Comics : Spider-Sense Spider-Man: Funhouse Phantom
This review was first published on: May 2011.
This 6" x 6" soft-cover full-color format has become one of the most popular layouts for Spider-Man kids story/picture books. I have nearly twenty of them on my shelves, and roughly half of them are published by HarperCollins.
Most of them are 24-page in a simple flat-page format. But this one is different. It's the same format as the earlier Spider-Sense Spider-Man: Spider-Man and the Great Holiday Chase, which is to say that it is only 16 pages, but six of them feature fold-over flaps at the right-hand edge of each right-hand page. Those flaps open out to reveal a modified version of the scene, with a "surprise".
To help the book survive the extra folding, the pages are of thin card, rather than just paper.
Spider-Sense Spider-Man: Funhouse Phantom
Jul 2010 : SM Title
Find ISBN 0061626171
This story features that good old classic adventure story setting, a carnival. Peter and Mary Jane are present, hoping for a "fun day out" (despite the fact that they arrive at night time). The young couple head into the "fun house", but MJ gets lost. Suddenly Peter's Spider-Sense is tingling. MJ must be in danger!
Yup, she's been kidnapped by Morbius, the Living Vampire.
The Living Vampire? What the heck kind of "kid's story" is this? Blood-sucking psychopaths before bedtime, eh? Only in America!
Well, it's a good thing that Peter Parker is secretly Spider-Man, so he can change into his costume and swing around the fair trying to find his girlfriend. He looks in another funhouse room, which "contains scary relics from around the world", including a sarcophagus that still contains the remains of a human mummified corpse. Spidey kicks the coffin open, but Morbius isn't there.
Do you have any idea how much an Egyptian sarcophagus containing in-tact remains would be worth? Seriously? What about the cultural offense that would be caused by... oh forget it.
Spidey searches the "jungle village". It contains a lion, an alligator, and an incorrectly colored Mandrill. Seriously, would it have killed you guys to spend three seconds typing "Mandrill" into Google Images to figure out the nose was red and the beard was brown, not the other way around?
Finally, after a couple more wrong-turns, Spider-Man finally tracks down Morbius in the "mad scientists's laboratory". He webs up the bad guy, and sets MJ free before changing back into Peter's clothes. Mary Jane comes running back to see Peter... "Wow, that was awesome!" Mary Jane exclaims. "That funhouse was so realistic. I really got carried away! Let's do it again!"
On the good side, the art work is excellent, and the text generally flows well. The mechanics of the fold-out flaps are well-designed.
On the not-so-good side, the story is "hit yourself with a rock" stupid. No possible explanation is given for Morbius's presence at the carnival, nor any reason why he might attack Mary Jane. We are left assuming that "attack by blood-thirsty killer" is just a regular old thing that happens these days, and if it wasn't for the million-to-one chance that MJ happened to be dating a super-hero then two hours later her white, limp corpse would have been discovered festering behind the back of the Bearded Lady's sideshow tent.
"They say the bad makes the good and there's something to be learned / in every human experience."
Lou Reed tells me I should give three webs.