Comics : Spider-Man Heroes & Villains Collection (UK) #17

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This review was first published on: Feb 2011.

Background...

This is a 60-part weekly series being pumped into the market by Eaglemoss publications. They don't know much about Spidey, but they know that 60 * $8.99 = quite a lot. And I'm the kind of idiot who will spend that sort of money without doing the math.

There's an original 7-page story in every issue, and collectible trading cards too. Sure, the stories are terrible, the art is ghastly, and the price is far, far too high. But there's glossy paper, trading cards, and an original Spider-Man comic strip series that 99% of the U.S. collectors will never own!

In Detail...

"The Spider Squad"
Spider-Man Heroes & Villains Collection (UK) #17
Jan 2011 : SM Title
Summary: Jan-20-2011 (NZ)
Publisher:  Eaglemoss Publications, Inc.
Writer:  Glenn Dakin
Artist:  Ant Williams (Additional Material), John McCrea
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Spider-Man is webbing-up a couple of common hoods on the streets of Manhattan when he receives an unexpected hand from super-sexy Soviet super-spy the Black Widow. The Widow's involvement is complicated by technical problems with her equipment, specifically an "upgraded wrist-blaster" she received "courtesy of The Spider-Squad". That may seem like a silly detail, but it's a critical plot point later in the story.

Naturally, Spider-Man is curious about who or what the aforementioned Spider-Squad might be, and the Black Widow explains that it is an anonymous group she has just been invited to join. The Squad offers unlimited funding and supposedly exists only to help super-heroes with "Spider" powers such as themselves.

Our hero is somewhat suspicious, and he initially declines the offer. However, returning home that evening he discovers that his Aunt May has been taken ill, and he subsequently decides to accept the promise of a Spider-Squad paycheck to help pay for May's medical bills.

Following the address on the business card the Black Widow gave him earlier, Spidey makes his way to the luxury apartment headquarters of the Spider-Squad where he finds a most comfortable environment. Somewhat less comfortable however is the discovery of who is behind it all... the seemingly reformed Venom, champion of goodness! Something strange is clearly going on. This "Good Venom" is charming and persuasive. Equally as curious is the fact that this Venom triggers Spidey's Spider-Sense (something that the real Venom does not normally do).

However, Peter is apparantly too stupid to recognize a trap when he walks into one, and so he relaxes and settles down to enjoy the luxuries of the Spider-Squad HQ. These include a maid to bring him drinks, and crime-tracking computers to provide a comfortable alternative to patrolling the streets. We all know this can't end well, and of course it doesn't. It all begins to come unravelled when the Black Widow's wrist-blaster explodes, blowing a giant whole in the wall, and giving her a mild burn on her wrist.

Let's just examine this event in detail for a moment. The Widow has no super-human powers. When the device she is holding and adjusting backfires, it creates an explosion powerful enough to blast a man-sized gap in the wall, yet doesn't even draw blood on her. Care to try that in the real world and see what kind of shape you're left in after a point-blank-range blast of that magnitude?

That's not the only error at this point. In the panel preceding the explosion, she is shown with her left wrist-blaster removed and she is holding it in her left hand (tinkering with it using a screwdriver). In the follow-up panel, her costume is torn off all around her forearm. This is a goof, as it should be the costume on her hands that is damaged (along with a few missing fingers, surely).

While Black Widow goes looking for a sticking plaster or two, Spider-Man takes the opportunity to sneak through the fresh hole in the wall and investigate. As you probably expected already, he discovers a secret computer console which is monitoring the entire apartment with video cameras. Spider-Man finally figures out that the whole thing is a set-up designed to discover the web-slinger's secret identity.

Pretty promptly after that, the guy behind it all is revealed as the Chameleon dressed up in a bionic padded Venom suit. This is no real surprise, as the Chameleon's face appears on the cover of the magazine! He is quickly defeated by the two heroes. Black Widow then reveals that her bosses at S.H.I.E.L.D. also figured it was a set-up, but wanted to see who the victim was. Now they know it was Spider-Man. So... that settles that.

Still, the whole thing wasn't a complete waste. Spider-Man manages to take some photos of the scene that make himself look like a gulliable idiot (which in fact he clearly is). Jonah Jameson buys the photos, which give Peter the money he needs to pay for Aunt May's care.

In General...

As usual, sloppiness abounds. As well as the problems with the wrist-blaster explosion, there's even just basic stuff like "Spider-Squad" sometimes losing its hyphen, and S.H.I.E.L.D. losing its full stops (aka "periods") at one point. This may seem like nitpicking, but honestly, simple inconsistancies like that are indicative of the complete lack of any editorial or review process.

Overall Rating...

The artwork is the usual embarassment. The Black Widow has an almost featureless face which all the clumsy computerised gradient coloring in the world can't even come close to disguising. The plot idea has some merit deep down, but the implementation is as terrible as ever. Nope, it's one web yet again for this sorry fiasco of a magazine.

Footnote...

Perhaps the one redeeming feature of this magazine is on page 20. In one of the cryptic puzzles, there is a beautifully rendered picture of the Black Widow (probably clipped from one of the Black Widow limited series or some other source created by somebody with actual artistic talent). The black-leather clad Natasha stares directly at us, and with a guileless yet sexy expression enquires... "Can you crack my code?".

Oh yes, Natasha. Any time you're ready. Any time...