Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #145

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This review was first published on: 2007.

Background...

This UK magazine features a new Spidey story each issue, which is to say, each three weeks.

This relatively long-running mag started off by reprinting various issues of Spider-Man Adventures and Adventures of Spider-Man. It then swapped to reprinting more recent issues set in standard continuity, before switching at some point to creating isolated original Spider-Man stories set in the a universe very similar to the 1994 Cartoon TV series.

Most recently the magazine has made another switch in theme, now creating its own continuity-driven stories set in a non-specific "Teen Spidey" universe. Peter's identity is a secret from the world, and from his part-time girlfriend Mary Jane. His best friend Harry Orborn hates Spider-Man because he blames the web-slinger for the death of his father Norman. Peter falls asleep in class because he's up all night fighting villains.

Spider-Man has just recently been found innocent of involvement in the death of Norman Osborn. Harry Osborn's attempt to frame Spider-Man was revealed in the court room last issue.

In Detail...

"In a Dark and Lonely Place"
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #145
Jan 2007 : SM Title
Summary: 24-Jan-2007
Editor:  Ed Hammond
Writer:  Mitchel Scanlon
Pencils:  John Royle
Inker:  Dylan Teague
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Review

Hammerhead is a big tough gang boss. But when he heads out for a walk on the street, he finds that he has no defense when Cloak (of Cloak & Dagger) comes calling for him. But Hammerhead is only one of a series of mysterious disappearances of reputed underworld figures which has Peter Parker worried.

And why should Peter worry because criminals are vanishing? Ah, the usual problem - when all the heads of the big gangs vanish, the status quo is upset, gang war inevitably breaks out, and innocents are occasionally harmed. This theory is always particularly suspect to my mind. According to this idea, the heads of criminal organisations should never be arrested, only the small fry. Peter's flawed thinking is a lousy start to the story, but let's see where it takes us before making judgement.

Peter heads over to visit Harry Osborn, who just recently tried to frame Spider-Man for murder. Harry is full of anger for the world in general, and he takes out his frustration on Peter. Peter, naturally, throws on the costume and looks for some bad guys to pass his anger on to. Negative karma in action.

As Spiderman, he stakes out Silvermane's sky-rise apartment. Silvermane as we know, is big-time underworld boss. Suddenly, shots are fired, and a bunch of Silverman's goons are "out cold". Hey, it's a kids comic, we can't go around killing people. Cloak is at the scene, and naturally Spidey and Cloak spend a few panels fighting each other. That's a kind of rule in such situations. Cloak can make his body intangible at will, kind of a black man's Kitty Pryde.

The battle moves inside Silvermane's apartment, where the bad man himself is lying stretched out on the carpet. But wait, it's a dummy. It was a setup. Cloak decides to explain. Seems that the Kingpin captured Dagger and his men holding her hostage. Fisk is forcing Cloak to kidnap his competitors, with Dagger's life as the reward if he succeeds. Cloak came to take Silvermane, but fell for the old "dummy on the sofa watching TV for four hours" trick. But Spidey has another plan...

Spidey gets the Bugle to front page a story about Dagger and Cloak fighting crime on the streets. Kingpin naturally thinks Dagger's escaped, and goes in person to visit his number one killer Tombstone, who is in charge of holding Dagger hostage. Naturally, Spidey and Cloak follow him to find out Dagger's location, there's a big fight and she's rescued. Cloak then takes the Kingpin away to the Darkforce Dimension that lives in his cape.

Of course, Fisk and the rest are all going to be returned to the real world after a few hours of "timeout". A few issues from now it'll be status quo once more. Meanwhile, Peter returns to Harry's apartment to try again to rebuild their friendship. Instead, he finds the place is trashed, and Harry gone. Hmm... I think it's time for Green Goblin, Jr!

In General...

I really don't know if I approve of this recent switch to self-contained continuity in these stories. When the tales were one-shot standalone affairs, they could be enjoyed as simple, fun excursions and little more. By adding continuity and a more serious tone, the stories seemed to have somehow raised the bar on themselves - a bar that they have sadly failed to clear.

The writer's have turned away from the humor of their earlier approach, and are now trying to create a gritty hard-boiled tale which will succeed on a more "adult" level. However, they're hamstrung by the short page count, by the fact that most readers won't read all issues, by the need to appeal to younger readers, by the need to avoid blood and serious violence, by the inability to make permanent changes to villains. All these contradictory demands mean that they're pretty much doomed to failure.

The plots and dialog are formulaic, Harry's blind obsession is barely even two-dimensional, and Peter's thinking and motivations lack any depth at all. A nine year old kid might congratulate themselves on reading "grown-up stories", but they're sadly misguided.

Overall Rating...

A disappointing change in direction here, with unhappy results. Two webs.

Footnote...

The original Spidey story in these issues takes up 10 or 12 pages of the overall 36 pages. The remainder is given up to puzzles, fact files, features, posters, fan letters, competitions, and a little bit of Spidey-specific advertising.