Spider-Man has had several different iterations throughout his animated TV career that spans over 50 years. His most recent version sees him as a student at a gifted high school where he tries to strike a balance between crime fighting and academics. Marvel’s Spider-Man, on Disney XD, tries to appeal to comic fans by drawing upon familiar story lines such as Doctor Octopus’ Superior Spider-Man while doing something different including having Peter Parker be classmates with Miles Morales, Gwen Stacy and Anya Corazon. The show returns for its third season, which premieres tonight.
[Slight Spoilers for 3.1 Ahead!]
Peter is transitioning back at Horizon High and notices Max Modell entering a forbidden wing of the campus. After investigating, he finds that the headmaster is experimenting on a sample of the V-252. Though apprehensive at first, based off of his prior experiences, Parker is swayed by Modell’s assurances of safety this time around and reluctantly agrees to aid in the research.
As common with the young superhero, trouble finds him. While giving new student, Grady Scraps, a tour of the school, the pair unleash a technovore, an artificial organism that feeds on technology. They, with Modell’s help have to take down the creature before it destroys Horizon High. Later, the V-252 sample escapes from the laboratory and reconstitutes into Venom. It’s up to Spider-Man to track the symbiote and defeat it.
One aspect of the show I’ve always enjoyed is the incorporation of STEM elements. For a show geared towards younger viewers, superheroes are an excellent vehicle to introduce these concepts. Peter uses both his smarts and powers to solve his problems and fight the bad guys.
Two new(ish) characters are introduced in the season premiere. We first met Grady Scraps last season at Bilderberg Academy but it’s not until now when we get a good feeling of who he is. He’s a likeable character who can be the stereotypical bumbling fat guy, but he is still brilliant and Scott Menville gives him a lot of heart. Grady has his own code of honor and holds himself accountable for his actions. Curt Connors is the new teacher at school and based off his look and how he talks, you can tell he has sinister plans. It’s easy to telegraph his actions at times but there is some intrigue and mystery behind his motives.
“Web of Venom” does a good job exploring the dynamic between Peter and Max where the latter plays a mentor/father figure for the former. It’s interesting to watch their views flip flop over their experiments with V-252 the more they do research. Though there are good intentions, there’s a bit of hubris thinking they have full control over the symbiote. However, in the end, Modell is the one to set the example like a good mentor. Moreover, a big reveal is dropped related to their relationship changing the status quo. It’s worth watching to see how it all plays out as the season progresses.
The episode does suffer a bit for being predominantly a children’s show. For example, some of the humor can be borderline cheesy and corny. Also, sometimes the lessons can be a little too unsubtle and preachy. Fortunately, it doesn’t go too overboard and you never feel like you’re being hit over the head with anything. I know I’m not the target audience so this can hit differently with younger viewers.
We’ve been gradually building up to this point since the first season. The symbiote has been popping its head up every now and then and with show’s name change to Marvel’s Spider-Man: Maximum Venom, the stakes will be raised. The episode does a good job setting up the main conflict for the season.
Watch the first episode tonight, at 9pm (EST/PST), on Disney XD.
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