The Spectacular Spider-Man's Sophomore Season Swings In
After far too many months of holding our collective breaths regarding the fate of Marvel’s latest animated hit series, fans of The Spectacular Spider-Man can finally breathe easy. The show premiered early in 2008 on Kids WB, which morphed into the untested animation block, the CW 4 Kids. They aired a full season, but the show wasn’t around too long. The Spectaular Spider-Man disappeared from the line-up, but eventually, Disney XD caught the ball the CW dropped and is now airing a brand new season of The Spectacular Spider-Man.
Season 2 of picks up right where season 1 left off. From the very first episode of the series, which had Peter Parker returning to school from summer vacation, the show continues to closely follow a timeline. Just as season 1 ended with Thanksgiving, season 2 dives into early December, and the first batch of episodes go all the way up to New Years Eve. Giving the viewers a refresher of events past, Peter goes over the recent big events in his life and makes a list of the things he has to tackle, including staying in touch with Harry Osborn, taking care of Aunt May, and trying to figure out where he stands with Gwen Stacy. While Peter and Gwen’s relationship seemed to advance at the end of last season, their kiss only complicated things between the two of them, and soon Peter finds himself in no short supply of women who are interested in him. With so much stacked against him, Peter Parker is ever the underdog. The show does a great job getting into Peter’s head through his constant internal monologues.
Thankfully, the series has remained true to the format established in the first season. The cast of characters has expanded, and the constantly changing introduction reflects that, inserting a different supporting character into the opening credits of each episode. The crawling spider scene changes remain, as does the spider logo at the end of every episode (now with a fun winter theme). Character designs and voice actors have been unchanged. Many times a show is retooled early in its run, but fortunately The Spectacular Spider-Man didn’t need any cosmetic fixes and doesn’t alter anything.
The first four episodes of season 2 make up a mini-arc about a new crimelord working behind the scenes and calling himself the Master Planner. Spider-Man faces off against the new threats of Mysterio and Kraven the Hunter in the first two episodes, then the two new villains join the Master Planner’s new Sinister Six in the third episode, and everything comes to a head in the fourth episode.
Mysterio’s flair and intrigue give him one of the best premiere episodes of any of the villains on the show. With him, you never know what to expect, and Spider-Man has to figure out just how he’s pulling off his crimes before he can defeat him. Kraven, meanwhile, is an old Spider-Man villain with a long history. The show has decided to take a bit of a departure from the classic Kraven and put a new twist on the character, which doesn’t work as well as the updates on some of the others. The Sinister Six reunion episode is a great revisit with the villains from season one, but the fourth episode is where the stakes are really raised. Although the Master Planner’s identity is not as elaborate a mystery as those of the Big Man or the Green Goblin from season 1, the real treat is watching him unleash his plan and how it affects not only Spider-Man but the New York Police Department as well.
The fight scenes are a mixed bag. They’re just as kinetic as they’ve always been, and it’s great to see Spider-Man use his webbing in different and inventive ways. There’s a different strategy for every enemy he fights, and the city of New York provides many different settings for each battle. However, a lot of the fights ultimately end up playing out in similar ways. Spider-Man meets the bad guy, they fight, then right before the act break, the opponent will have an advantage over Spider-Man. The show comes back from commercial, and Spider-Man saves himself with a well-placed web-line. It can get a little predictable, although the fourth episode puts Spider-Man in serious jeopardy and presents a great homage to an iconic Stan Lee/Steve Ditko story.
While the show does take care to firmly root plots before they are paid off and new characters are introduced (watch for cameos from some future villains), this first group of episodes puts a hold on any development for Harry Osborn and the Daily Bugle staff. It’s that clear every aspect of the Spider-Man mythos is being touched upon, but as a result some things just have to be sidelined. It makes it a bit difficult for individual episodes to stand on their own, but if season 2 is anything like season 1, it’ll be great to rewatch from start to finish.
The first arc of the second season of The Spectacular Spider-Man delivers on just about every level. It’s as satisfying as the first season and continues giving viewers three dimensional characters, engaging villains, rich ongoing plots, and plenty of laughs. Despite the hiatus, the show hasn’t lost its momentum. Or its heart for that matter. It’s possible that juggling so many plots and characters will be too much for the show to handle, but one thing’s for sure, there’s no sign of slowing down.