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The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Four (2008)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 4/28/2009

All Ratings out of
Video: 1/2
Extras: No Extras

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/25/2009

Just in case you've ever wondered, here's a peek behind the scenes as DVDSleuth.com. Some DVDs and Blu-ray Discs simply show up on my doorstep in hopes of being reviewed. Others I request from the various studios. I had decided that I wasn't going to request The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Four, because I figured that there was nothing left to say. I had reviewed the first three releases and while I enjoyed the show for what it was, I couldn't imagine attempting to critique another group of episodes. Then I noticed that my favorite fictional character, Venom, was featured in these particular shows, and that changed everything.

As with the other releases, The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Four DVD contains four episodes from the series.

-- "Persona" -- As seen in previous episodes, the space shuttle, piloted by the son of The Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson (voiced by Daran Norris), has returned to Earth with some sort of "alien slime" on the hull. The slime has been taken to the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker), and Peter Parker (voiced by Josh Keaton), but he's told by Connors' lab assistant and Peter's old friend Eddie Brock (voiced by Ben Diskin) that no visitors are allowed. So, Peter decides that Spider-Man can get a closer look at the stuff. While sneaking into the lab, he runs into The Black Cat (voiced by Tricia Helfer), who is trying to steal the substance. He stops her, but the substance disappears anyway. Unbeknownst to Peter, the ooze has gotten onto his costume, which it eventually consumes, turning the normally red and blue suit to black. Spider-Man must now deal with the fact that The Chameleon (voiced by Steven Jay Blum) is attempting to frame him.

-- "Group Therapy" -- After Electro (voiced by Crispin Freeman) is released from the hospital, Hammerhead (voiced by John Di Maggio) utilizes him to release Dr. Octopus (Peter MacNicol), Sandman (voiced by John Di Maggio), The Vulture (voiced by Robert Englund), The Rhino (voiced by Clancy Brown), and The Shocker (voiced by Jeff Bennett). Together, they attack Spider-Man, seeking their revenge. However, they aren't ready for the new power which the black costume gives Spider-Man. Peter is shocked to learn that the suit can make him go out and fight crime...even when he's asleep. Eddie Brock is still angry at Peter Parker for taking pictures of Spider-Man and The Black Cat fighting instead of stopping the alien ooze from being stolen.

-- "Intervention" -- Peter's Aunt May (voiced by Deborah Strang) is in the hospital and he's angry at himself for not being there for him. When he learns of her bills, he considers turning to crime to pay them. He turns his back on his friends. He realizes that the black suit is amplifying his negative emotions and when he tries to take it off, it attempts to take over his mind. Spider-Man is able to overcome it (by focusing on the good in his life) and returns the ooze to the lab. There, he encounters Brock, who informs him that he's lost his job due to the disappearance of the ooze. As Spider-Man leaves, the ooze jumps on Brock, revealing to him that the two people he hates at the moment, Spider-Man and Peter Parker are one in the same. Brock and the ooze then come together to form Venom.

-- "Nature vs. Nurture" -- Peter goes to check Aunt May out of the hospital and is attacked by Venom. They fight throughout a Thanksgiving Day parade, while Gwen Stacy (voiced by Lacey Chabert) hangs by a thread above the street.

As Venom is one of the most popular characters from the Spider-Man comics and he was featured in Spider-Man 3, there was most likely no doubt that it would show up on The Spectacular Spider-Man show. But still, this is ostensibly aimed at kids and Venom is a very complex character who is based solely on rage and vengeance. I'm pleased to say that the show handles the character and its origin very well. Of course, making a TV show based on the comic book origin of Venom would be nearly impossible, as it began in 1984 with the first appearance of the black costume and didn't culminate until 1988 with the first appearance of Venom. The idea of Venom coming to Earth on the space shuttle first appeared in the Spider-Man animated series from the 90s, and it works just fine. The Spectacular Spider-Man really shines with the "Intervention" episode, where Peter realizes that black suit is attempting to control him. The bulk of the episode takes place in Peter's mind, as his conscious battle the symbiote for control. It's Peter's recollections of how he became Spider-Man and the death of his Uncle Ben which give him the power to overcome the alien. For a mainstream animated show, this is pretty heady stuff and it's very impressive.

Thus far, I'd been impressed with The Spectacular Spider-Man, but not blown away. The four-story arc, which features the black costume, the Sinister Six, and Venom, changed all of that. This is a great mixture of elements from the comics and movies and proves the power which lie in Spider-Man stories.

The Spectacular Spider-Man: Volume Four has an improbably long tongue on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The show has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the image is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. The colors look good, most notably the reds, blues, and greens -- but, they aren't as bold as they could have been. The animation is fairly sharp, but there are some moments where jagged lines are noticeable. The DVD contain a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action scenes provide us with notable stereo effects, often showing good stereo separation. There are some very mild subwoofer effects from explosions. Very weak surround sound is present, but it's basically reproducing only the music from the front channels. On the plus side, dialogue is always clear and audible.

There are no extras on the DVD.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long