Well, that didn’t last long. With the second The Spectacular Spider-Man DVD release, Sony Home Entertainment has abandoned the “full-length feature” marketing gimmick and, instead, is just presenting us with a handful of episodes per release. The first release saw the first three episodes stitched together to form the “feature-length” movie The Spectacular Spider-Man: Attack of the Lizard which, to me, seemed like an adequate effort to represent the opening arc of the series. Some minor changes were included with the release, nothing major, but some altered sound effects and minimal new animation. However, that seems all dropped here as we seem to be presented with broadcast versions of the animated series fans have come to love in two new volume releases of The Spectacular Spider-Man.
In the action-packed The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume 2, Peter Parker’s ability to tackle an onslaught of menacing super-villains is put to the ultimate test. He must take on the evil likes of some of his most daunting rivals ever — the Shocker, Sandman and Rhino, all while finding time for his Chemistry lessons. Then, in The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume 3, Peter finds himself amidst more dangerous arch enemies — the Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus and Tombstone. Lending their voices to help make these hip and exciting adventures come to life are Josh Keaton; Lacey Chabert; Josh LeBar; Vanessa Marshall; Deborah Strang; Alanna Ubach; James Arnold Taylor; Daran Norris; and Grey Delisle. The Spectacular Spider-Man spins an incredible story full of drama, comedy, and amazing action!
Before I continue, I want to clarify that this review covers both The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Two and The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Three. Given the two volumes are set for release on the same date and are nearly identical in content, I believe one review to cover both titles is adequate.
So, just how do The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Two and The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Three fair? Well, that opening statement makes these releases sound bad, right? Well, I’d have to say “yes” and “no.” For fans looking to purchase these releases purely for the new animated content, you may be a bit letdown. As far as I can tell, any changes are either unnoticeable or nonexistent. I imagine that had to do with the decision to ditch the “full-length movie” format and change that to just tossing in an assortment of episodes. Personally, I haven’t watched these episodes since they originally aired, so there is a chance I may be missing something, but, unlike the previous releases, any chances are either impossible to detect or, well, just don’t exist. I’ll go into this again later in the review.
For those wondering, The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Two contains the episodes “Market Forces,” “Competition,” and “The Invisible Hand.” The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Three contains “Catalysts,” “Reactions,” and “The Uncertainty Principle.”
It goes without saying that The Spectacular Spider-Man is, without a doubt, the best animated interpretation of Spider-Man to date. It blows every previous incarnation out of the water because it pays so much love to the characters themselves. The team behind this show, as we see episode after episode, just gets it. And they never forget to make the show fun. Amidst all the drama and occasionally complicated story-telling, the show is just fun. Whether it’s a nod to the classic comics through a character or a visual reference, the show is teaming with tributes to the classic Spider-Man lore. And, thankfully, The Spectacular Spider-Man has solid animation to help carry it. The animation isn’t perfect, as we occasionally see a few weak spots or characters slip off-model, but the look of the series is consistent throughout. And, as far as I’m concerned, nearly every episode included in these two volumes are some of the best comic-based animated installments to hit television in a while.
Episodes like “Catalysts” and “The Uncertainty Principle” lavishly follow the comics while making it work for the series itself. I have no doubt these two episodes are likely the fan-favorites in these two releases, but that doesn’t mean other episodes could be forgotten. “Market Forces” is a perfectly enjoyable episode that brings in The Shocker, one of my favorite and criminally underused Spider-Man villains. We also get to see the likes of Sandman, Rhino, and Dr. Octopus in these collections.
The main features of both The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Two and The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Three continue the excellence started by the initial The Spectacular Spider-Man: Attack of the Lizard DVD release. The animation is top-notch, the stories are very involving and complex, the characters are all excellent, and the series is just fun. This is the Spider-Man cartoon fans have been waiting for, easily surpassing anything that came before and setting a high benchmark for anything that comes after it. The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Two and The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Three offer six excellent episodes that fans will undoubtedly want to revisit it time and time again and, for that, I peg the main feature as Highly Recommended. But, what about the DVD release itself? Well, read on!
Sony Home Entertainment has released The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Two and The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Three on standard DVD. Both releases contain the same promotional insert advertising the toy line for the animated series.
As with the previous The Spectacular Spider-Man DVD release, the audio and video for both releases are passable, but by no means reference quality. As can be expected, the video does have a few minor transfer problems, particularly slight compression and noticeable aliasing. As for the audio, the 5.1 mix is good for both releases, but could have been better. It’s a typical audio transfer for a television cartoon release, meaning that it doesn’t go beyond or really try anything special than spread out the music and special effects a little while keeping the dialogue focused solely in the front. Some of the action scenes do sound great, particularly Goblin’s attack in “Catalysts.”
The extras are just as bare as the previous The Spectacular Spider-Man release, offering nothing new at all. With bonus content being saved for the upcoming The Spectacular Spider-Man: The Complete First Season (tentative name) box set, scheduled for a summer 2009 release, we get nothing more than scraps on the The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Two and The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Three releases. Of course, these scraps also amount to nothing but trailers. To make matters worse, these trailers seem to be the same ones from the first The Spectacular Spider-Man: Attack of the Lizard DVD release. In terms of bonus content, that’s all we get. As for actual new footage, to which there seems to be no mention of on the actual packages for these releases, there very much could be, as episode run times range from over 22 – 23 minutes long per episode. “Competition” runs 23:10 minutes and “Catalysts” runs 23:11 minutes, for example, including end credit titles. However, since I haven’t seen these episodes since their original airdates, I can’t say for certain what the new footage is, if any.
Like the last The Spectacular Spider-Man: Attack of the Lizard, it all boils down how big of a fan you are when deciding on whether or not to purchase these The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Two and The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Three releases. With the episodes presented in their standard format, and no extras to speak of save for trailers, it’s a tough decision as to whether or not you’ll want to pick up these two The Spectacular Spider-Man DVD releases. The main feature on both are awesome, it goes without saying. The Spectacular Spider-Man is a great animated series that will probably go down as the best Spidey cartoon to date. These release, however, likely won’t. And with the The Spectacular Spider-Man: The Complete First Season (tentative name) 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. Fans, both casual and die-hard, may want to consider a Rental before deciding on whether or not to purchase either of these The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Two and The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Three releases.
Both The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Two and The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Three will hit shelves on March 17th, 2009.