Comics : Spider-Man vs. The Vulture

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This review was first published on: 2009.

Background...

This book is published by HarperTrophy, an imprint of HarperCollins, which was formed by a combination William Collins, Sons and Co Ltd (a British company) and Harper & Row (an American company). Actually HarperCollins is now owned by News Corporation, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and which is currently the second-largest media conglomerate in the world, second only to Disney. Which owns Marvel.

Anyhow, HarperCollins' latest collection of Spider-Man books features offerings in three different formats. There's three mini-novel format books numbered Volumes 1-3. There's a couple of square staple-bound books, and finally there's three of these "Level 2: Reading With Help" books which follow the same format as two of the learn-to-read Level 2 books that tied into the Spider-Man 3 movie. Note that these HarperCollins learn-to-read books seem to be inspired by DK's similar range of graded learn-to-read books under their "Dorling Kindersly Readers" line.

The HarperCollins Level 2 books are 6" x 9", 32 full-color pages on quality print stock. Glossy card covers, also available in a robust hardback "Library Binding", though from experience I can say that the library binding version is often a bit tricky to get a hold of.

In Detail...

Spider-Man vs. The Vulture
Dec 2008 : SM Title
Find ISBN 9780061626180
Summary: I Can Read! (Level 2)
Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers
Writer:  Susan Kennedy
Artist:  Andie Tong
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Before we start, we get a two page character reference guide. Peter Parker, Spider-Man, Flash, Jonah, Aunt May, and... The Vulture. "The Vulture is one of Spider-Man's worst enemies. Can Spidey stop him from causing danger?"

Open on home bell at High School. Peter is dashing out of class for his first day at the Daily Bugle. Mary Jane is shown in shot, but not named. Let me give you an idea of the text here. "Brrrrring! Class was over. Peter Parker packed up his magnets and grabbed his jacket." Magnets? Well, the class was a science class. But the reason for the magnets is not explained, and no magnets are depicted.

"Too bad you can't swing on a web like Spider-Man!" calls the teacher. Oh, irony, thy name is DK.

Peter disliked being called names like "bookworm", "nerd" and "geek". Heh. Really?

Peter was going to be late! Fortunately he could change into Spider-Man. Err... hang on a second here. Peter left as soon as the bell went, and we don't see him being delayed at all. Is our hero really so dumb that he took a job that started so soon after school that he couldn't even get there on time in the best of circumstances? Now THAT is dumb.

Spidey is climbing up a wall, when suddenly. The Vulture appeared from above. "What's your hurry, Spider-Man?" The Vulture was a tricky enemy. He had wings and could fly. Oh... so he didn't have wings and could hop sideways. Flying with those wings, eh? He sure IS tricky!

Spidey is late for his job at the Daily Bugle, but then remembers the power/responsibility ratio inherent in his environment. But that doesn't help. Vulture blindsides him, flying silently. Hmmm... (thinks Spider-Man). Question: How does Vulture fly on silent wings? Obvious Answer: Silent magnetic power! Spider-Man climbs up a wall. He's ready for him this time. Now he can try out his latest invention. His home-made magnet reverser!

Spidey wins the fight. Peter is late for work, but has amazing photos of the Vulture. Peter buys flowers for Aunt May, but Flash splashes him with his car anyhow. Aww...

In General...

This is of course a massively dumbed-down rework of the Vulture story in Amazing Spider-Man #2. While the original tale is a mighty classic, the reworked version is fundamentally flawed. Specifically, are we really being asked to believe that Peter just happened to have, in his bag, a homemade magnetic inverter? What, he has a magic bag now? That's Spider-Man's new power, is it?

In the original story, Spider-Man was originally defeated, then spent a day or two specifically building the magnetic inverter in order to defeat the Vulture. But in this modern version, it's just complete coincidence that during the afternoon at science Peter studied magnets, and then presumably decided during the latter part of the afternoon to build the inverter and put it in his bag to take to the Daily Bugle.

Bullshit! Bullshit! And double-bullshit that Flash Thompson manages to splash Peter with his car, and our hero's Spidey-Sense doesn't warn him.

Overall Rating...

A stupid, disjointed story. Clumsy art. In fact, the most impressive part of this book really is the high quality color and production values for such a low price of US $3.99. But really, complimenting the quality of the paper is like the best man at a wedding proposing his first toast to the cleaners for doing such a great job of sweeping away the confetti at the church.

Plot-wise, this story is irredeemable for any adult, young or old. However, an undemanding four year old might find it tolerable - if you think you can tolerate reading it to them. And good luck to you if you decide to do so! One and a half shabby webs.