Ultimate Spider-Man
#2 - Great Responsibility

Original Airdate - April 1st, 2012
When Spider-Man accepts Nick Fury's offer to be trained by S.H.I.E.L.D. to become the Ultimate Spider-Man, he discovers that he will be joining forces with four other teenage Super Heroes - Nova, White Tiger, Power Man and Iron Fist, in a new episode of Ultimate Spider-Man.

Ultimate Spider-Man stars Drake Bell (Drake & Josh) as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Chi McBride (Boston Public) as Nick Fury, Clark Gregg (Iron Man, Thor, The Avengers) as Agent Coulson, JK Simmons (Spider-Man) as J. Jonah Jameson, Steven Weber (Wings) as Norman Osborn, Greg Cipes (Teen Titans, Ben 10) as Danny Rand/Iron Fist, Ogie Banks as Luke Cage/Power Man, Caitlyn Taylor Love (I'm In The Band) as Ava Ayala/White Tiger, Logan Miller (I'm In The Band) as Sam Alexander/Nova, Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants) as Doctor Octopus, Matt Lanter (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) as Harry Osborn/Flash Thompson, Tara Strong (The Fairly Odd Parents) as Mary-Jane Watson, Misty Lee ( Batman: Arkham City) as Aunt May, and recurring guest star Stan Lee (Spider-Man) as Stan the Janitor.

"Great Responsibility" was written by Paul Dini.

Ultimate Spider-Man is produced by Marvel Animation and carries a TV-Y7-FV parental guideline.


By James Harvey

*Note: Please read the review for "Great Power" before continuing below.*

After the events of the first episode, Spider-Man has started his S.H.I.E.L.D. training under the watchful eye of Nick Fury. In addition, he also finds himself having to join a group of super-powered teens that Fury hopes to train into the next generation of superheroes. The team consists of Power Man, Iron First, White Tiger, and Nova. Naturally, Spidey doesn’t really agree with joining up with a group of teens and drops his S.H.I.E.L.D. training, but quickly finds himself in need of both the omnipresent organization and the teen supergroup when the Frightful Four return for a rematch. It’s with this episode that Ultimate Spider-Man establishes its central premise and fully introduces the core cast. While the set-up and eventual conclusion may not be all that original (Does he decide to continue his S.H.I.E.L.D. training alongside those superteens? One guess!), the show’s unique approach to the material does prevents it from being stale.

As the opening two-parter wraps up, Ultimate Spider-Man establishes itself very clearly. Action and humor is going to be the driving force behind this series. The jokes come fast and never really stop, save for the odd breather, even during the action scenes. Spidey is quipping non-stop - be it taunts to his opponents, jokes to his compatriots, or breaking the fourth-wall and cutaway gags. There are plenty times when the humor is spot-on, but then...there are the jokes that just don’t work. “Scared thwipless”? Really? I have a sneaky suspicion that “thwip” is going to become a reoccurring catch word for the series, and every appearance will be just as groan-inducing as this instance. And it is these moments where I can’t help but get the impression of a ‘created by committee’ type of feel to Ultimate Spider-Man, that every little thing is calculated very meticulously to appeal to hit that younger male demographic. I just can’t see this “thwip” thing as being some type of clever joke thought up by one of the many talented writers on the crew, but something just tossed in because it sounds like something that would make little kids giggle and looks good on a toy package. I’m likely thinking into this way too much.

For those worried that the humor will be detrimental to the action sequences, fear not. The action is handled quite nicely here. While not as kinetic as the likes of Young Justice, and definitely much tamer, it still packs a pretty good punch. Comparison to the late Teen Titans animated series feels appropriate when describing the battle scenes. Things do get a little goofy when the fists fly, we even get some of those “cartoon-y” sound effects here and there, but it works in context of the series. Everyone gets his or her moment to shine, and usually a one-liner to go with it.

As nice as the action and humor is, there does seem to be a certain lack of drama and depth to the proceedings. Granted, this is just the second episode and who knows how things will proceed and evolve from here. There are a few nice moments peppered throughout the first two episodes, such as Peter recollecting about Uncle Ben and talking with his Aunt May, but those get brushed aside pretty quickly. Even a cutaway gag of Peter being beaten by Aunt May at a video game was a nice moment between the two. Hopefully we’ll see a better balance between the two in the future.

Ultimate Spider-Man works all the main characters into their respective roles and offers no real surprises. Agent Nick Fury is the authoritative adult, with Agent/Principal Coulsen the suspicious type. Aunt May is, naturally, the supportive adult and usually the source of the few dramatic or quiet moments in the series. Norman Osborn is devilishly working behind the scenes, as is Doc Ock. Mary Jane and Harry Osborn play the role of best friends and nothing more, really. Sure, MJ’s journalistic ambitions are emphasized, as is Harry’s darker side, but there’s no real depth. Moving on to the teenaged-team, Iron Fist is laidback, White Tiger is deadly serious, Power Man is the team jock, and Nova has the attitude problem. Now true, this is only the second episode and there is plenty more room to grow, but – for now – all the character types are in place with little to no deviations. With luck, all these characters will grow and become more complex as the series progresses. By no means is any of this negative – everyone seems to be starting off on their designated roles – but I am hoping we’ll see plenty of drama and character growth sandwiched between the action scenes and comedic beats.

Long-time Spidey fans will appreciate some of the nods, such as Dr. Curt Conners – both arms intact, by the way – becoming essentially Spider-Man’s Q. It seems like he’ll be providing new tech and gadgets to Spidey to help deal with the many threats he and his team will be facing. One such piece of equipment that has already raised fan ire is the Spider-cycle, something that drew plenty of negative feedback when it was plugged in early commercials for the series, which is kinda goofy and nonsensical but not as damning as some think it is. Still, for everything new the show attempts, it also makes sure to draw from the character's vast history. There’s also the odd visual cue, pose, or reference that is reminiscent of a classic Spidey moment, a nice touch in making this show feel a bit more authentic. Marvel readers will catch the many references peppered throughout, including an appearance by the Frightful Four and a cutaway gag featuring Iron Man, among many others. It also appears as though Osborn and Ock will be the two big bads for the series, working from behind the scenes to cause problems for the web-slinger.

From the cast and crew perspective, there don’t seem to be any weak links. The cast is pretty spot-on. Even those who may have doubted Drake Bell as Spidey should be won over by the end of the second episode. This more humorous take on Spider-Man definitely plays up Bell’s strengths. Outside of Bell, there’s no real stand-out in the voice cast as of yet. The voices fit their roles, plain and simple. The creative team on here has also turned in a great looking series. Animation looks great, character designs nice and full, backgrounds bright but detailed – just a great looking show all around. The writing is good and, while Paul Dini is listed as writer, the script gives me the impression of more than one cook in the kitchen. The score work by Kevin Manthei is definitely noting. He knows when to let the music drive the action or take a back seat, nicely complimenting the on-screen actions. All in all, this is a very high-class animated product which is pretty successful, if not a little flawed.

Overall, it’s probably one of the more unique takes on Spider-Man’s animated adventures to date, but that mostly has to do with the how it’s assorted obvious inspirations are stitched together here. It seems to take pages from many different books – such as Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Teen Titans and Scott Pilgrim (there’s even a blatant K.O.! moment during the climactic fight scene) - and mashes them together to come up with ... Ultimate Spider-Man. The result, which could have been a frightful mess, is pretty positive. Whether or not the series can really sustain itself is going to be another issue.

This episode wraps up the two-part series premiere and ... it was good. I wasn’t blown away, nor was I instantly hooked as I was with other recent ‘toons, but this show deserves a fair shake when it debuts. There’s plenty of potential here to become the next big thing from Marvel Animation. However, some long-time fans will definitely not approve of this overly jokey series. I believe that one interpretation of a classic character is just as valid as the next, and this take on the Wall-Crawler will likely garner quite a few fans. As long as the show doesn’t consistently sacrifice character and depth for comedy and action, Ultimate Spider-Man can easily reach the same mammoth audience and devoted following as the likes of Teen Titans and Ben 10.

The animation is great – arguably the best Spidey has ever looked in animation – the characters are all well-defined if not a little flat, the set-up predictable but not boring, and the overall results are positive. Nearly all the designs look great! Spider-Man and the super-heroes looks particularly great, though some of the 'normal' characters seem a bit uninspired. Ultimate Spider-Man is a solid starting off point for younger viewers to be indoctrinated into the Spidey mythos, and hopefully for an enjoyable destination for long-time fans. As I said, it is worth giving a chance on, so make sure to check it out when it debuts April 1st, 2012 at 11:00am (ET/PT) on Disney XD.

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