Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #174

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This story is part of an Arc: "Time Quest"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4 / Part 5 / Part 6 / Part 7

This review was first published on: 2009.


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 are aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. The plots for these stories feature classic Marvel characters and villains, and often echo plots from the mainstream comics, but in their own special style.

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 story is "Time Quest (Part 2): Apocalypto Now!" Five super-villains intended to travel back in time to defeat Spider-Man, but instead have become isolated and stranded in random periods of the past (and perhaps the future).

With the Fantastic Four still trapped in the Negative Zone (and I know how that feels, I spent most of last week trapped in my very own personal "negative zone") it is now incumbent upon Spider-Man to rescue the mislocated malefactors before they can destroy time as we know it!

In Detail...

"Apocalypto Now!"
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #174
Oct 2008 : SM Title
Summary: 01-Oct-2008
Arc: Part 2 of "Time Quest"
Editor:  Ed Hammond
Script:  Ferg Handley
Pencils:  Andie Tong
Inker:  Kris Justice
Staff Only

Spider-Man has gone back in time... and I don't mean he's playing ABBA records and wearing flared trousers. Nope, he's in the year 10,894 BC and he's just startled a giant mammoth. Spider-Man makes mention of the fact that he is still in the location of New York, but without all the buildings and tarmac.

Things aren't looking good, as Fantastic Four general purpose robot H.E.R.B.I.E. appears to have gone on the fritz. And without H.E.R.B.I.E. to operate the time platform, Spider-Man can't get back home. So... how did the Sinister Six intend returning, if you need a robot to operate the controls. And anyhow, aren't all the controls back in the Baxter Building?

Ahh... Phoooey! Maybe I just need to accept the fact that just because this is a high-tech tale doesn't mean I should expect any consistency or logic. Let's just abandon any expectations of a consistent plot and accept that the storyline is nothing more than an excuse for drawing pictures of different time periods, and extended fight sequences involving colorful big-name Marvel characters.

Speaking of which... the Vulture turns up on the scene, with fancy face paint. He's been a busy boy since his arrival a month ago. The Vulture encountered a nomadic Native American tribe who had been wandering the country in search of "Janahoc", their "Vulture-God" who would save them from the disastrous "great fire from the sky" foretold in an ancient prophecy. Vulture is now their god, and he intends to kill Spider-Man, then stay in the past to enjoy the adoration of his new-found worshipful savages.

OH, YOU ARE MESSING WITH ME HERE! Is it possible for anybody to encounter an ancient tribe in a story and NOT be the god foretold in some OH-SO-FREAKING-CONVENIENT "ancient prophecy". Seriously, these guys have just come out of an ice age. They're struggling every day just to find enough calories to avoid lingering starvation... and yet they have time to wander around looking for their Vulture God... and are in just the right spot to encounter Adrian Toomes? AAARGGGGGHHHHHH!

Well, regardless of that whole business, the Vulture uses poisoned-tipped claws to subdue Spidey, who awakes later in a bamboo cage. To satisfy the prophecy, the web-slinger will be sacrificed at midnight. But in the mean-time, he's guarded by two guys with poison-tipped spears, so he can't escape.

He can't... WHAT? Spider-Man can dodge ten guys shooting at him with Uzis, but he doesn't think he has good enough reactions to avoid a couple of spear points and snap the wooden sticks? He can't web up their spear tips with the web-shooters that The Vulture didn't take off him while he was unconscious? He can't... AAARGGGGGHHHHHH! AAARGGGGGHHHHHH! AAARGGGGGHHHHHH! THE BAD THINKING! IT HURTS OUR HEADSIES!

Fortunately for my sanity H.E.R.B.I.E. turns up and distracts the spear-holders, and Spider-Man breaks free in 0.2 seconds flat, as I betcha he could have done all along. H.E.R.B.I.E. explains that a power surge in the time travel temporarily took him out of action, but he's back now.

H.E.R.B.I.E. then also explains the "great fire in the sky" mentioned in the "ancient prophecy". It seems that there was a giant comet strike in Eastern Canada about this time. South-Eastern portion of Hudson Bay to be exact - the bit that is strangely circular on the map even today. And now that the Vulture has caused the tribes to settle down, they will be destroyed by the comet, thus changing history irrevocably.

Now, this isn't simple stuff. It took me a few minutes to get it all clear, but I think it works like this.

  1. The tribes were wandering north looking for their Vulture God to save them from the Fire In The Sky.
  2. Under "normal history", they didn't find him, so they presumably wandered south again, and hence were out of range of the Eastern Canada comet impact.
  3. But in "modified history" they encountered Vulture, settled down, and are presumably all wiped out, including Toomes. Shame that the Vulture didn't study his Late Pleistocene geology, isn't it?

So that's all perfectly clear. Except the tiny question of... WHERE THE HECK DID THE PROPHECY COME FROM? Are we to believe that somebody foretold the events of the comet and started a prophecy that the tribes should travel north to seek the Vulture God who would save them?

But then... under "normal history" there was presumably no Vulture God, so the prophecy would fail. Under "modified history" the Vulture God turned up, but lead them to their doom. And in any case, without any prophecy at all, the tribes would have just stayed down south and been entirely safe. Bottom line, whoever created the prophecy clearly (a) had an incredible gift for future sight, and (b) apparently didn't like the tribe very much, and decided to screw them over by giving them a very unhelpful prophecy that would lead them to their doom.

But where were we? Oh yeah... Spider-Man has just escaped. He then defeats the Vulture and assumes the role of Tribal God himself. This allows him to "put history back on the right track" by commanding the tribes to "walk South for one thousand days". Did I mention that Spider-Man brought one of the Fantastic Four's Universal Communicators with him?

Now, let's just do some maths. When God tells you in person to walk for a thousand days, presumably you walk! Average walking pace for a woman is three miles an hour. Say the tribe doesn't take God too seriously, and walks for a mere two hours a day. After a thousand days, they're 6,000 miles south. From New York, that puts them somewhere south of Buenos Aires!

Of course, if they reckon that maybe God is actually quite serious and they walk three hours a day, they'll end up walking into the freezing seas off Cape Horn in southern Chile! In either case, I'm not sure that Spider-Man is doing them a big favor here!

All this is quietly ignored as Spider-Man drags Vulture back to current day and throws him in a stasis chamber next to Electro. And where to next? Off to recover Venom who is stuck in 998 AD, the so-called "Dark Ages".

In fact, the term "Dark Ages" used in the script has greatly fallen out of favor. As historians have learned more about the period, it seems that the rather offensive term "Dark Ages" (referring to the supposed retrograde progress made during that period) is part of an inaccurate and unfair portrayal. But with only three weeks to script a ten page story, I guess we can't expect writers to do any significant research into the period they are basing their tales on.

Yep, ten minutes spent reading WikiPedia is clearly too much to ask of the writer. They just want to get this stuff out the door, and damn the details!

In General...

There's several different factors in these stories. On one hand, there's the poor research and sloppy proof-reading of the "factual elements". But that's offset by the absurdly improbable McGuffins, Deus Ex Machina moments and incredible unexplained coincidences (ancient prophecy) that we are asked to unthinkingly accept.

But that's just part of the mix here, because we also have a dare-to-be-dumb shallowness which demands the complete lack of cognitive application, contrasting poignantly with turgidly complex "explanations". These "explanations" (just exactly how time was messed up and how to put it right) are so ham-fisted that they require you to sit down with a pencil and paper and sketch diagrams just to figure out how the entire mess might possibly be made to work in any shape or form.

Overall Rating...

Dumb but complex. Improbable, inaccurate and poorly researched. Nothing unusual here given the title's track record. One and a half webs.