Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #168

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This review was first published on: 2009.

Background...

This long-running UK Magazine started out by running reprints, but these days it offers a brand new "out of continuity" Spider-Man story every three weekly issue.

The Spider-Man story occupies eleven or twelve pages of the 32 page magazine, and is aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. But what is it they say in Hollywood - "Nobody ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence of their audience." Clearly that's a maxim the publishers and writers of this particular offering have taken to heart.

The remaining pages of each issue are filled with puzzles, posters and factoids centered around the issues guest star(s), be they heroes or villains. This issue's guest hero is Iron Man, which isn't so surprising given that this issue was released right in the middle of all the Iron Man movie madness. Naturally, we can expect an assemblage of metal-wrapped villains to fill out the cast.

In Detail...

"From Russia with Hate"
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #168
May 2008 : SM Title
Summary: 28-May-2008
Editor:  Ed Hammond
Script:  Ferg Handley
Pencils:  Andie Tong
Inker:  Kris Justice
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 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Annual (UK) 2013

Peter takes MJ to a fancy Stark Industries dinner. Peter is there to take photos of Stark's latest line of robots - a general-purpose model armed with non-lethal weapons. They spend a pleasant evening, Peter takes some photos and earns some money. They return home quietly.

Really? No, of course not. It's not possible for Peter to attend a demonstration of any new technology without some super-villain appearing on the scene. In this case it's the Soviet Super-Cyborg/Robot/Armour-Man named "Titanium Man". Peter Parker and Tony Start abandon Mary Jane and Pepper Potts (respectively) and become Spider-Man and Iron Man (respectively) and battle Titanium Man (collectively).

All the bystanders are shuffled into a "Safe Room" (naturally). The demonstration robots join Titanium Man in the attack (naturally). Titanium Man is defeated, then revealed as an innocent pawn in the plans of a reborn Ultron! Naturally.

In General...

Clearly, writer Ferg Handley is attempting to set some new record for the maximum pages/plot ratio. Of course, he's not really in the major leagues, but still it's a good effort. Eleven full-sized color pages of action can be distilled down to a single sentence: "Peter attends Stark robot demonstration, Ultron attacks using Titanium Man as his unwilling agent." The rest of the shabby tale follows as unimaginatively, inexorably and as painfully shallow as a Microsoft Songsmith backing track.

Ultron's entrance line is "You have served your purpose well, minions. Now let the world tremble -- for Ultron is REBORN!"

But I'm not sure at all what possible purpose the "minions" might have served. The only possible purpose I can contemplate is the purpose of filling in eight pages of formulaic robot-on-robot-on-arachnid action, a task they fulfilled with inadmirable mediocrity.

Frankly, this entire story could have been dispensed with and replaced with a single splash page in next issue's sequel. E.g: Spider-Man and Iron Man standing in wrecked ballroom surrounded by broken robots, Ultron arriving through smashed hole in wall. Caption (Peter Voiceover): "I only came to take photos of the new Stark general-purpose-mechanoid. Suddenly the robots are out of control, and Ultron is on the scene declaring himself new world supreme ruler!"

Overall Rating...

I see what they're trying to do here. Panini are figuring "If we don't actually put any story in our stories, then nobody can criticize them!" Well, nice try guys, but we're wise to that one. I'll give you one web, plus one web for every interesting idea in the story. Let's see, carry the five, divide by nine... that makes a grand total of... one web!

Footnote...

Naturally, the usual puzzles, info-files, posters and competitions that fill out the rest of this 32 page + cover magazine feature Iron Man and Titanium Man.