Comics : Target Presents: Reading to the Rescue (2004-B)
This review was first published on: 2006.
Over the years Marvel has partnered with various pro-social groups and corporations producing quite a number of "specialty" comics utilizing the various Marvel characters to promote specific causes or products. One of these companies that has co-sponsored comics with Marvel tying their product and/or cause with the Marvel's heroes has been Target.
To date, Target has sponsored at least five comics with Marvel, three supporting literacy (reading) one with St. Jude's Hospital Target/St. Jude's Hospital: America's Super Heroes and one with Child Abuse Prevention NCPCA - Spider-Man on Bullying Prevention.
Target Presents: Reading to the Rescue (2004-B)
Year 2005 : SM Title
Summary: Spider-Man Appears
Spider-Man, and The Fantastic Four, are helped by a group of children (who also appeared in the First and third issues of this series) defeat The Impossible Man at the New York Public Library.
This story starts out with Ms. Tinker taking her students, Sharon, Austin and, Russ to a special exhibit at the New York Library because they won an award for the science, music, and acts of great strength in fairy tails, and now they get to present their report at the Library during the Library's World Wide Wonder: A festival of children's stories.
As the quartet approaches the majestic building, the ever-mischievous Impossible Man appears behind them, looking (as always) to entertain himself while causing all sorts of trouble for everyone around him. (As we here all know, but is quickly explained in a to-panel flashback - The Impossible Man is from the planet of Poppup and he is able to do (and reform himself) into just about anything simply by setting him mind to it. The little green Imp is really not bad or evil, as much as he is simply interested in always entertaining himself. On most of his previous visits, he tangled with The FF, always to return home after his exploits.
Now, as always, he is interested in finding fun. First off, he turns himself into a purse and swipes a book of fairy tales that is available for all of the show's guests. Then (after he has read the stories) he transforms himself into one of the chairs in the auditorium and this is where the fun really begins. Just as the FF take the stage as guest lecturers, he transforms himself into several pair of shoes and places himself on the feet of a number of the spectators (playing off the glass slipper in "Cinderella"). Meanwhile "Daily Bugle" photographer, Peter (Spider-Man) Parker notices that something very odd indeed is most assuredly, er, afoot.
While the kids are talking about Goldilocks the Imp becomes bowls of porridge, and places himself in the hands of several folks in the audience, the when they talk about the science of Johnny Appleseed, he becomes giant apple trees and begins pelting everyone with apples. It is at this point that both the FF and Spidey begin rescuing the patrons and hustling them to safety. After everyone is safe, the heroes begin to repair the damage to the Library. The Impossible Man then makes his presence known, and pouts that the Earth heroes are always ruining his fun. Spidey (who is unfamiliar with him or his powers) tries to web him up; only the Impossible Man transforms into curds and whey (from "Little Miss Muffet"), and slides through Spidey's webbing (creating a giant mess in the process).
Sue Storm scoops him up in a force field bowl, while Mr. Fantastic and the Thing pitch him into the sky, where Johnny Storm attempts to fry him with a super-nova blast. (As an interesting aside, even as Torch's Supernova blasted The Impossible Man he mussed that he realized that the blast wouldn't really kill the Poppupian, the best he could hope for was to spread his atoms across a large area and give the heroes time to regroup and assess the situation) Needless to say, that didn't really do anything to the malleable alien, as he shifted his form into the giant from "Jack and the Beanstalk."
As Spidey and the FF attempt to rescue people from the gigantic beanstalks that are sprouting up everywhere, the kids locate the fairytale book that The Impossible Man had glomed as he entered the Library, and they realize that he is simply acting out the various fairy tales from the book. Just then, he turns into the Pied Piper and begins playing his pipes, causing the citizenry to begin marching towards the river. A quick force field from The Invisible Woman puts a stop to that, when the kids approach Spidey with their theory. The thing, who is now fully enraged, goes into Clobbering Time Mode, and whales on the Poppupian smashing him into tiny pieces, only to have him reform and, like the Big Bad Wolf, from the Three Little Pigs, "huff, and puff, and blow [the brick] house down" ("The Three Little Pigs"). At this point the kids approach the alien Imp speaking to him as if he were a great genie, and asking for three wishes. As expected, this appeals to the alien's odd sense of whimsy, as he finally has gotten someone to play along with his game (which is all he wanted in the first place.)
Popping himself into the genie from "The Arabian Knights," he graciously agrees to grant all three wishes (trusting them to play fair, because they are children). First, the kids ask that he clean up all the mess he has caused (he becomes a construction crew and their machinery and does just that). Then they ask that he become human for a few minutes and read "The Wizard of Oz" which the kids describe as their favorite modern-day fairy tale, to which he also agrees. For their third wish, he reenacts the final scene from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (with the Poppupian playing all of the parts, 'natch). Thus winds up this very fractured fairy tale with the FF and the kids on stage, finishing their presentation, and Peter Parker back in the audience taking pictures for "The Daily Bugle."
The book is fun, entertaining and educational: a perfectly crafted medium to float the message of literacy for a younger audience. I am a huge fan of companies tapping Marvel for the use of their heroes to float these types of pro-social messages. I honestly believe that by presenting these types of issues in this type of a format makes them more accessible to their intended audience. The extra half a point goes to the most excellent Ron Lim art in this book, including some truly ripping scenes of the heroes going up against The Impossible Man (there is a great full-page pin-up of the Thing shouting out his trademarked throw-down line). Plus Forrest Stone really does a great job of not only keeping everyone in character (including The Impossible Man), but wonderfully working all of the various fairy tales into the story in the proper context.
There is a two-page word search in the center of the comic, as well as a coupon for any marvel comic at Target, and a couple of Target-related ads in the comic.