Comics : Universal Studios: Marvel Superhero Island Adventures

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: A Word From Our Sponsor

This review was first published on: 2005.

Background...

Back in 1999 or thereabouts, Marvel Comics hooked up with Universal Pictures and licensed its characters to the movie house for use in Universal's Orlando, FL theme park. What resulted from this union is Marvel's very entertaining, and thoroughly thrilling Island of Adventure theme park attractions. In this section of the park, visitors can mingle with Marvel heroes and villains, go on Marvel-themed rides, and basically blow their annual salary on a metric ton Marvel-licensed products. One of these is a comicbook staring Spider-Man, Dr. Doom, and the Hulk.

The comic is a standard 32-page comic color comic that is split into three brief stories that mirror one of the rides in the park. These three rides are Dr. Doom's Gravity drop, The Hulk's Roller Coaster, and Spidey's fun ride. The comic itself comes blister-packed with a park pin and a 5-pack of Marvel Superhero Trading Cards (I think the cards are the same in all packages, the set I have includes Captain America, Spider-Man, Doctor Doom, The Thing, and The Hulk, as they are numbered 1-5).

In Detail...

"Fear Itself!"
Universal Studios: Marvel Superhero Island Adventures (Story 1)
Year 1999 : SM Guest
Summary: Spider-Man Appears
Editor:  Dana Moreshead
Writer:  Michael Stewart
Pencils:  Mike Weringo
Inker:  Richard Case
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Review

In the FF story, Dr. Doom has set down in Four Freedom's Plaza in some high- tech hovercraft and taken four civilians captive. Doom's craft is designed to siphon emotional energy from the captives and power-up his weapon. The FF immediately arrive on the scene to stop him. Sue Storm's force field powers manage to free the captives while The Thing and The Human Torch take out Doom's Doombots. When Doom himself enters the fray, Johnny blasts him with a nova-intense blast of his flame only Doom remains standing. Whereupon "Doom" reveals himself to be yet another Doom robot. Mr. Fantastic tells the team that they need to get medical attention to Doom's former captives, while it is revealed that the real Doom is elsewhere with more hostages attempting to enact his emotional energy siphon on a larger scale in his never-ending quest for world domination.

The Hulk story starts out with The Hulk fighting off another green-hued Gamma- irradiated monster in a knock-down, drag-out battle. A flashback reveals that an accident occurred while Dr. Banner, was working on some government- sponsored experiment under the authority of General William Rigby. As the experiment goes haywire, Banner attempts to get everyone into decontamination chambers until the released radiation dissipates. Unfortunately, he isn't fast enough, and some people are affected, including General Rigby, who morphs into the Hulk-like monster we met at the beginning of this story. Hulk manages to knock the creature into the chamber, lock the door and hits the econtamination switch (either by accident or the subliminal help of his Banner persona) and leaps off into the Nevada desert. Activated, the chamber cycles through its procedure and manages to cure those inside, while, off in the desert, Hulk calms down and reverts to Dr. Banner.

Spider-Man's story takes place in the midst of a running brawl with Electro, Hydro-man, Scream, and the Hobgoblin, all of whom have apparently escaped from the government's high-tech super villain prison The Vault. Fighting together as The Sinister Syndicate they have ganged up on Spidey once again. Even though they have our hero on the ropes, and caused untold property damage endangering ordinary civilians, they inexplicably break off their running battle, and make good their escape. After the fight, Bugle reporter Chris Peterson and Peter Parker head to the office of Jonah Jameson (J.J.J.) to hawk the story and photos. There they are met by JJJ and City Editor, Robbie Robertson. After being bawled out by Jameson for failing to connect Spidey with the Syndicate, Peterson tracks Doc Ock to the Long Island facility of PowerTek, where Spidey has also caught up with the tentacled madman. Seems that Doc Ock has a plan to utilize power from the plant to hold the city of New York hostage with a set of fusion cells he swiped form PowerTek and a levitation ray he built with the power cells. Spidey manages to fight Ock to a standstill, and prevent the plant from exploding, but Ock gets away, and Peterson gets the story.

In General...

The brevity of the three tales necessitates shorthand in the telling of the stories, plus they rely upon the fact that anyone who has purchased the comic is A) at the park and B) because they are at the park, therefore have a basic prior knowledge and understanding of the Marvel characters. Plus each story has to take into consideration the exact nature of each character's ride (Dr. Doom's ride is a gravity drop, Hulk's is a state-of-the-art, high-speed, winding, twisting roller coaster, and Spidey's is a whirling, disorienting, holographic fun house ride.

Overall Rating...

The park itself is enormous fun (especially for Spider-geek fanboys like us) the comic (found in many of the Marvel-themed gift shops), is a neat collectible, and while it obviously bares no resemblance to actual Marvel Continuity the comicbook is worthwhile to fans only for the collectablity value of its creators (see above) and of course because Spidey is in it.

Footnote...

With the success of the Park, and the comicbook promoting it, all Marvel and Universal needs to do is produce a follow-up issue with Captain America, Storm, and the Rest of the X-Men (who also have rides in the Park as well as character appearances there).