Yep, it’s the second longest running Marvel carton featuring Marvel’s most iconic character: At the time of its’ inception it was the best animated adaptation of Spidey (until Spectacular Spider-Man which).
Well, I’m sure you know the story, Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, at first he used this to be rich and famous. One night, an unnamed burglar robbed the very building that Spidey just happened to be at, instead of stopping him he just let him go. Of course he would end up regretting this decision the burglar killed Peter’s Uncle Ben. Spidey chased down him down and wanted to kill him, but instead decided to just leave him hanging for the police. He learned a hard lesson that night: With Great Power Comes, Great Responsibility.
Season 1 sets up the status quo, Peter works at the Daily Bugle alongside Eddie Brock and their boss J. Jonah Jameson. There’s also Aunt May (who seems to senile), Debra Whitman and Flash Thompson, Peter’s friend Harry Osborn, and love interest(s) Mary Jane Watson and Felicia Hardy. Of there’s the villains ranging Scorpion to Doc Ock to Mysterio; with Wilson Fisk (i.e. The Kingpin) serving as the main villain.
The series is also well known for (re)introducing people to the Alien Suit saga, which turned Peter’s suit black, and turned him from a wise cracking crime fighter to a dark vigilante who would actually kill his enemies. In part 3 of course, Eddie Brock becomes Venom, after that we got were introduced to the Hobgoblin in the two parter “Hobgoblin”. Season 1 ended in a off episode introducing both the Chameleon and S.H.I.E.L.D.
Season two led to a season long story arc, involving Spidey’s powers in flux. At first his powers kept going in and out and he turned into a Spider-like monster, Fisk forms a team of villains called the Insidious Six, and Felicia Hardy’s love interest Michael Morbius, gets his hands on Spidey’s blood (they call it plasma on the show) and turns into a vampire. Also, Blade and The Punisher appeared on the show, each episode served as a their respective backdoor pilot. There was also a cross-over with the X-Men (despite Beast and Wolverine being the main focus of the episode). And a minor story arc involving Mary Jane and Hydro-Man, it wasn’t that important until later.
Season 3 featured more cross-overs featuring Doctor Strange and Daredevil. Of course Daredevil’s appearances did advance the story and he told Spidey that Fisk was The Kingpin (the creators admitted Daredevil’s appearances was a back-door pilot), Two new characters were introduced: Madame Web (voiced by Stan Lee’s wife Joan) who just told cryptic riddles to Spidey (sort of messing up the science major motif) and Mary Jane’s aunt Anna (voiced by Majel Barrett), she’s considered to be the most annoying character on the show, mainly because all she ever does is complain about how horrible Peter Parker is. The villain from the Doctor Strange episode, Dormmammu returns the symbiote back to Eddie Brock so he can retrieve a portal device that way he can return to Earth, but Venom would rather fight Spidey. So, Dormmammu gives another symbiote to psychotic criminal Kletus Casidy thus creating Carnage. Carnage is much more evil than Venom willing to kill his victims. It took both Spidey and Iron Man to knock both sybiotes villains into the portal. The next episode featured the Norman Osborn becoming the Green Goblin and fights the Hobgoblin. In the Season 3 finale Osborn finds out Peter’s secret identity and captures Mary Jane, the episode ends with both people falling into another dimention.
Season 4 features Kingpin capturing Felicia’s father who knows the super soldier formula, and uses it on Felicia turning her into the Black Cat. She later joins Blade and Morbius as Vampire Hunters. Mary Jane returns and Peter reveals he’s Spider-Man to her, Then they get married in Season 5’s opener.
Season 5 involves Fisk and the Insidious Six getting their hands on a doomsday device created by the Red Skull back in World War II. Spidey, Captain America and five other superheroes of that era and Red Skull get involved, the device in turn was actually Electro, who took out the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier single-handedly. As for Peter and MJ, they go on they’re honeymoon only to run into Hydro-Man and find out that she was really a clone, sadly she died of clone decay.
Madame Web shows up with her master The Beyonder, forcing Spidey and several heroes and villains to fight each other on a random planet in an adaptation of the Secret Wars. Secret Wars as it turns out it was a test and the real test was the final arc of the series (their version of the Clone Saga), where Spidey teams up with an group of Spider-Men from alternate universes (Scarlet Spider, Armored Spider-Man, A powerless Spider-Man, A mutant Spider-Man, A Spider-Man with Doc Ock’s arms) and a living Uncle Ben (Gwen Stacy helped too, but just in small doses) to take defeat the genocidal Spider-Carnage. In the end Spidey goes to the universe where the powerless Spider-Man (who was just an actor) comes from (our universe), where he meets the great Stan Lee and him and Madame Web shows up and together they go off to find Mary Jane, and that’s it they just ended it there.
I’m very impressed with how well the show held up after 19 years. The animation was really impressive at the time combining both traditional and early CG animation. When I re-watched this show I wasn’t expecting it to hold up so well. Sure, now I noticed reusing footage and the over the top acting (notably from Doc Ock and Spidey) but, it was not a drag. Next week we’ll see how well The Incredible Hulk held up.
RANK: 4 out of 5