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The Comenian

The student news site of Moravian University

The Comenian

‘Spectacular Spider-Man’ Review

Photo courtesy of IMDb
Photo courtesy of IMDb

The Spectacular Spider-Man is one of the best Spider-Man adaptations of all time. I do not exaggerate, and I do not kid. This is the perfect Spider-Man cartoon and nothing comes even remotely close.

Rarely will you find a comic book adaptation that contains such reverence for the source material. From beginning to end, you can tell that the creators of this show absolutely adore Spider-Man and are big fans of the comics. 

There are so many instances where the show pulls elements from the comics and you won’t even know until you’ve read them. There’s obviously the basic stuff like Peter Parker being bit by a radioactive spider, but everyone knows that. The creators of this show demonstrate that they’ve extensively read the comics by pulling from a variety of storylines and beats that most people have never even heard of. If you’ve read some of these stories, you can literally point to the exact issues where they got some of these story ideas from.

Comic accuracy isn’t everything though. Thankfully, this show carved its own identity for itself by having a familiar but unique take on the Spider-Man mythos.

One aspect it absolutely nails is the soap opera that is Peter Parker’s life. 

He is constantly confronted with juggling Spider-Man, his social life, and his responsibilities at home. I know this is a fairly basic thing to get right but you’d be surprised how many adaptations fumble this aspect (even the good ones). There’s always a give and take with Peter’s life and he faces real and important consequences for his actions that have further ramifications throughout the show.

Peter is forced to juggle relationship issues, financial issues, and school and this show strikes the perfect balance of having them all intersect and conflict with each other. For example, Peter starts an internship with Dr. Curt Conners but once he turns into the Lizard, he has to face him as Spider-Man, seemingly leaving everyone else in the lab to panic. The next day, he gets fired because he took pictures of the fight.

Nothing ever fully goes Peter’s way and that’s what makes him such an enduring and inspiring character. Despite all the sacrifices he makes to be Spider-Man, he still decides to save people. He has every reason in the world to just stop being a superhero yet every day he chooses to be Spider-Man. 

The supporting cast of this show is also great. 

Mary Jane, MJ, in this show, is quite possibly the best version of the character ever put to film. She comes off as a carefree party girl at first but as the show progresses you see how much she cares about her friends and her emotional intelligence. In pretty much every adaptation she is completely mishandled whether it’s the Sam Raimi movies, John Watt’s MCU movies, or even the version from Insomniac Games. None of them seem to get her right except for this show.

Just like MJ, Gwen Stacy in this is the best version of the character. Unlike MJ though, she’s a lot different from her comic counterpart. Here, she’s a lot more meek and soft-spoken and she’s more of a nerd than the comics. Here she has a lot more development and depth and I think the changes to her character are not only justified but necessary to make her work for a modern audience.

The villains of this show are where the waters get a little muddy. They are not bad per se but most of them are pretty one-dimensional (seriously seeing Sandman pull a lousy heist for the tenth time gets old). Most of them are just evil bad guys of the week with only a few exceptions. I know for a cartoon episode of only around 22 minutes they don’t have a lot of time to juggle such a large cast but nevertheless, I wish some of the villains got more development. 

Venom and Kraven the Hunter in particular are just flat-out bad. Eddie Brock is actually pretty good and takes a lot of inspiration from the Ultimate universe in the comics but once he’s Venom all the hype is lost by an incredibly lame voice and design. Kraven throughout is just done dirty. Some of the decisions they make with him are just baffling as to why they did what they did.

I’ll give credit where it’s due. Both the Lizard and Green Goblin are really well done in this show. With Lizard, there is no stupid plan like in The Amazing Spider-Man movie. He’s actually a sympathetic character and the show does a great job at portraying both the Lizard and Dr. Conners. Green Goblin is just so well done it puts every other movie and show to shame. They do such a good job at portraying the mystery of who is behind the mask even for people who are familiar with the character. 

The worst part of this show is simply that it’s only two seasons. It is absolutely criminal that this show was canceled so soon only to be replaced with the gutter trash of Ultimate Spider-Man. This show deserved to have time to grow and expand but instead, it was axed because of rights issues between Disney and Sony.

The cast and creators were fully prepared for season 3, but no, we got a show where Spider-Man is just a crummy rip-off of Deadpool. 

Spectacular Spider-Man is one of the best pieces of Spider-Man media ever made. It pays tribute to the original source material while doing its own spin on it. There hasn’t been a better Spider-Man show before or since and it’s a crime that this got canned prematurely while Ultimate Spider-Man got four times the amount of episodes.

Score: 9/10

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