Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Watcher - Animated Double Feature: Ultimate Spider-Man and Green Lantern The Animated Series

I’m a big kid! Just like those old Saturday mornings I woke early, ready to watch some cartoons!

First up, episodes one & two (Great Power and Great Responsibility) of the new Ultimate Spider-Man series for Disney XD. Right from the start we get comic nods (Romita’s cake shop!), JJ screaming about how the Spider-Man is a menace and Spidey himself swinging between skyscrapers while going on about how being a hero isn’t easy. Flashback to my childhood and the Nineties animated Spider-Man series - the characters all feel right, the theme is rocking and the animation is slick but still has a classic look.

We join the story as Peter has been Spider-Man for about a year - he’s still a little rough around the edges but has fought a selection of not-so super villains already. He is approached by Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D who offers to assist him with training to help become "the Ultimate Spider-Man". The series does tend to pull a lot from Marvel's Ultimate line of comics, what with S.H.I.E.L.D’s involvement right from the start and Aunt May being a lot younger and cooler than her past incarnations.

Even when pulling from previous versions the show still manages to feel unique, Spider-Man quips and thwips left and right as he should. Cut-away moments designed to look like they’re from a school notepad (with a kind of Japanese chibi-style to them) and Spidey breaking the fourth wall to make the odd off-hand joke are great fun.

These first episodes made me laugh out loud several times, especially the cameo of Stan “The Man” Lee as the schools janitor! Also adding their vocal talents are the brilliant J.K Simmons once again reprising his role as J. Jonah Jameson and Clark Gregg as the Avengers fan favourite - Agent Coulson.

There have been a few Spider-Man animated series over the years but I can honestly say that I look forward to watching the rest of this one.

Next up... Green Lantern: The Animated Series, Beware My Power Parts one & two.

My first impression of the GL animated series is it's bright and massively CGI. In a way it reminds me of Reboot (the first completely CGI animated series), but obviously better looking! The main focus of this series seem to be Hal’s adventures as he battles the vicious Red Lanterns and their leader Atrocitus.

We begin with the death of a Green Lantern in the far reaches of space. Back on Earth, Hal Jordan is up to his usual tricks of mucking up test runs and destroying very expensive prototype aircrafts in the process. But he saves lives while doing it, so it doesn’t matter! Hal is then called to the planet Oa to stand in front of the Guardians and answer for some previous unseen misconduct. During this he hears of the Lanterns which are dying across the far reaches of frontier space. With this he decides to go against the Guardians orders and steal a prototype spaceship, this allows him to reach frontier space faster than using his power ring so he can try to save the Lanterns who are being hunted.

The character design of Jordan is very similar to the previous DC animations, Superman and Batman - his upper body is huge in comparison to his arms and legs and his jaw is so square that Chuck Norris would be jealous! I do feel that the CGI animation works nicely for the Lantern universe, the bold colours of red and green battling throughout the darkness of space.

The Red Lanterns plan to destroy the Guardians and the Green Lanterns because they blame them for the destruction of Atrocitus’ home planet. A new Red Lantern by the name of Razer is trying to kill one of the frontier Green Lanterns called Shyir Rev when Hal and Kilowog turn up. They battle heavily, but ultimately manage to escape, seeking refuge on Rev’s home planet.

Razer along with Atrocitus track them down and threaten to blow up Shyir Rev’s planet if the Green Lanterns do not give themselves up. Things escalate, and I don’t want to give it all away but things reach a explosive climax. The series will continue with Hal and Kilowog hunting for further Red Lanterns, all with a prisoner in tow. I feel this series is Green Lanterns as they should be - in space, boldly fighting against bigger and unknown alien threats.

Stefan Harkins is currently watching Avengers Assemble without you...

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