Marvel’s Spider-Man: Maximum Venom - Episode 1: “Web of Venom”
Starring Robbie Draymond, Ben Pronsky, Fred Tatasciore, Scott Menville, Yuri Lowenthal and Nancy Linari
Written by Kevin Burke and Chris “Doc” Wyatt
Directed by Tim Eldred and Sol Choi
Review by Justin Partridge
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
A new and improved Venom returns to plague Peter Parker in the premiere of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Maximum Venom. Picking up directly after the Season 2 “Superior” arc, Maximum Venom finds Peter and the rest of his “Amazing Friends” trying to settle in at Horizon High - but when Peter discovers Max Modell experimenting with a new “synthetic” symbiote grafted from the original Venom, his life is once again thrown into goopy disarray as he fights to contain the new Venom and keep his double-life a secret.
Striking a fun balance between the kinetic, action heavy previous series and the motor-mouthed, Avengers-adjacent tone of Tom Holland’s interpretation of Spidey, “Web of Venom” offers a fun jumping-on point for anyone craving new Spider-action.
It is a brand new day for Peter Parker -not that 'Brand New Day,' but a literal one, as Peter settles in for a new year and new adventures at Horizon High. Though I feel like this premiere would have benefitted from a bit more of an ensemble flavor with Miles and Gwen, Robbie Draymond’s Peter leads this oversized episode well and with plenty of cheeky charm. Bouncing from a fight with a newly activated “techno-vore” and then the unleashed Venom, this opening episode moves at a near-breathless pace.
While the pacing leaves some of the character moments in the dust, like some texture around Max Modell and Curt Connors, writers Kevin Burke and Chris “Doc” Wyatt offer a surprising amount of continuity in their script. Referencing both the previous seasons and the larger Avengers-based cartoons, “Web of Venom” feels very ensconced in comic book lore. But don’t let that discourage you if you haven’t seen the previous seasons of Marvel’s Spider-Man - “Web of Venom” lays the groundwork well for this new series and new viewers that seek to tune in. It’s all wrapped in slick, cinematic animation that captures the elasticity of Spidey and his enemies throughout.
But moreover, “Web of Venom” delivers a rich, chippy characterization for Peter and a moral quandary with plenty of teeth. Mixing elements from the comics, movies, and even a bit from the 1990’s Fox Kids Spider-Man series, this oversized season opener sets the table nicely for the upcoming season, introducing a personal conflict for Peter and grounding much of the action in Peter’s direct sphere of influence. For example, much of the opening acts are spent with Peter defending new student Grady Scraps after he unwittingly reactivates a dormant project in Horizon’s “forbidden section,” echoing shades of Hogwarts’ more dangerous areas. The problem is then made exponentially dangerous when Modell’s “synthetic Symbiote” escapes, unleashing Venom once more upon the city. Though not an unfamiliar set-up, especially for viewers who are more acquainted with Spider-Man stories, the action is kept fairly personal and pitched for Peter as the episode rollicks toward its cliffhanger.
Influenced by all manner of source material, “Web of Venom” offers up the full Spider-Man experience for the new season’s premiere. Though I still feel like it could have been made better using the wider variety of Spider characters, which have often been the highlight of the post-Ultimate Spider-Man series, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Maximum Venom kicks off the new series with a fun, flighty, and quip-heavy opener that stays true to the spirit and energy of Spider-Man.