I sat through the five series of animated Spider-Man from the nineties as something to watch while eating my breakfast. It is an incredible use of the character that has similarities to all three live action Spider-Men.
Kingpin is the main villain through most of the series, constantly fighting gang wars to keep himself at the top. He’s not even a complex character, just a giant rich guy who only wants power. In the pursuit of power Kingpin buys the loyalty of most of a group of more actively dangerous villains that he calls the Insidious Six. The way Kingpin becomes such a brilliant villain is that he’s never really against Spider-Man, sometimes using the hero for his own benefit but also interfering with Peter Parker’s life as he shares a social circle with Jameson.
Spider-Man himself is well voiced and always has something to say that’ll irritate his enemies, the guy rarely shuts up which with the cartoon graphics really helps keep the audience engaged. He uses cartridge based webs which often cause him problems and he generally likes to work alone. Peter Parker is much more useful as a character than he is in the movies, acting as Spider-Man’s friend when interacting with other characters, his main love interest is Mary Jane and he uses his work with Jameson for every advantage he can.
The plot is a wild mash up of all sorts of villains popping in and out along Kingpin’s long battle for dominance. We get the Spider-Man staples like Lizard, Doc Ock and the Goblin, however Marvel is a universe and this series knows it. We get Blade taking on Morbius, or X-Men versus a mutant hater, Punisher competing with Kraven on a hunt; Dr Strange, Iron Man, Shield and Captain America all drop in at different times too. As everything reaches a climax Madame Web sets Spider-Man on a quest to understand his responsibilities for a Secret War and some Multiverse weirdness. It’s incredibly well put together with so many threads that shouldn’t really work together in a mad jumble that works amazingly well.
The biggest problem with the series is the end as they seem to forget one very important plot thread which the audience just have to assume gets sorted out. It just felt like a bit of a let down for Peter to be honest.
Being an animation the art style can be off putting but I like the hand drawn look that these nineties cartoons use, it looks really good. I may be a little biased because I grew up watching the re-runs of this show but I would highly recommend this version of Spider-Man to any Spidey fans or cartoon lovers.