"The Spectacular Spider-Man - Volume Four" DVD Review
May 13, 2009 by James Harvey
A smart show that appeals to both kids and adults, Sony Home Entertainment brings us the fourth volume release of The Spectacular Spider-Man and, like the previous releases, it reminds us why this series is arguably the best animated interpretation of the web-slinger to date. The series manages to stay true to the core of each character while presenting fresh spins on each. The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Four brings us the conclusion to the first season of the amazing animated series, bring us new enemies and deepening the mystery that already plagues our Web-slinging Hero. Well, let's get that pesky synopsis out of the way and dig a little deeper!
Witness the original web-slinger's mythology from the beginning! Peter Parker is a not so typical high school junior, fresh off an exciting summer engaging common criminals with his new found powers, but things have changed for our hero! This new adventure finds Spider-Man tackling more Super Villains both new and old, including Chameleon, Venom, and the Sinister Six: Electro, Doctor Octopus, Vulture, Sandman, Rhino, and Shocker. While these criminals are almost more than Spidey can handle, his real struggle becomes an internal one. The stress is enough to drive a high school Super Hero over the edge, but making mistakes and learning lessons is all in a days work for the Spectacular Spider-Man.
This latest DVD volume release of The Spectacular Spider-Man brings in the famous Black Costume, teased about in the previous volume, and the repercussions are huge. Not only are we introduced to the Venom, but Spider-Man has a whole season's worth of emotional issues to deal with. Toss in Aunt May suffering a heart attack and, as you can expect, things get even more complicated. And, since this release also wraps up the first season of the animated series, the creators behind The Spectacular Spider-Man wrap up some storylines and tease about new ones. And, this come as no surprise, the creative team does an amazing job with this series.
This set also sees the debut of the Black Cat, the cunning thief who definitely is more than Spidey can handle. And, believe it or not folks, but there's some pretty heavy sexual innuendos that I can't believe that managed to slip by in here. They are definitely worth seeking out, especially for the shock value. We're also introduced to a couple familiar names in the Spider-Man rogue's gallery, including one such person who returns in the second season to cause nothing but trouble for Spidey. All in all, these last few episodes really do have a little bit of everything for everyone. The action is great, include a few key action sequences that will really knock your socks off, the stories are as addictive as any soap opera, and the heart here is definitely real. The creative team is able to make every character feel alive, seem three-dimensional, and it works out effortlessly here.
I want to make note of the clever work done on the Black Costume by the creative team. As the suit takes over Peter Parker, we see it morph from just a black version of his costume, webbing and all, into a jet black representation of the Web-Slinger. It's a really smart, really effective way of showing just how corrupted Peter has become thanks to symbiote. The transformation is a great idea and perfectly represents the psychological battle between Peter and the suit.
I could ramble on and on about this series and how it has managed to essentially nail everything right. The characters feel right, the villains are dead on, and the drama is perfectly balanced by the action. The creators behind this show have created a great love letter to the best Spider-Man comics of the past four decades (and counting). Everything progresses at such a natural state, with only one real exception. Much like Spider-Man 3, Eddie Brock's jump to the dark side does seem to happen a bit too fast. It's not jarring by any means, and the creative does manage to make it believable, and given the time-frame of the show I can understand why this was done in a seemingly hurried manner. Thankfully, it's a minor nitpick and will probably be barely noticeable by most, especially since the portrayal of Venom here is very effective.
The episodes featured on this release include "Persona," "Group Therapy," "Intervention," and "Nature Versus Nurture."
Overall, The Spectacular Spider-Man - Volume Four presents an effective and usually heart-racing conclusion to the first season of this great animated series. It manages to move everything forward, wrap a good chunk of the storylines up, but leaves enough dangling to ensure that we'll be back when the second season hits. With an absolute solid cast and crew, this show reigns as one of the best cartoons currently on TV, bringing so much to the table in terms of effective story-writing and beautiful animation. This is definitely a show the deserves a large audience and, even with all the broadcast trouble it has endured, I still have hope this series will survive for a long, long time. Fans are right to support this series, and the proof is definitely in the pudding. Without a doubt, The Spectacular Spider-Man - Volume Four comes Recommended for fans of the Web-Slinger looking for a solid cartoon adventure, and for those who just enjoy great television period.
Sony Home Entertainment has released The Spectacular Spider-Man - Volume Four on standard single-disc DVD. Like the previous The Spectacular Spider-Man DVD releases, this title comes with the same promotional insert advertising the toy line for the animated series. Also, screengrabs of the menu system can be found here.
As with the previous The Spectacular Spider-Man DVD release, the audio and video for both releases are strong, but by no means reference quality. As can be expected, the video does have a few slight transfer problems, particularly slight compression, but it barely noticeable. As for the audio, the 5.1 mix is a typical audio transfer for a television cartoon release, with the channels spreading out the music and special effects a little while keeping the dialog focused solely in the front. Some of the action scenes do sound great, particularly the face-off between Spider-Man and Venom in "Nature Versus Nurture."
The extras are just as bare as the previous The Spectacular Spider-Man releases, offering only a collection of trailers. With bonus content being saved for the upcoming The Spectacular Spider-Man - The Complete First Season (tentative name) DVD release, scheduled for later this year, it's no surprise any available content is being hoarded for that title. Once again, any new footage seems non-existent here, but I can't say for certain if ther eis or isn't since I haven't watched these episodes since they aired on television.
Like the last three releases, it all boils down how big of a fan you are when deciding on whether or not to purchase the The Spectacular Spider-Man - Volume Four DVD release. With the episodes presented in the standard broadcast format, and no extras to speak of save for trailers, it's a tough decision. Admittedly, the four episode included on this release successfully finish out the first season and, frankly, are flat-out awesome. These release, however, aren't as strong. And with the The Spectacular Spider-Man - The Complete First Season (tentative name) DVD release box set on the horizon, slated to include actual bonus content, fans may want to consider whether or not these single-disc volume releases are worth the price. If you want to show your support this series, then, personally, I'd pick up both the volume releases and the upcoming season collection release, but that's me. With that said, I'm going to stamp The Spectacular Spider-Man - Volume Four as Recommended, but with the reservations seen above.
The Spectacular Spider-Man - Volume Four is now available to own on DVD.
-The Spectacular Spider-Man - Volume Four DVD Talkback (Spoilers)