Five stars for the animated series; one star for the dvd (averages to three stars).
You just can't keep an old webhead down. On March 8, 2008, SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN debuted on the Kid's WB, this being the wallcrawler's sixth animated TV show. And while there are some new twists, this new series remains true to the core of the Spidey mythos. This incarnation returns Peter Parker to basics and to nerdy teenhood. Pete is back in high school, and all the angst and acne that goes with that. Classic themes resurface as Peter strives to juggle crimefighting with school and with domestic life with his Aunt May. The Parker household suffers from financial woes. Peter is highly intelligent but unpopular at school. As Spidey, he applies science and logic (and jokes) to best his opponents. And, as ever, Peter clings to that hard-earned life lesson: "With great power comes great responsibility." Which means, Spidey is righteous, but broke.
What's new? Well, Gwen Stacy (who in the comics is Pete's other great love) becomes a regular for the first time in a Spidey animated series, and she's been revamped into a brainy, glasses-sporting girl. She's still cute, though, and she's one of Peter's best friends (along with the boring Harry Osbourne). Fans of Venom will recognize Eddie Brock's name, but, here, he's now a college freshman, instead of a disgraced newspaper journalist. And he's chums with Peter and Gwen. Meanwhile, Flash Thompson is still a first-class bully and jock. And if you're wondering about a certain redhead, well, she shows up later in the season.
In Spidey's personal timeline, it's only been less than a year since he'd gone public. He's still mostly thought of as an urban legend, but, geez, how badly does Daily Bugle publisher, J. Jonah Jameson, want a photo of him? Peter enters his high school junior year convinced that things for him have changed for the better, since, you know, he's now got super powers ("Peter Parker is a wallcrawler, not a wallflower."). Instants later, a popular cheerleader humiliates him in public when he asks her out on a date. So it's back to dorkhood for Peter.
Spidey here looks pretty dope and dynamic, a bit reminiscent of how Ultimate Spidey is rendered in comics. His lean physique just underscores the webhead's youth and there's even more of an underdog feel as he faces off against more massively built foes. I've always found Spider-Man cartoons to be highly watchable stuff, and this one's no different. Following Stan Lee's footprints, these stories combine an element of high school drama with gritty urban crimefighting. Season one treats us to new takes on Spidey's rogue gallery and to four main story arcs (centering, respectively, on the Lizard, the "Big Man," the Green Goblin, and the black suit). This dvd, SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN: ATTACK OF THE LIZARD, deals with the first story arc.
First, regarding this dvd release, will all the gullible fan boys please bend over yet again? It's this old thing again, as Sony Pictures Home Entertainment tries to make extra duckets by doling out on the skimpy. So buyers beware. SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN: ATTACK OF THE LIZARD, at around 69 to 70 minutes long, edits and incorporates the first three episodes ("Survival of the Fittest," "Interactions," and "Natural Selection") into one single story. In it, Peter and the bookish Gwen win internships at Dr. Curt Connors' laboratory, where Connors is secretly experimenting with a serum to regenerate his missing arm. Spidey tussles with new versions of the Vulture and Electro, and with the Enforcers and even one felon named Flint Marko (in his pre-Sandman stage). This, even as a shadowy crimelord works his behind-the-scenes skullduggery. It all culminates with Connors predictably taking science too far, which then leads to the emergence of the grotesque Lizard.
In the "So What?" department, the dvd also promises to contain "The Spectacular Spider-Man Music Video" as an exclusive bonus feature. Because that makes the dvd less of a rip-off.
Spidey's my favorite. Grew up on him; loved the guy ever since. He just offers that combination of wicked super powers, vulnerability, and relatability. And he's an unrepenting jokester, which I dig ("My fans expect a certain amount of quippage in every battle."). With the recent cancellations of LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES and THE BATMAN, SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN is very welcome news. Hope it sticks around for a while.
Meanwhile, as good as these episodes are, you'd still do better to hold out until the full season dvd is released.