Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #171

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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. The last couple of issues have featured Iron Man, clearly to tie in with the May 2008 movie release. This issue features part 2 of a Hulk story, timed to tie in with the June 2008 release of the Incredible Hulk movie.

In Detail...

"Emerald Night"
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #171
Jul 2008 : SM Title
Summary: 30-Jul-2008
Editor:  Ed Hammond
Script:  Ferg Handley
Pencils:  Andie Tong
Inker:  Andie Tong
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Review

Last issue, Spider-Man helped subdue Bruce Banner and saw him taken into the custody of General "Thunderbolt" Ross. At the time, he ignored his tingle of Spider-Sense, but in hindsight, the web-slinger has become a little suspicious, and has tailed Ross back to the army base where the Hulk is being held. And it's a good thing too... because a foot is something foul. At least, my feet are pretty foul. I haven't changed my socks since St. Swithun's Day 1996.

Specifically, General Ross has taken a sample of Banner's DNA and handed it over to "The Leader". That's the giant-brained gamma-irradiated Hulk villain for those that came in late to the show. The Leader has mind-controlled General Ross. Add that to the Abomination who is the Leader's willing accomplice, and that makes triple-trouble for our arachnid hero.

And here he comes now, swinging in just in time to save a drugged and unprotected Bruce Banner from receiving a whupping at the hands of the Abomination. The leader and General Ross have set up Banner to receive a steady drop of tranquilizer, with a booster of super-trank to cut in if he attempts to hulkify. But the Abomination is just about to make a real mess of the Leader's plan. How? Abommy disconnects the tranquilizer because he wants Banner to feel the beating that he's about to receive.

Well, Spider-Man's about to turn that casual cruel intention into a serious error of judgment. With the trank drip turned off, the web-head distracts the Abomination until Banner shakes off the effects. Suddenly, Banner is green and mean, and Spider-Man has a much-needed ally.

Hulk joins the battle and stuns Abomination, but the Leader suddenly introduces Flux and Ravage. Who? I dunno, they don't get origin explanations, they're just two more giant gamma-irradiated thugs ready to smash the Hulk. Why? "For with the Hulk gone, nothing can stand in our way!" explains The Leader.

Wait a second. The death of the Hulk is vital to the Leader's plans? So why didn't he just kill Banner while he was Banner? For a so-called genius, this Leader guy is a first-class retard.

The Leader keeps General Ross under control and prevents the army from interfering. But that's not enough to win the day, as Spider-Man taunts the Hulk, making him angry enough to knock out the other three green goons. When The Leader pulls out a "particle phase rifle" strong enough to zap the Hulk, Spider-Man once more leaps to the rescue by smashing the Leader and destroying the aforementioned Banner DNA sample at the same time.

Final result: Leader and bad green guys all out for the count. Spider-Man meanwhile has spiked his webbing with some of the super-sedative, which is strong enough to drop the Hulk back into Banner. Spider-Man grabs Banner and swings away despite General Ross's protests. Spidey threatens to call down the wrath of Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. on Ross if he gets any grief. Hmm... Spider-Man doesn't understand how vindictive inter-jurisdictional conflict can be. If he did, he wouldn't want to get involved!

Finally, Spider-Man takes Banner to see Dr. Strange, figuring that the good Doctor has the best chance of at least keeping Banner cool and calm for a while.

In General...

Most of the stories in this title suffer from broken logic and a surfeit of unreasonable coincidences. This issue is a pleasant exception. While the tale doesn't offer anything greatly original or startlingly new, it at least offers a plot which is consistent and balanced.

Overall Rating...

Adequate and readable. Perhaps I'm damning with faint praise here, but merely reaching the level of "competent" is a pretty good achievement in this title. Let's give credit where credit is due... or at least, credit where diffidence is due. Three and a half webs.

Footnote...

A two-page The Leader profile, two pages of gamma-irradiated puzzles, a coloring page, a double-sided centerfold pull-out poster, win Hulk Toys competition, two more pages of quiz, two-page Abomination profile, two pages of letters, and a "spot the differences" puzzle. 34 pages plus cover, thanks for coming folks.