Ultimate Spider-Man [2012] Season 1: 26 Episodes

Made for 6th Graders…By 6th Graders?

Ultimate_Spider_man_peter_parker_two thumbs up

Some takes, like the ones on Sleeping Beauty, Wing Commander, and Brisco County Junior are labors of love. This take on Ultimate Spiderman was just labor. This show straddles the borderline of being below the criteria for our attention. The shows schizophrenic nature yields scenes that are definitely way below our criteria, and some that are just barely above.

"I hope you do not mean me."

“I hope you do not mean me.”

An evil dark elf? Hellboy? Man-bat? Huh, it's the Green Goblin? Really?

An evil dark elf? Hellboy? Man-bat? Huh, it’s the Green Goblin? Really?

If you’re looking for show that’s trying to be hip to grammar school boys and their fantasies of heroic action, this is it. The “Peter Parker – average kid” angle is hit very hard. Almost every episode includes the “amusing antics” of his life with aunt May, bullies at school, problems with friends, and generally life balance issues.

Oh no. The Hulk AND Aunt May both get a cold the same day. ANd peter has to nurse them both while they reside in the same house. ...yes, this really was a plot.

Oh no. The Hulk AND Aunt May both get a cold the same day? And Peter has to nurse them both while they reside in the same house? Oh, the hijinks ensue… ugh. (…yes, this really was a plot.)

A schizophrenic season in a sentence? Spiderman is unfathomably recruited by S.H.I.E.L.D. and given a Spidey cycle (*cough* toy marketing *cough*) and for some reason groomed to be a leader, even though he’s one of the most solo acts of the Marvel universe, and in that contrived role is forced to team up with a group of multi-cultural teenaged superheroes as they battle super criminals out of their league, come across questionable depictions of established Marvel characters, and bash you over the head with trying to be hip.

"A wise man knows that bashing people over the head is a last resort." Well voiced Iron Fist was one of the few consistently enjoyable characters.

“A wise man knows that bashing people over the head is a last resort.” (Well voiced Iron Fist was one of the few consistently enjoyable characters.)

In contrast, the similarly off-beat Batman the Brave and the Bold started out semi-seriously (in its first 13 episodes) and had just enough good shows and clever writing to appeal broadly. Ultimate Spiderman smashes you in the face with constant cutaways to super deformed versions of characters doing inane things.

What is with that jaw? It is like the roundest one EVAR. Note they did NOT leave it so when he donned the mask.

What’s with that jaw? It’s like the roundest one EVAR. Note they did NOT leave it so when he donned the mask.

That touches upon our chief criticism of the series, it’s constant cutting away out of the narrative. Under the guise of being hip and different, the producers freeze anytime they want in order to fill in plot holes or say something to keep the viewer interested. It can allow the storytelling to become lazy when you know you can always explain something away in such a segment rather than showing it.

"Ah, before you do your crazy Wolverine thing again, can you explain what you are doing here in Times Square, New York City?"

“Ah, before you do your crazy Wolverine thing again, can you explain what you’re doing here in Times Square, New York City?”

This also has the unfortunate side effect of breaking up the action beats and diluting the drama. It does have its fun moments, but this mechanic was overused. Some of the cutaway content also seemed overindulgent. While we may have understood 1950s style “Leave It to Beaver” and 1930s style the “Wizard of Oz” theming for a couple of these segments, we wonder how many sixth-graders did.

One person who would get those references is Stan Lee. He voiced Stan the Janitor.

One person who would get those references is Stan Lee. He voiced Stan the Janitor.

The plots were contrived. And to use a cliche, forcing a leadership role onto high school aged Peter Parker/Spidermen is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The last two episodes, the finale of the season, were particularly filled with forced contrivances with Spiderman telling his team to, “Stay out of this! I need to do it alone.” Please.

MJ, like everyone else in this series, did not listen.

MJ, like everyone else in this series, did not listen.

It was fun seeing Clark Gregg reprise his oft-played role of “Agent Coulson.” Overall, the show had some decent effects, some decent action scenes, and rather standard art direction.

Ultimate_Spider_man_concept01

Marvel Universe Character Depictions Rated:

  • Ironman: Playboy angle overplayed, and not very likable.
  • Hulk: Rather contrived usage.
  • Doctor Doom: Decent effort, but lacking… something.
  • Captain America: Solid and well done.
  • Wolverine: Eh. Kinda one-dimensional. (And out of place!)
Ultimate_Spider_man_wolverine_is nice and patient

“Whoa! Okay, sorry Wolverine. Take it easy. There are nine-year-olds watching.”

We will spare you talk about the “Spider-ham” episode. we may watch next season for casual entertainment, but we doubt, unless it changes greatly, we will be doing any more takes on the series.

Spiderham and THIS guy in the same show?

SpiderHAM and THIS guy in the same series?

Check out some of our other Marvel takes:

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes Season 1

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow [2008]

Hulk Vs Thor [2009]

Thor: Tales of Asgard [2011]

Iron Man (anime) [2011] Season 1

Iron Man: Armored Adventures [2008] Season 1

Iron Man: Armored Adventures [2008] Season 1. 26 Episodes

Some of you may be familiar with the concept of “teenerizing” a show in order to make it more palatable or “relateable” to a younger audience.  Some of you may even be familiar with the “pre-teenerizing” of a show, made famous by Muppet Babies.  That name has practically become synonymous with the concept.

The living Laser although not a teen whined like some teens you might know. "Dude! Why so intense?"

Well, Iron Man: Armored Adventures (IM:AA) is a teenerized version of the Iron Man property.  The series plays fast and loose with the entire setting.  Very loose.  However, there is some effort to keep the spirit of the property intact for which we here at the Fortress are grateful.  We are fans of Iron Man and reasonably knowledgeable of his universe.

Meanwhile, at the Fortress of Solitude: "Kal El my son, I am your father, Jor El..."

Certainly, this adaptation is much better than another recent “tweenerized” superhero flick, The Next Avengers.  So here is the one sentence synopsis:

In a contrived twist, high school “sooper genius” Tony Stark inherits his father’s company but cannot take control until his 18th birthday and in the meantime must fight the evil machinations of current CEO and bad guy Stane and the mysterious Mandarin while in the anonymous guise of his latest invention the Iron Man armor and along the way learn about humility, friendship and the power of teenage crushes er, a bunch of really cool suits of armor.

"Oh, but isn't he dreamy..." - Pepper Potts is the most polarizing of the teen versioned characters. You either dislike her or hate her.

Pepper Potts: Iron Man Armored Adventure version.

To grab those familiar with the property, the show introduces right at the start someone who looks exactly like classic Tony Stark.  But that is NOT Tony Stark, it is his father.  Tony Stark is the whiny kid next to him.

They also introduce someone who looks just like the classic Iron Man arch enemy, the Mandarin.  But that is not the real Mandarin, that is his stepfather.  The real Mandarin is the whiny kid next to him.

And in like manner all the young-versioned characters in the Iron Man mythos are introduced.  Oh, except for Nick Fury who continues to be the old, cantankerous Samuel L. Jackson looking “Ultimate Universe” version also popularized in the Robert Downey film.

The Mandarin armor was well designed. He is all about the rings, although the producers implied the rings were advanced tech rather than magic. "In your FACE Stark!"

Once, Tony Stark thought the key to intimidating enemies was... to add a nose to his armor.

The look is fun and unusual.  It may remind some of you of the excellent Skyland series and indeed was made at the same animation house, LuxAnimation.  It is a fun cel shaded computer generated look.  It works well with the varying armor types Stark dons.  They are the keystone of the property after all.  Space armor, underwater armor, etc., and the infamous War Machine armor.

We are fans of the War Machine armor here in the Fortress. However this show's version was a bit underwhelming. Not enough contrast? Too bulky?

The HULK episode was fun and the "hulkbuster armor" one of the season's best.

Some of the additional armors were a little disappointing in appearance.  A little blah.  But importantly, they got the Uni Beam on Iron Man’s chest right.  It is ROUND.  It has been so for 90% of Iron Man’s history.  It is one of his trademarks.  It is not shield shaped like Superman’s “S”, despite occasional dalliances by various Marvel artists.

No doubt you have seen some coloring book, towel, toy, or cheap piece of cr@p with the lame pentagonal or even triangular unibeam. Bask here in the glory of its roundness.

We compliment the day to day design team more than we do those who envisioned the whole adaptation.  The design of supporting characters like Madame Masque and the various weapons used throughout the season are imaginative and entertaining.

Madame Masque: Hottie by day and weapon festooned destruction machine by night. She battled toe-to-toe with our armored hero. In other words, a typical date.

If you are a fan of the Iron Man rogue’s gallery, you will see reinvented origins of all your old favorites like the Crimson Dynamo, Living Laser, A.I.M and M.O.D.O.K.  Thankfully, the rogues were not as teenerized as the heroes.

M.O.D.O.C. Mental Organism Designed Only for Conquest? Okay not one of Marvel's best acronyms. How about, Maniacal Oversized Dome Obsessed with Crime?

Well voiced and designed with depth, the Ghost was one of the most interesting characters the entire season. (However, someone needs to tell him that camouflage is not working. Dude, we can see your shadow!)

Is it annoying to see Mr. Genius wrestle with puerile high school hijinks when lives are at stake?  Yes.  Is it a little discouraging to see Stark never fully come out on top?  Yeah.  Is it frustrating to see the major bad guys elude getting their comeuppance the entire season?  Oh yeah.

"Ben? Ben Kenobi?"

But the show is fun, interesting and worth watching.

"I'll be watching, but this stupid helmet TV only gets in one channel. Even the picture-in-picture!"

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Iron Man Related Takes:

Iron Man (anime) [2011] Season 1

Iron Man: Armored Adventures [2008] Season 1

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes [2010] Season 1

Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow [2008]