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DVD Review

DVD cover

Animated TV Series (1994)
Complete Season 4


Starring (voice): Christopher Daniel Barnes, Jennifer Hale and Edward Asner
Clear Vision
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: PG
Available 14 September 2009

I don't know what happened to the complete seasons 1-3 for review (they must have fallen into another dimension), but here we have season 4 of the 1994 animated series spread over two discs.

Was it really as long ago as fifteen years that this was on television; it seems like only yesterday. I have a fondness for this interpretation of the well-known character and situations too. If the Original Spider-Man animated series is dated but quaint, this one is contemporary and right on the mark. As well as progressing at a break-neck pace, the characters are well realised, being three-dimensionally evil or sympathetic. There's much more going on than the black and white palette of good versus evil. With on-going storylines, the plots have more depth and substance. There is time for events to go wrong in a monumental manner, before they are eventually put right, because very few mishaps in life are solved instantly.

The 12-part Season 4 has the title Partners in Crime. As the first part begins we discover that Mary Jane Watson has gone missing after being kidnapped and dropped from a bridge by Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin (this is a variation on the comics event when Peter Parker's love interest Gwen Stacy died after being dropped). Naturally Spider-Man blames himself, and is starting to react angrily to the way his life has taken a downward spiral.

Matters deteriorate further when Peter Parker's friend Felicia Hardy is abducted by the Kingpin and Doctor Octopus to ensure her father's cooperation. Felicia's father, the athletic thief known as the Cat, as a boy witnessed a secret government experiment which transformed Steve Rodgers into the super soldier Captain America. He memorised the formula, and now the Kingpin wants it to create his own super army. It is tested on Felicia who is transformed into the Black Cat. Spider-Man strikes up a reluctant partnership with her without knowing her true identity.

Because this story is properly fleshed-out, there's a significantly larger cast, and all properly conducive to the plot. There's no shortage of villains on show; aside from the aforementioned Kingpin and Doctor Octopus, we have Smythe, Shocker, the Scorpion, the Vulture, Kraven the Hunter, Morbius the Vampire, the Lizard, Mysterio, the new Green Goblin, and cameos by Venom and Carnage. Phew! As for the good guys (or in some cases anti-heroes), we have Punisher and Chip, Blade, the Cat, the Black Cat, and Nick Fury with his S.H.I.E.L.D. cohorts in tow. There's a very bitter sweet irony to Spider-Man's victories which work very well. In fact so much happens to our hero that he should really be ensconced in the rubber-walled home for insane web-slingers.

So there's plenty here to keep any Spidey fan happy. 3 hours 42 minutes of action, character conflict, emotion and intrigue. I'm happy to say that although some of the city skylines are cleverly rendered using computer animation, the rest is traditional animation, making the whole feel more alive. I even prefer this to the admittedly very professional later Spider-Man animated series, which lost part of its heart through computer trickery.


Ty Power

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