Spider-Man came back into our lives in a big way in 2018, beginning with Tom Holland reprising his role as the character in Avengers: Infinity War. In the Fall, Sony released their game for Playstation to universal praise and appreciation, a game which acted as an ode to the character and presented a compellingly classic story. Finally, in December, Sony Pictures presented their latest attempt at cinematic glory for the character with Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. With it came groundbreaking animation and a completely new take on the age-old story. So, after all these new, fantastic iterations of Spider-Man, where does The Spectacular animated series fit in?
The series can now be looked at as the last great piece of the classic iteration of the wall-crawler pre-Miles Morales. Of course, the animation in this series can’t hold a candle to what they were able to pull off in Into the Spider-Verse, but the storytelling here is second to none. They were able to seamlessly translate the idea of a serialized comic book into a television series by presenting likable characters with depth, pitting Peter in the midst of everyday high school drama while also balancing with interesting portrayals of villains that we have loved for years and years. With the villains, the show built up a very tangible feeling world, one that featured a network where villains would pop up time and again, with their actions having trickle down effects on the rest of the ecosystem. It is in this very extensive and well-thought out world-building that the show excels.
In the show’s second season, we see its web of perspective widen further across the city of New York, including more villains and more challenges for our friendly neighborhood kid to tackle. Mysterio and Kraven the Hunter are introduced for the first time in the first two episodes of the season before the show starts to bring back villains from the first season and seek to build on the foundation it set forth. Characters like Doctor Octopus, Sandman, Tombstone and Electro all come back with more to do and interact with the narrative in interesting and creative ways. Silvermane and Silver Sable even have key roles in this show’s story, which I found to be pretty cool as those two characters were never fully realized in the 90s animated series.
With the show’s second season we also see the progression of Peter’s life as a high school student, where he is trying to maintain a level of happiness and stability in his social circles. He is dating Liz Allan despite being in love with Gwen Stacy, who is dating Pete’s best friend Harry Osbourne in an attempt to get back at him. The high school drama resulting from these relationships plays out in thrilling and compelling fashion as we feel very invested in Peter and Gwen as characters. The show does a great job of making us feel for Gwen just as much as we do Peter. She is certainly a highlight of the series, someone whom I really wish we could have seen expounded upon in future seasons.
By season’s end, two major revelations are made that would have had serious rippling effects had the show been renewed. For starters, it was shockingly revealed that Norman Osbourne had indeed been acting as the Green Goblin the entire time, framing his son to be mentally unstable in the process. The intentions of the Goblin are now made more clear as the progression of Oscorp as a business proves to be clear motive for the Goblin, and he works within the web of criminals in the city to move the needle for his empire. Meanwhile, Peter and Gwen finally express their love for each other in the show’s gripping finale. Liz breaks up with Peter, stating that she knows he is in love with Gwen. After this and Peter’s moment with Gwen, the two of them quickly realize this is a situation that won’t soon become easier as Harry tells Gwen that she is the only thing keeping him going. These circumstances would have made for great exploration in a third season.
It is no doubt a disappointment that this show was cancelled so soon, with its creators stating they had intended for it to be a five-season series. However, the fact this show stands in a concise two seasons can be seen as being to its benefit. There is no filler with this series; every episode stands to propel the serialized narrative forward while also providing exciting and intriguing obstacles for Spider-Man to overcome. By creating this sprawling web of villainy and high school drama the show manages to present a world more rich and nuanced than you would come to expect from an animated series made for kids. It certainly exceeds the standard set in place by the 90s Fox Kids series, and it stands tall against the many iterations that the character has seen in the ten years since it aired.
The second season of the show currently isn’t available for streaming, however the complete series is available on blu-ray. Read my review of Season One here.
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