After missing the premiere on April 1st, I finally got a chance to sit down and watch the first two episodes of the new Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon series. If they’re any indication, then I would say we have the new incarnation of the Teen Titans cartoon on our hands, and I mean that in the best way possible.
When you see the list of creators involved in this project, the formula for the show makes perfect sense. You have the Man of Action Team (Ben 10), Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series), Jeph Loeb (Batman: The Long Halloween, Hulk, Ultimates 3, Lost, etc.) and Brian Michael Bendis (Ultimate Spider-Man, Avengers), among others. All of those influences can be felt in Ultimate Spider-Man, but I think Teen Titans, and to a lesser degree Ben 10 are the primary ones.
The premise of Ultimate Spider-Man is that Peter Parker has been Spidey for about a year now, and he’s still figuring out how to be an effective superhero. SHIELD Director Nick Fury offers to train Peter to be the “Ultimate” Spider-Man, and Peter realizes he could use the help. His training involves teaming up with a group of Fury-recruited heroes--Luke Cage, Iron Fist (aka Danny Rand), White Tiger and Nova, all of whom are younger-teenaged versions of their comic-based counterparts. The first episode of the series catches everyone up on Spidey and his immediate supporting cast (Harry, MJ, Aunt May, Norman Osborne, etc.), while episode two brings in the new SHIELD team. Together, the episodes do a nice job of setting the landscape the new series will be taking place in.
The show is fast paced and action packed, and the animation is general is excellent. Spidey performs amazing, acrobatic feats on a regular basis, and he looks smooth doing it. The Teen Titans influence is most heavily felt when it comes to the animation, both in the pace of the action on screen, and the way it’s presented. There are times where Peter breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to the viewer. There are also anime-inspired cutaways when Spidey is explaining things like his spider-sense, and in general, the facial expressions are over the top. However, it stops short of going too much in the anime direction, a lesson I think the creators learned from the balance the Teen Titans eventually struck in its later seasons.
The voice acting overall is really good and features an all-star cast. Drake Bell (Drake and Josh) does a nice job with Spidey, and both JK Simmons (JJJ) and Glark Gregg (Agent Coulson) reprising their movie roles for the animated series. Steven Webber (Wings) is great as Norman Osborne, and Teen Titans alum Greg Cipes voices Iron Fist. Chi McBride (Human Target) is a perfect Nick Fury and to top it off, the legendary Tom Kenny (Spongebob, Adventure Time) plays Dr. Octopus.
All in all, I am very excited about the new Ultimate Spider-Man series. Like Teen Titans, this is a show that caters to both younger audiences and longtime Spidey fans. And like Teen Titans, I expect this show to get even better as it goes on, because the creative team behind it are some of the best in the business. Enjoy this one with your kids.
4 out of 5 Ultimate Spideys--Go!
You can watch the first two episodes of Ultimate Spider-Man right now over on Marvel Kids.