Ultimate Spider-Man: Zany Cartoon Action

vr 06 april 2012 09:57:23

I write an occassional article for Broken Frontier, very occassional, and one such article was a look at the new Ultimate Spider-Man cartoon series that aired in the U.S. on April 1st.

Ultimate Spider-Man swings into your television with his own series, but is his webbing strong enough in this new show?

There have been a plethora of Marvel superhero cartoon series, each one adding (and sometimes subtracting) from the overal superhero experience. I myself grew up with the old-school Hulk cartoons and Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, even though I’m from a later date. In the 90’s, it was X-Men: The Animated Series and the 90’s Spider-Man that cemented their viability for me. Later on, I lost track with superhero cartoons, mostly because I tended to lean towards the more realistic feel and approach of the 90’s Marvel cartoons instead of the more stylized and cartoony looks of Wolverine and the X-Men and other Marvel cartoons that appeared during that time. Not to mention the fact that anime started to attract more of my attention due to some choice series appearing back then.

With The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, I started to gravitate back a little more. It’s not that serious, especially compared to rival DC’s Young Justice, but still enjoyable. With Ultimate Spider-Man though, the first two episodes were aired last weekend, and every form of serious business goes right out the back door. For all intents and purposes (as briefly described above), this cartoon was not something I thought I would enjoy. USM is wacky, it's teenage humor filled with action, but I quite liked it.

We all know that Peter Parker was the original Ultimate Spider-Man before Miles Morales took over in the comics, and fans will be pleased to know that he’s back for the cartoon. His trademark wisecracking is still intact, albeit pubescent, but even to someone who has outlived his puberty, it’s not cringe-worthy. If anything, I managed to crack a smile every now and then. Saying I laughed out loud would be overstating it, though.

The creators incorporated an idea that is reminiscent of other teenage series, namely of Parker talking to the viewers. The fact that Peter breaks the fourth wall to do that could be seen as overdone in the genre, but it’s not diluting the story. It mostly serves as an introduction to newer and younger viewers, so it actually has a purpose. It's also a nice opportunity to look into our hero's head.

Most surprisingly was the introduction of other heroes that will be on Parker’s side, also as teenagers. Well known heroes as Iron Fist, Luke “Power Man“ Cage and Nova are joined by the not as famous White Tiger, which might prove to be the biggest gimmick in the series. Although, since Peter is the comedy relief in and of himself, the other heroes could be present to serve a more serious role.

Of course, being in the Ultimate universe, Nick Fury comes along as we’ve seen him in both the comics and the live-action movies, in Samuel L. Jackson style. Though his voice is a bit lacking compared to Mr. Jackson, he’s still the Nick Fury we’ve come to know. The biggest surprise is the return of J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. Fans of the three live-action movies will love hearing his voice again as he continues to rage on with his personal vendetta against the wall-crawler.

Seeing J. Jonah Jameson rant on and on is always welcome, but when it comes to a style to use for a cartoon series, it has to fit the story and possible brand of comedy well. With the latest anime series based on Blade, X-Men and Iron Man, it was quite clear that their stories would be more serious. The previously mentioned Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has a completely different style and subsequently more humour embedded into it.

Ultimate Spider-Man takes its style of animation to a different level. It’s not quite cartoonish, but not realistic either. This seems to be the perfect match for the zany moments Parker finds himself in and makes the first two episodes very much enjoyable.What’s fun is that there are even some cutaway gags in the style of Family Guy and other similar shows.One such gag heralded back to the first season of a certain live-action comedy series that’s also set on a school that fans might enjoy.

Overall, Ultimate Spider-Man is over the top, but not too much. Its wacky humor and fourth-wall breaking narrative fits the character, but hopefully the latter won’t be overdone. The story, which I won’t reveal too much about, can go any way right now as several heroes and villains are introduced in a pretty short timespan. Of note is the inclusion of a certain professor who still uses both his arms and works for S.H.I.E.L.D. A bigger contrast with the Amazing Spider-Man movie that’s also set to debut this year could not have been created.

Ultimate Spider-Man turned out to be a great attempt to deliver an all-ages cartoon through its use of a somewhat quirky animation style and "facepalm" comedy. While some viewers might shy away due to the use of Parker directly talking to them, it fits the style of the series quite nicely. In any case, it's a series to keep your eye on.

Original article can be found at Broken Frontier.

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