If there’s any Marvel character with more animated adaptations than you can count, it’s definitely Spider-Man. From the 1960s to the present day, there has been an animated series depicting the iconic wallcrawler, with each of them depicting the character in its own unique way. With the latest show, Ultimate Spider-Man, having just ended eight months ago, a new Spidey cartoon is now airing, simply titled “Marvel’s Spider-Man“. Heck, much like what Disney is doing right now with the new DuckTales, the first episode was released on Disney XD’s YouTube channel. I watched the first episode and half of the second, and then I gave up on it. Yeah, I know, that might be a bit prudent of me, and if you like the show, that’s fine, but I just couldn’t go through with it. And yes I get that this show is “made for kids”, but I find that to be a bullshit excuse for something that’s bad. Anyone watching, be it kids or whoever, deserves better. This show might actually be worse than Ultimate Spider-Man, and that’s saying something, considering how bad that show was. Here are my reasons why:
- The Production
Regardless of quality, Ultimate Spider-Man had been on the air for FIVE YEARS with four seasons and 104 episodes to its name. For an animated show based on a superhero property like Spider-Man, that can be a pretty long time. And based on its cheap quality in a lot of areas, I can definitely see why that is, since it was easy for the creators and producers to make. Now, you’d think that with a show that lasted that long, it’d kinda be a good idea to maybe have a bit of a break between that show and whatever came out after it. And sure, a followup, whether it’s a sequel, spinoff, or reboot, could air subsequently after the previous iteration, depending on how it’s done and the quality it has. But I’m guessing some higher-ups at Marvel/Disney thought that it’s best to air this show as soon as possible, and so after EIGHT MONTHS this new show premiered, and from the very first moment it starts it’s very clear that this was rushed into production. The storytelling, animation, voice-acting, and overall look and feel just simply give the impression that it was made to capitalize on the recent cinematic outing of the character, Spider-Man: Homecoming (which I have seen and it’s pretty decent, will review it soon). I know making a cartoon based on a superhero property not too long after a recent live-action movie adaptation is nothing new. For instance, Batman: TAS got its inspiration from the Tim Burton films, but partly in aesthetics, whereas the rest of the show just did its own thing and is well-renowned for that, among other aspects, to this day. Heck, probably the most acclaimed Spidey cartoon, The Spectacular Spider-Man, took some visual cues from the Sam Raimi movies, but also did its own thing and is well-remembered for that, again among other aspects. This new show, however, really doesn’t do anything new to stand out among other adaptations, and whatever new elements are added, it just doesn’t really do justice for the character. In short, this show should’ve had more development time, and even if it was being made while Ultimate Spider-Man was finishing its run, there definitely should’ve been more details to iron out first.
- The Animation
Now, I’m no animation expert, exactly. I can’t draw worth for shit. But if something looks like shit to me, then I call it shit. The character designs for most characters on the show do look okay for the most part, while others not so much, especially for Vulture (seriously who thought it’d be a good idea for him to have a visor so that his eyes aren’t seen? it just looks like a lazy way for the animators not to give him eyes) and Spencer Smythe (seriously how cliche for an evil-looking scientist can you get with this guy?). It’s like the creators were trying to go for something looking similar to Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra, and Voltron: Legendary Defender. However, the animation in those shows allowed the characters to be as fluid and expressive as possible, trying to have an almost anime feel to them, whereas in this show the animation makes the characters seem sometimes fluid but also choppy and stilted in their movements, almost as if the makers of My Life Me were involved, only with slightly better effort, but still bad.
Let’s not forget the backgrounds and overall environment. Half the time it looks as if the background design is barely finished. There’s even a moment when Spider-Man is fighting Scorpion, then he stands near a subway entrance, and I can’t tell if he’s standing on the ground or floating above it, it looks that bad. The character design and the environment clearly don’t mesh well with each other, and when you got something like that happening it makes it harder to watch. In moments when the main characters are focused on, be it in action scenes or even simple talking scenes, the background characters look as if they’re frozen solid, not looking alive at all. Vehicles in the show are also clearly computer-generated and don’t mesh well with the overall world. Sometimes the buildings and other environment surrounding the characters when they’re moving, like when they’re walking around the city, look kinda blurred out, which makes me think that no one on this show bothered to finish out whatever drawings there were for the buildings in those moments. Sure, there’s a zoomed-out view of New York City that looks nice, but up close, it just looks ugly.
For a show that wants to be an action-packed superhero show that looks awesome, it really just doesn’t. The action needs to be fast-paced but also synchronized with the character models and their fluidity. The Spectacular Spider-Man was able to do this just fine and that was made almost a DECADE ago. I know that Ultimate Spider-Man had questionable quality as well, but at least whoever did that tried to emphasize on the awesomeness of the characters and the world they’re in, even though the overall show wasn’t. This show barely looks like it’s trying at all.
- The Premise
When I first heard this show was being made, I wasn’t sure what to expect. At best I heard that the show was gonna be a more simple and back-to-basics look on Spider-Man. Then after watching it and looking up what it’s gonna be about, I just said “no thanks, I’m good”. Basically the show is gonna be about Peter Parker going to a school for geniuses run by Max Modell (a character from the comics created by Dan Slott, who’s a creative consultant on this show) called Horizon High, where he’ll encounter characters from the Spider-Man mythos also going to the school such as Miles Morales (the second Ultimate Spider-Man), Anya Corazon (the 616 mainstream version of Spider-Girl), Otto Octavius/Doctor Octopus, and others, while also engaging in superheroics as Spider-Man. And right from the get-go, I could tell the premise was DOA. Look, I can buy a story about Spidey going to high school, because that’s how he got his start and how he can relate to the audience, because even though he’s a superhero, he’s also just a regular guy with regular problems. And even though stories set after his high school days can be hit or miss, they still set up interesting ideas and arcs that can be utilized in interesting ways, as well as expand on the world that he inhabits. While I don’t like Ultimate Spider-Man, I can understand its approach in trying to do a modern-day version of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, having him team up with different Marvel characters and how he’s part of a larger universe. But Spidey going to a high-tech school for geniuses? Sorry, but I’m not sold on it. It immediately takes away anything relatable the audience can have with the character. Sure, Spider-Man’s a genius at times, and it’s cool for a story about him exploring that aspect, but going to a sci-fi version of Hogwarts? What’s next, they’re gonna go Ender’s Game on his ass and have him be trained as a soldier to fight aliens or something?
I understand this show is taking influence from the current comics run by Dan Slott, with Horizon High modelled after Horizon Labs and the inclusion of Max Modell, and heck I’m even ok with Spider-Man in charge of his own company because he decided to capitalize on his scientific genius since it’s getting tiring of seeing him struggle to pay rent and stuff when he’s capable of so much more (yes I get that falls in line with the “great power, great responsibility” schtick, but he deserves at least some success with his abilities), but doing this kind of stuff in a show about him starting out as Spider-Man, it just ruins the suspension of disbelief regarding the character. Sure, other shows explored how science figures into both Peter’s civilian and superhero lives, but the way that this show emphasizes so much on it, it gets dull, boring, and repetitive real quick. Even Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson would ask the creators to tone it down with the science aspect of this show. I’m almost expecting “She Blinded Me With Science” to be playing at some point.
- Spider-Man Himself
This is probably the worst depiction of the character I have seen yet in animated form. The “nerdy” aspect of him is really emphasized here, so much so to the point where he actually tries to apply physics to the phrase “with great power, comes great responsibility”, because this show really wants to emphasize that he’s a nerd and knows science and shit and doesn’t know the simple things in life. His voice, look, and just everything else about him just screams desperate and pathetic, and not in a good way in which he can be sympathized with and rooted for. You know those nerdy characters in movies or shows that are just simply annoying and you’re glad they’re told to shut up or get punched in the face? Yeah, that’s this depiction of Spider-Man here. It especially doesn’t help that he’s voiced by Robbie Daymond here. Yes, the voice of SwaySway from fucking BREADWINNERS is the voice of Spider-Man in this show, and his voice is just as annoying in that show as it is in this show. At least you can imagine Drake Bell voicing Spider-Man, and if there’s anything that can be taken from the episodes of Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in which he voiced the character (lines that were originally recorded by Josh Keaton, who voiced Spidey in Spectacular Spider-Man, and ironically he’s the voice of Norman Osborn for this show), there was potential, before Ultimate Spider-Man ruined it.
I understand that Spider-Man has a sense of humor, hence him making quips most of the time. But like with Ultimate Spider-Man, this show tries to emphasize on him making jokes way too much, though thankfully there aren’t any Family Guy-style cutaway gags here like in that show. Yeah, I get that quips and thwips are his thing, but there are times when he can take the situation seriously and know that there’s a time for talk and a time for action. When Spidey is in action in this show, he simply talks too much, and it makes me root for the bad guys more when they try to knock him out in order for him to shut up.
Honestly, if they wanted to make a show about a teenage Spider-Man, then they should’ve picked someone with better range in their voice. Someone like Jason Spisak or Jesse McCartney, both of whom have done good voice-acting for young male superheroes like how they did in Young Justice with Wally West/Kid Flash and Dick Grayson/Robin/Nightwing. Robbie Daymond here sounds like he’s going through puberty, with the constant cracking and obnoxious loudness of his voice, much like how he did with SwaySway in Breadwinners, and that just makes me not take him seriously and want him to shut up. I get that he’s a teenager and teenagers go through puberty with all kinds of body changes, especially with voice, it’s a fact, but it just doesn’t work with this character here and it just makes him annoying. Sure, Tom Holland sounded like a teenager when playing Spidey in the MCU, but that’s probably cause out of all the actors to play him in live-action, he was probably the one most age-appropriate for the types of stories portraying him his performance sold on this aspect, among other things. The way the show here portrays Spidey and how Daymond voices him just annoys me, and if I’m annoyed by the main protagonist, why should I care about him?
- The Actual 1st Episode (and half of the 2nd)
So the episode (Horizon High Part 1) starts with Spidey narrating about how he’s gotta be a hero and his “great power, great responsibility” schtick, and already this feels tired and cliched, unless if whoever’s watching this has never seen anything Spider-Man-related before. He tries to stop some criminals who are stealing tech, because according to the police who can’t stop these guys for shit, “science is the new currency” (who wrote this? I’m sorry but the way that it’s written and said just sounds stupid to me). Also for some reason there’s a flashback to Uncle Ben (voiced by Patton Oswalt, sounding like he’s barely awake), and they bond over making a cuckoo clock, and he tries to give Peter the “great power, great responsibility” speech by writing it as an equation, only for Peter to kinda ruin the lesson taught to him by applying physics and math to it (I’m no scientist or math whiz, but the way it’s presented just seems kinda off to me, especially how it ruins the heartwarming moment that the phrase usually provides in most Spider-Man stories). Vulture (voiced by Alistair Duncan, the same guy who voiced Celebrimbor in the Middle-Earth games and Alfred in The Batman) then shows up, revealing the goons are his henchmen, he and Spidey fight, only for it to end when Spider-Man has to save some cops.
Peter meets up with his friend Harry Osborn (whose limo driver is Bernie Sanders for some reason) at a cafe and with the music cranked up so loud it makes the dialogue between em hard to listen to. They go to Midtown High, where a Vibranium device presented by Max Modell and students of Horizon High, of which Harry goes to, during an assembly. Spencer Smythe (voiced by Benjamin Diskin, who voiced Eddie Brock/Venom in Spectacular Spider-Man, and really making the whole “evil scientist” thing way too obvious) and Alistair Smythe (voiced by Jason Spisak; wait what? really? but I just said he’d be perfect for Spider-Man! dammit!) both hate Modell, with Alistair spitting at Modell while on stage, only for it to be revealed it was a hologram and Modell was actually sitting in front of him (ok how did he not notice he was in sitting in front of him?). Spencer then sabotages the device, taking a picture of Harry in order to frame him later (how does anyone not notice this happening?), and when the device is turned on, it causes the roof to collapse and so Peter puts on his Spider-Man outfit and stops the device from destroying the place. Vulture then tries to kidnap Modell, only for Spidey to save him, and before he returns to the school, it’s revealed that Vulture and Smythe are working together to sabotage Modell. Spidey returns to the school, beats up Vulture by shooting web at his mouth instead of his sonic device, and hands him to the authorities, saving the day.
Spencer frames Harry for sabotaging the device by showing the photos he took of Harry setting up the device when it was really Smythe who did it. Harry is suspended from Horizon High and Peter is offered to go there in Harry’s place. Thus begins Peter’s days in the sci-fi version of Hogwarts, simply because the people making this show really want to emphasize on the “science” and to tie-in with Dan Slott’s run of the character, since Dan Slott is a creative consultant on this show.
All I saw of the 2nd episode (Horizon High part 2) was Spidey fighting Scorpion for a bit, with all the choppy and lazy animation it has, and then Peter awkwardly meeting a teenage version of Otto Octavius (voiced by Scott Menville, who despite having done good voicework like Robin in Teen Titans, really sounds out of place with this character, in fact this version of the character in the show just feels wrong). That’s about it. I gave up after that.
Marvel’s Spider-Man is more like “Marvel’s Spider-Meh”, if the title of my review was any indication of my opinion on this thing. Whatever potential this show had for being good is immediately thrown out the window with what’s presented here. And honestly, to me this is quite reflective of the recent Marvel Animation stuff as a whole. I understand that key players at Marvel, who have written Marvel comics in the past, are involved in the adaptations, and that’s fine, but the way that these shows are done, with the lazy stock character designs and overall animation, bland storytelling, and cheap attempts to cash-in on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it just gives the impression that either they don’t care about the overall quality of what they’re producing or they’re not as “hands-on” with the development since they’re busy with a lot of other things that clearly have effort in them, like the live-action stuff. Not to mention Marvel is owned by friggin Disney, one of the pioneers of animation, so shouldn’t they be able to do better than this? No wonder the show doesn’t get promoted as much as the new DuckTales, because at least that show understands how to update something classic and make it overall entertaining for anyone to enjoy. And with the show not exactly making high ratings, I don’t see this lasting very long. Basically it wants to be Spectactular Spider-Man without actually putting in the effort to BE Spectacular Spider-Man. At this point, Sony and Marvel/Disney should just settle their differences like they did with Homecoming and just bring that show back.
Spider-Meh, Spider-Meh, does pretty much nothing like a Spider-Meh can…