A world without a Spider-Man cartoon currently airing is a sad world indeed and Marvel and Disney XD agree with us. The end credits of the final episode of Ultimate Spider-Man have barely finished rolling and the webslinger is getting back to his roots in a reboot titled simply Marvel’s Spider-Man.
The series gets a one hour premiere titled Horizon High Part 1 & 2 and drops the zany vibe that turned many off of Ultimate Spider-Man, bringing Peter Parker into a world more akin to the beloved Spectacular Spider-Man animated series. The first two episodes essentially break down to an origin story, but thankfully doesn’t drag viewers back to Peter getting bit by a spider and Uncle Ben’s death. Marvel’s Spider-Man is more of a Year One type story, to borrow a title from DC’s pantheon.
The cast is mostly a stable of notable voice actors with Robbie Daymond taking the lead role of Peter Parker. Daymond has the playfulness and humor that Peter embodies and slides easily into the role. The biggest name in the cast is the inspired choice of Patton Oswalt as Uncle Ben, seen briefly through heartfelt flashbacks in the two episodes. Oswalt is a surprisingly great choice and has the warmth and wisdom needed for the pivotal iconic character.
The plot of the two episodes sees Peter in his first days as Spider-Man wearing his poorly cobbled together Spidey-suit consisting of a hoodie, sweatpants and goggles. It all very intentionally feels like a nod to Spider-Man: Homecoming down to his first encounter with a super-villain The Vulture – designed in the vein of Michael Keaton’s character in the film.
Much like that film and the character’s comic book roots, Peter is an extremely smart science nerd and when Max Modell (Fred Tatasciore), the head of an advanced science school named Horizon High, comes to Peter’s high school looking to fill the final student slot for the semester, Peter wants in despite the hefty price tag.
In another Spectacular Spider-Man similarity, this series introduces a huge array of Spidey characters new and old in the debut episodes setting up serialized arcs to come throughout the season. Besides Modell, in the first two episodes alone we see a young Otto Octavius (Scott Menville), Miles Morales (Nadji Jeter), Harry Osborn (Max Mittleman), more super-villains and a few name drops hinting at Gwen Stacy joining the crew.
Speaking of Harry Osborn, one of the bigger drawbacks to the two-episode premiere is that the story does seem to retread a lot ground covered before in the numerous animated series and films. We’ve seen Harry and Peter be best friends and get torn apart by their secrets ad nauseam. Hopefully the show has something more clever in store for these recognizable storylines they are setting up that have been overdone in the past.
Also, while it’s cool to see Peter in his proto-Spidey suit for most of the two episodes, the way he gets his updated standard suit is almost a throwaway scene and didn’t feel earned. The show doesn’t go the Spider-Man: Homecoming route and doesn’t ever even make reference to a bigger Marvel world around them – no mentions of the Avengers or Iron Man or anything that isn’t in the immediate Spider-verse.
With Marvel’s Spider-Man’s warm, minimalistic background color patterns and unique character designs, the series debuts satisfying with both story and visuals. If the serialized nature continues and the show can carve out its own unique take on the Peter’s early days as Spidey rather than just repackage it, Disney XD might have another fan-favorite Spider-series on their hands.