Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #160

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This review was first published on: 2008.

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 Spider-Man stories, but then swapped to producing original tales. Originally those new stories were one-off tales set in a "Generic Spider-Man" continuity which had much in common with the Spider-Man of the 1990's Cartoon series. More recently they attempted to construct their own "Ultimate Spider-Man-esque" version of young Peter Parker, though recent issues seem to have drifted back to the generic cartoon continuity.

Each issue proudly proclaims to feature a "Brand New Spidey Story". This is true, though sadly what it possesses in "Brand Newness" it resoundingly lacks in "Any Goodness". The recent issues also tend to feature a "guest star" who appears in the posters, puzzles and character files that fill out the rest of the magazine in and around the ten-page story. This issue features Captain America.

In Detail...

"Rome, Broken City"
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #160
Dec 2007 : SM Title
Summary: 05-Dec-2007
Editor:  Ed Hammond
Script:  Ferg Handley
Pencils:  Andie Tong
Inker:  Kris Justice
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Despite his completely non-existent detective skills, Spidey has been following a trail of incredibly fortunate clues through various European cities. He's on a years-cold trail to prove the innocence of his parents - former U.S. secret agents involved in the cold war, and branded traitors at the time of their sudden mysterious death in a light plane accident over the English Channel.

This is explained on an "introduction" page before the story proper starts. Then it's explained all over again in the first page of the story itself. Seems like some editor wasn't paying very close attention. Then again, why should he bother, nobody else on this comic book is paying any attention at all - least of all the writer.

Spidey had found a mysterious scrap of paper in the wreckage of a long-since abandoned, recently destroyed secret A.I.M. base beneath a Berlin night-club. Despite all odds, this clue is presumably relevant to his bumbling "investigation". Though I hesitate to use that word since the web-head's "fight Super-Villain, stumble on to conveniently-placed clue which is understood despite foreign language challenges, rinse and repeat" approach is scarcely more sophisticated than the kind of treasure hunt you might expect to find at a three-year-old's birthday party.

But back to the most recent clue. It has something to do with Rome. So Peter goes there, under his cover of having won a science trip to Europe. Clearly, his science scholarship trip (the cover that Nick Fury arranged) conveniently involves traveling to a new city every day. Dammit! See how easy it is to get distracted by all the gaping plot holes? Look, let's just get back to the story.

Spidey visits the address he found, which belongs to an Italian scientist. He gets there just in time, as A.I.M. is kidnapping the scientist in broad daylight. The professor yells for help, and Spidey answers him. Hmm... an Italian professor calls for help in English? Moooving on. Spidey figures he can handle the A.I.M. guys. But then Creel, the "Absorbing Man" appears. Seems A.I.M. hired him. Spidey struggles, but then Captain America turns up in an Avengers Quinjet. Nick Fury sent him.

Spidey and Cap fight Creel for "over an hour". Creel keeps changing materials, eventually absorbing the properties of the Colosseum. There's ya "Rome" reference. See, you learn a lot by reading comics.

Captain America gets trapped under a rock. Yeah, right. But it's up to Spidey, as Creel reaches for Captain America's shield to transform himself into Adamantium and become invincible! Hmm... if Creel was smart, he'd keep a piece of Adamantium in his pocket at all times. But Spidey had sneakily coated the shield with a very thin layer of liquid webbing, meaning that Creel just turned himself into a pile of goop. Nice.

Captain America explains that Nick Fury sent him with a data disk, which he hands over. It contains a video message from Nick, telling Peter than indeed it does look like A.I.M is involved in the history of Peter's parents. But how on earth did that connection get made... it was just incredibly lucky that A.I.M. happened to be attacking S.H.I.E.L.D. at the time that Peter learned about his parents. But, random co-incidence is what this story is all about.

Oh, yeah, A.I.M. got away with the scientist. But Nick tells Peter to try looking in Cadiz, in Spain.

In General...

The "investigation" side of things is a total joke, as is Captain America's just-in-time appearance. The battle would have been the same non-event, except for Spidey's cunning little stunt with the webbing.

Still, it's hard to get past just how embarrassing this cultural whistle-stop tour of Europe is. It's an inane pastiche of re-hydrated highlights that exposes the worst of English-speaking shallowness.

Overall Rating...

A rock-bottom half-a-web for the story, but a bonus webbing for the surprising little twist that finally Cracked Creel. Heh.