Ultimate Spider-Man Volumes 1-3 Review
Spider-Man is my personal favourite comic book hero. My go-to guy who has always been there when I needed him. Certainly sounds like a real superhero! The thing that I always liked about ol' web head was the fact that before his accident, he was basically an everyman. Not an alien, not a billionaire, not a god - just a kid with some pretty dark events in his past.
Then in 2000, Marvel superstar Brian Michael Bendis reinvigorated Spidey by introducing Ultimate Spider-Man. While he's essentially the same character, Bendis and Marvel relaunched the character and all of his friends/foes for a more modern audience.
Welcome to Ultimate Spider-Man.
While loosely based on Bendis' Ultimate Spider-Man, this animated series is its own beast and doesn't seem to follow the structure or story of the comic book series apart for a general smattering of modernising of Spidey's rogues gallery. In no way is this a negative indictment on the series but should instead serve as a warning to purists or fans of the comic that expecting something more aligned to the USM canon. Spidey is still Peter Parker, J. Jonah Jameson is still surly, MJ is still Parker's true love and Flash Thompson is still a massive jerkwad. Aside from this, many a liberty is taken but absolutely none of them detract from what is essentially a whole tonne of fun.
The reason for the series being so fun should be immediately evident when looking at the writers on board. Bendis returns to pen his own creation along with the legendary Paul Dini (BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES!) and the entire Man of Action collective, Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey, Joe Kelly and Steven T. Seagle. Frankly, these 4 guys could write an animated series about sand and I'd watch it! The fourth wall is continually broken in Ultimate Spider-Man with Spidey personally calling a stop to filming and adding his 2 cents to the scene. Mostly he's just talking smack about his lame adversaries suck as Living Laser and Batroc the Leaper but sometimes it's to fill in blanks that non-comics fans may not be aware of. This makes for a great series that is completely approachable and enjoyable for new and old audiences.
If you measure value by the amount of cameos and team-ups then you'll be getting a whole lot of bang for your buck with each and every volume of Ultimate Spider-Man. Within the first few episodes we see Spidey team up with Luke Cage, Nova, White Tiger, Iron Fist, Wolverine and even Iron Man! These team ups are also treated with fun and, even in Wolverine's case, are often tongue in cheek. In terms of voice work, USM has some of the best in the business on board including Drake Bell, Greg Cipes and Tara Strong along with JK Simmons reprising his role as J. Jonah Jameson and fan-favourite Clark Gregg as S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Coulson.
Ultimate Spider-Man is an incredibly fun series that manages to deliver not only a light hearted approach to a much loved character, but also an underlying storyline that should be very obvious to long time fans - With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.
The first 3 volumes of Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man are available now on DVD thanks to Beyond Home Entertainment.