funny, do break the flow of the story and action.

The storyline picks up from something Ultimate Nick Fury said to Peter in the Ultimate Spider-Man comic: "When you're 18, you're mine." In the cartoon, Nick Fury makes Spidey an offer - He should join SHIELD and Fury will help him become the "ultimate" Spider-Man. Well, he does and that introduces the heroes Power Man (Luke Cage), Iron Fist, White Tiger, and Nova (for some reason his name is Sam Alexander and not Richard Rider). These heroes appear in most episodes and even attend Peter's high school. They're kinda like his new "Spider-Friends." Beyond Fury and those heroes, the supporting cast is limited to Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Mary Jane, and Harry Osborn. Agent Colston, from the Avengers series of movies, is a reoccurring character in the series which makes you wonder if it is in continuity with the Avengers movies. Stan Lee makes reoccurring cameos in each episode.

Tons of characters from the Marvel Universe are tossed into each episode, sometimes for just seconds. So Iron Man, Thor, Galactus, and Wolverine all makes appearances among many others.

The series really does has its funny moments. When Spidey is slowly descending from the SHIELD Helicarrier on a parachute he yells, "I have to pee!" 

The show really blazes a new trail as far as continuity goes. Sure, the villains are familiar such as Doctor Doom and the Juggernaut but the storylines are, for the most part, original. In this continuity, Norman Osborn and Doctor Octopus are in league with one another to learn Spider-Man's secrets so they can create an army of Spider-Men. To that end, they unleash threat after threat such as the Venom symbiote. But Venom doesn't go through the typical storyline - he bonds with Harry Osborn. 

Although the show can, at times, have some interesting visuals for the most part I find the artwork to be visually dull. 

Ultimately (ha ha), this show just doesn't work. Between its lacking art, stuttering storytelling techniques, and apparent lack of focus the show fails to keep my interest. It's a shame they took a great show like the Spectacular Spider-Man off the air for this. Ultimate? No - not even close.

1LR REVIEW - 10 out of 20! It's a Miss!

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