The pilot episode of Ultimate Spider-Man pitched a pretty classic version of Marvel’s flagship superhero—he’s a dorky kid, he goes to high school, great power and great responsibility, all that jazz. Those elements haven’t gone anywhere. But from the look of “Doomed!” it’s clear we’re in for an updated take on the character, one living in a world that mixes the Marvel movie universe with elements of the comics’ Ultimate universe (the two have a pretty common DNA pool anyway).
There was an episode in between this and the pilot that set up the SHIELD side of things: Spider-Man’s in training, on a junior super-team with teenaged versions of heroes whose names should be familiar to any Marvel fan—Luke Cage, Iron Fist, White Tiger, and Nova. They’re all going to his high school too, and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg, the connective tissue for all Marvel universe movies) is serving as the principal and getting way too into managing the school’s budget.
It’s not a bad idea. Even though the mix of heroes is kind of weird (celestial super-cop Nova doesn’t really fit into the street-fighting, “Marvel Knights” universe that the other three hail from), the group dynamic makes this story seem different enough from other Spidey stuff and harkens back to the “Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends” cartoon where he was buddies with Iceman and Firestar. Except it’ll be cooler, one assumes.
So for their inaugural mission, the team decides on its own initiative to hunt down and capture SHIELD’s public enemy number one: Doctor Doom, who’s just minding his own business being King of Latveria. The main problem with the episode is that, even though they’re supposed to be a bunch of dumb kids trying to prove themselves, this is obviously a phenomenally bad idea. That they use SHIELD technology to do it makes that organization seem pretty lax. But when Spidey is turning to the camera and letting us know that he knows how bad an idea it is, but wants to teach Nova a lesson, well, you’re just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
On the other hand, the show does manage to work in a nice, basic twist in which Doom lets one of his Doombots get captured so that he can wreak havoc on the SHIELD Helicarrier. You see it coming from far off, but it gives the episode a nice little structure, as the team members think they’re doing so great, and then they’re revealed for the amateurs they very clearly are. The underlying plot is for them to get to working as a team, a hallmark for any superhero show (especially one involving teams). Hopefully the show will get through that quickly and get to work on less bicker-heavy team chemistry, because there’s definitely a fun dynamic to be found with these characters.
The show still has its frenetic style with lots of cutaway gags and weird lines from Spidey’s voice-over. One repeated gag (Spidey fantasizing about owning a jetpack) made me laugh. Everything else still feels a little too juvenile, especially since the Avengers show that follows has a more serious tone. But things do seem to have settled down, slightly, from the boinks and bonks of the pilot episode.
Looking at the weeks ahead, we clearly have episodes that will come from the Spider-Man canon (Venom, the Kingpin) and more Avengers/SHIELD-themed material. That could be a fun mix and could help set the show apart. The pedigree and that plot potential is still enough to keep me interested. But we’re definitely not at the quality level I’d hoped for yet.
- Hi everyone. Despite my reservations about Ultimate Spider-Man’s pilot, there was definitely enough interest (and plot potential) in the show that we’re adding it week-to-week. Oliver Sava and I will trade off reviews.