Although seemingly conceived largely to push a new line of Hasbro toys (ah, children’s TV and the bad old days), the soon-to-fadeout Kids’ WB (on the CW!) delivers a credible new version of “Spider-Man,” emphasizing his relatable headaches as a 16-year-old superhero. An extremely busy, action-filled opening half-hour introduces a horde of Spidey villains along with his universe of supporting players while perhaps wisely skipping the obligatory rehash of the character’s by-now-familiar origins.
Given that the show is designed for kids, collaborators Greg Weisman (writer) and Victor Cook (director) understandably play up the frustration that science nerd Peter Parker (voiced by Josh Keaton) feels over the need to hide the hero within him, enduring indignities at school before indulging in the ultimate fantasy of becoming a costumed benefactor. It was always a central lure of Marvel Comics, where possessing superpowers came along with everyday problems that are often only exacerbated by doing good deeds.
There is action aplenty in this premiere — enough to satisfy grownup comics aficionados, with Spider-Man fighting traditional enemy the Vulture as well as the Enforcers, a group of assassins unleashed upon him by an unidentified crime lord. The result is an aerial battle brought to life with reasonably impressive and fluid animation. The main drawback is a relentless score seemingly predicated on the notion that modern kids are either 80% deaf — or should be after watching TV. (Some older folks may find themselves sorely missing the old animated “Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Does whatever a spider can” theme.)
Marvel patriarch Stan Lee is among the credited producers, and the project comes from Sony’s Culver Entertainment, providing a means to keep this hugely profitable franchise alive beyond the movie trilogy. Still, this sleek property makes its debut at a rather bittersweet time, with the CW joining its broadcast brethren in announcing plans to bail out of the kids business in the fall, brokering its Saturday-morning block to an outside supplier. So while Culver is currently producing a second season, precisely where those episodes will be seen remains up in the air.
In terms of shadowy plots, it’s the kind of perilous cliffhanger even Spider-Man will likely need all his powers to survive.