Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #54

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: British History

This review was first published on: Aug 2011.

Background...

This long-running three-weekly UK Magazine started out by running reprints for 51 issues. But starting with issue #52, it launched a string of original out-of-continuity Spider-Man stories created in the UK which was to last for more than a decade, until Disney pulled the plug in 2011.

The stories changed their tone throughout that time. The early original stories followed in the style of the preceding reprints, which is to say, similar to Spider-Man Adventures, or the Spider-Man TV (1994) television series. Much later, the stories shifted sideways to become more like a watered-down imitation of Ultimate Spider-Man.

In any case, the original Spider-Man stories occupied eleven or twelve pages of this 32 page publication, which was aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. The plots for these stories featured classic Marvel characters and villains. While they often echoed plots from the mainstream comics, they did so in their own special style. The remainder of the content was filled with puzzles, coloring, posters (reprinted art), fan letters, and promotions for DVDs and computer games.

The first couple of tales have been, well... rather unusual. And not necessarily in a good way.

In Detail...

"The Amazing Spider-Legion"
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #54
Nov 1999 : SM Title
Summary: 24-Nov-1999
Writer:  Alan Cowsill
Writer/Editor:  Jason Quinn
Artist:  John Ross
Lettering:  Ant Gardner
Colorist:  Alan Craddock
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Review

Prepare yourself for a tale of cosmically confusing proportions!

All heck is breaking loose in New York city. Agents of SHIELD are attempting to stop the Red Skull and his team of super-villains from capturing the Cosmic Cube. For some inexplicable reason, the Skull's army of bad guys appear to be comprise mostly classic Spider-Foes, e.g. Doc Ock, Vulture, Sandman, Green Goblin, Mysterio, etc.

Nick Fury and his SHIELD agents were moving the cube between locations when Skrull and his pals suddenly appeared in a cross-dimensional portal to launch the raid. For some reason, J. Jonah Jameson is mixed up in the middle of the fight. Why? Beats me. He plays no role in the story other than to berate Spidey for a few panels before being forgotten.

Suddenly, a Legion of Spider-Heroes appear. There's a Scarlet Spider, a Spider-Girl, a Spider-X, and a Spider-Man in an awesome red Spider-Copter. They are "The Amazing Spider-Legion", and they have gathered from other dimensions to stop the Red Skull from stealing the cube (which only exists in this one dimension). A brief back story is given for the Legion.

A battle royal proceeds, and the Red Skull manages to grab the cube, granting him limitless power over reality. Spider-Man, meanwhile, vanishes "into the cube". There he encounters the spirit of the cube, a consciousnesses which also appears to have a conscience. The cube enlists Spider-Man's help.

Returned to material form, our version of Spider-Man is able to resist the cube's abilities sufficiently to overcome the Red Skull. All the powers of the cube are then absorbed by Spider-Man, who heroically then releases the powers, allowing the cube to "be free". The cube then returns all the bad guys back to their home dimensions, without their super powers. It's a happy ending all round.

Spider-Man is then invited to join the Legion.

In General...

"Too many notes, Mozart!"

So went the supposed comment from Emperor Joseph II. Except that history has been kind to Mozart, and shown him to have been simply ahead of his time. I'm not sure that this over-stuffed "epic in eleven pages" has dated quite so well.

Cosmic reality adjustment, inter-dimensional portals, a squad of villains, a legion of heroes with back-stories and in-jokes. There's just too much going on in here. The final result feels superficial and overworked.

Overall Rating...

I'm always dubious about any story that involves multiple dimensions or realities. To be effective, such "massive" subject matter needs careful handling. Otherwise, "anything is possible" can easily result in a tale where "nothing matters".

This is a fun cosmic romp on a grand scale. But it's also contrived and shallow. Two webs.

Footnote...

Will Spider-Man join the Legion. Nah, because nothing ever changes in these stories.