Now, I’m going to try and not go overboard here but I think The Spectacular Spider-Man – The Complete First Season: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition is probably the best animated DVD collection the Web-Slinger has ever had. I realize that might be overselling it a little bit, but I can’t think of any other way to describe this collection. Outclassing all previous incarnations in nearly every aspect, The Spectacular Spider-Man is truly a Spider-Man fan’s dreams come true. With top-class writing and animation, surpassing nearly all the comic book-based cartoons currently on television today, The Spectacular Spider-Man hearkens back to the classic feel of our favorite hero while perfectly updating the mythos for the modern age.
Witness the Spider-Man mythology from the beginning. Peter Parker is not your typical high school junior. This 16-year-old returns to school after an exciting summer of nabbing common criminals with his newfound powers as “Spider-Man”. Now Peter Parker must conceal his real identity and deal with the multi-leveled pressures of teenage life, while, at the same time, battling bigger, badder super villains in the real world!
I’m not even sure where to begin on what makes this such a great cartoon series, to be honest, but I’ll try. There’s just so much to like here, so much going on for this show, that it’s easy to just get at a lose for words when trying to explain why this show is so…spectacular. So, as a forewarning, be prepared for a long, rambling review for The Spectacular Spider-Man – The Complete First Season: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition.
Where previous Spider-Man cartoons may have been uneven in terms of quality, The Spectacular Spider-Man manages to be the first Spidey cartoon to arguably get everything right. The characters, the writing, the story, all of it. Updating the much-loved comic book icon without losing sight of what made the characters so great in the first place, The Spectacular Spider-Man is probably the most faithful interpretation of Spider-Man in animated form. The team behind this show, as we see episode after episode, just gets it. They get Spider-Man. The show is obviously made with the utmost respect for Spider-Man’s rich history, and definitely pays tribute to the humble Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s beginning of Marvel’s classic hero. Not only that, but the show also pays healthy respect to the Sam Riami Spider-Man film series, another interpretation of the Wall-Crawler that had heavy ties to the character’s long and fruitful four-color history.
As I mentioned briefly above, the writing and tone for the series really elevate this show above the previous Spidey cartoons. While the show is definitely aimed at younger viewers, there’s definitely plenty for older viewers to latch on to. The writing does not speak down to younger viewers, presenting everything as it should. Spider-Man’s adventures are over-the-top and exciting, while as Peter Parker he deals with the normal drama-filled filled trappings of being a teen. Even if the Spidey’s super-heroics bleed into Peter’s regular life on occasion, I really enjoy how they make his regular life feel so real and genuine. Even when dealing with heavy stuff, such as death, the creative team handle it in a respectful manner. Thankfully the power of some of these strong scenes, such as in “Intervention” where Peter finds himself struggling against the black symbiote, are helped with some really strong animation. It’s great to see a series where the writing and animation are so in-sync with each other.
To expand on the show’s animation for a moment, I find it very satisfying overall. There are a few dips in quality, but nothing major. For example, I noticed the animation in the “Natural Selection” episode, particularly during some moments in the big Lizard/Spider-Man subway slug-fest, to be a bit under-par, but nothing to really complain or cry foul about. But, that being said, the series also has these absolutely brilliant animated moments, such as the amazing fight scene in “Group Therapy” or the Electro/Spider-Man showdown in “Interactions.” Like any other cartoon, there is occasionally few weak spots, but the quality is generally consistent throughout. I find the series also concentrates on expressing character emotion and movement with the same emphasis it places on creating any big action beats, which is incredibly important if we’re to believe the cast consists of real three-dimensional characters.
As far as I’m concerned, nearly every episode included in this two-disc release are some of the best comic-based animated installments to hit television in a while. The episodes featured in this release include “Survival Of The Fittest,” “Interactions,” “Natural Selection,” “Market Forces,” “Competition,” “The Invisible Hand,” “Catalysts,” “Reaction,” and “The Uncertainty Principle” on the first disc, with “Persona,” “Group Therapy,” “Intervention,” and “Nature Vs Nurture” on the second disc. Each episode appears to be identical to their respective broadcast versions, with no new material or deleted scenes added in.
A major benefit to this complete first season collection is getting the feeling of a complete story. While each episode does feel fresh, you couldn’t deny the overall storyline for the first season and being able to watch it in this collection makes a huge difference. Now, the individual volume releases were divided up by story-arc, but here we get the entire first season and, having the opportunity to watch the entire first season in one sitting, it makes a gigantic difference in watching the story unfold. There’s a definite beginning and a definite end to the majority of the story-lines found in this collection, but there’s a couple good cliffhangers (including one major one) that is already making the wait for The Spectacular Spider-Man – The Complete Second Season: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition seem far too long.
I’ve rambled on and on about this series and how it has managed to essentially nail everything right, and I compliment you brave readers for making it this far. The characters feel right, the villains are dead-on, and the drama is perfectly balanced by the action. The creators behind this show have created a great love letter to the best Spider-Man comics of the past four decades (and counting). It’s no wonder this show has amassed such a dedicated fan-following. I could get into specific episodic details, but I’d like to leave some surprises for the Spidey fans who haven’t discovered this great series yet (plus my reviews of the individual DVD volume releases should cover that). There’s so much I haven’t even touched on that I could easily expand on for many more paragraphs, such as the great voice cast, the clever and hip design work, the great little in-jokes and gags that only long-time Spidey and Greg Weisman fans will pick-up on, but it deserves to be experienced first-hand. There’s seriously so much to love about this series, and so much I could go on about.
Overall, The Spectacular Spider-Man – The Complete First Season: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition reigns as one of the best cartoons currently on TV, bringing so much to the table in terms of effective story-writing and beautiful animation. The action is great and it’ll knock your socks off, the stories are as addictive as any soap opera, and the heart here is definitely real. The creative team is able to make every character feel alive, seem three-dimensional, and it works out effortlessly here. This is definitely a show the deserves a large audience and, even with all the broadcast trouble it has endured, I still have hope this series will survive for a long, long time. For those looking to catch the new second season episodes on Disney XD, then I heartily recommend picking up this first season collection to get up to speed. Fans are right to support this series, and the proof is definitely in the pudding. Without a doubt, The Spectacular Spider-Man – The Complete First Season: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition is a Must Own for fans of the Web-Slinger looking for a solid cartoon adventure, and for those who simply enjoy great television. Pick up this release and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
Now, a rundown of the bonus material is likely what the majority of fans are looking for in this section, but before we get there I’m going to quickly run through the audio and video quality of the The Spectacular Spider-Man – The Complete First Season: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition DVD release.
Like with their previous releases, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment doesn’t disappoint on this The Spectacular Spider-Man DVD release, as the audio and video is pretty excellent. Admittedly, the video does have a few slight transfer problems, particularly slight compression, but it’s barely noticeable. The colors are still vibrant, and the blacks are thick and dark. As for the audio, the 5.1 mix is a typical audio transfer for a television cartoon release, with the channels spreading out the music and special effects a little while keeping the dialog focused solely in the front. To compare, the audio and video quality here is equal to any of the previous individual The Spectacular Spider-Man DVD volume releases. Surprisingly, the odd episode distribution on this collection, with nine episodes on the first disc and four on the second, seems to have no affect on the quality of the series.
So, as all fans are likely wondering at this point, how do the bonus features stack up? Well, the bonus features consist of two featurettes and a selection of trailers. The first featurette “Spider-Man: Re-Animated,” running just a shade over 14 minutes, takes a general look at the series. We hear from everyone, including the majority of the cast and crew, all discussing what makes this series the best interpretation of Spider-Man to date. Sure, it’s a lot of love and back-patting being tossed back in forth, and everything seems packaged in the typical EPK style, but we do get a nice look into the creation of this series. Fans will no doubt enjoy seeing clips of the cast playing their respective roles, or catching a glimpse of the incredibly detailed outline board for The Spectacular Spider-Man character story-arcs. While it’s a bit too brief and pat for my liking, it’s a satisfying if slightly too-short look how this great series comes together. “Stylizing Spider-Man,” the second featurette in the collection, runs just over eight minutes and covers how the look of the series came together. It’s an interesting featurette, and we do get a detailed look in how the characters are designed and the show is animated, but like the first featurette, it just leaves you wanting more. As previously mentioned, a selection of trailers round out the release.
Looking at the bonus content for this release, I would definitely like to see more behind-the-scenes footage in future collections. Deleted scenes and hours of behind-the-scenes footage are available, according to The Spectacular Spider-Man supervising producer/story editor Greg Weisman, and it’s something that fans would love to see. We get just a taste here and I know myself, and many other fans, will definitely want further helpings.
To view the menu system for this release, please check out Marvel Animation Age.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has released a solid DVD release for The Spectacular Spider-Man – The Complete First Season: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition, one that fans will really owe it to themselves to pick up. Hopefully my poor writing skills have at least relayed the fact why this release is a Must Own for any Spider-Man fan. This is the animated series Spider-Man fans have been waiting decades for, nailing everything absolutely perfectly from the get-go. The show is by no means perfect, but it’s pretty near perfection as far as I’m concerned. If you skipped the previous The Spectacular Spider-Man individual volume DVD releases, then your patience has definitely paid off here. All thirteen episodes from the first season are collected in one nice package, with a light sprinkling of extras that was will definitely leave fans itching for more.
The Spectacular Spider-Man – The Complete First Season: 2-Disc Collector’s Edition arrives on DVD July 28th, 2009.