Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #192
This review was first published on: Aug 2010.
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. This is Spidey's primary UK non-reprint magazine. He also appears in the pre-school Spider-Man & Friends (UK Magazine), along with occasional guest appearances in Marvel Heroes (UK Magazine).
The Spider-Man story occupies eleven or twelve pages of this 32 page publication, and is aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. The plots for these stories feature classic Marvel characters and villains. While they often echo plots from the mainstream comics, they do so in their own special style.
Last issue we wrapped up the "Bad New Day" arc, with Spider-Man narrowly escaping the Kingpin's plot to see the web-head handed a beating and a one-way trip to prison.
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #192
Oct 2009 : SM Title
Our story opens with the Avengers publicly exonerating Spider-Man of any involvements in the crimes for which he was framed so recently. Kingpin meanwhile is being indicted on several counts of... the usual stuff. That leaves Spider-Man free to repair his tarnished reputation. But more importantly it leaves Peter some time to catch up on his friend Harry Osborn.
In this version of the Spider-Verse, Norman Osborn set up his son Harry to be the next Green Goblin. Spidey got involved, and before it was all over, Harry was sent off to a psycho ward down in Florida to recover, and Norman was missing presumed (but probably not actually) dead. Harry has just recently returned from his time in "unwilling super-villain rehab" and seems to be recovering, though rather tired. But are things ever that simple? Harry falls asleep and Peter costumes-up and hits the webs just as a shadowy figure wearing an expensive suit and with curly ribbed hair pushes the buzzer to Harry's apartment. Who on earth could it be?!
Scene change. Spider-Man attempts to tackle a super-villain with tornado powers. Unfortunately the perp is too powerful and the web-slinger is unable to foil the robbery. The crime is repeated over the next few days with a similar MO. Seems nobody can catch the guy. Unless...? Spidey gets a teensy break. Following a report of a weird UFO sighting shortly after one of the robberies, he sniffs around and spots a Benjamin just lying in the grass. Franklin, that is. A $100 note.
Spidey follows the trail, and before too long he spots Whirlwind. Formerly "The Human Top". Whirlwind's hiding out in a shack in the middle of nowhere. But more important is the guy he's shacked-up with. It's super-brainiac-villain "Egghead". Whirlwind ain't famous for being too clever, and it's clear that Egghead is the smarts behind the operation. And what is clever-boy thinking? Well, Egghead wants to get enough cash to re-unite the Masters of Evil.
Nah, I don't remember who was in this universe's version of the Masters of Evil. But suffice to say Spider-Man is keen to put a stop to all this before it goes any further. He swings in through the window and launches an all-out attack on Whirlwind. Of course, as we have already seen, Spider-Man was no match for Whirlwind in open battle. But the web-head uses his noggin and fills the room with webbing strands until he eventually manages to corner the spinning sociopath and trap him.
At this point, Egghead pulls out a giant ray gun. Spidey dodges the blast, naturally, but the event is the trigger for the final act in this conflict. Ant-Man and The Wasp suddenly "zoom" into view. Apparantly they have been watching the whole thing, but couldn't get involved because they were waiting for Egghead to break the conditions of his parole. Once he pulled out the gun, that's enough to...
Hang on a minute. So, consorting with known criminals, organizing criminal acts, receiving the money from criminal acts, stating an intention to reform a group which surely has been declared a criminal organisation. None of that broke his parole? But when he pulls out a gun to defend himself from a home invasion from a vigilante (Spider-Man in this case), then that's the point where he has broken parole?
This really is an alternate universe. One where the rules of common-sense no longer apply!
Spider-Man takes a moment to assault Egghead by slapping him on his bald head while he's in custody. It's all the kind of stuff which will help a good lawyer get Egghead released with no charges. Then Peter heads back home where he receives a call from Harry. It turns out that the shadowy visitor who looked just like Norman was... actually... Norman. And Norman once knew Spider-Man's secret identity. Does he still?
There's a popular technique in comics. A figure is depicted, shadowy or partly covered. He seems familiar, and has characteristics in common with another character we are familiar with. Tension is raised. Could it be? But no! A surprise switch is made. It turns out the character we saw was actually not the obvious person, but was in fact somebody unexpected!
It's a great technique. It didn't get used here. On three different occasions we were partly shown characters. A figure who looked like Norman turned out after ten pages to be Norman after all. A spinning green villain looking like Whirlwind turned out five pages later to actually be... Whirlwind. And in the midst of it all, the silhouettes of Ant-Man and Wasp were revealed three pages later to be... Ant-Man and Wasp.
The bulk of the story was actually fairly well told. There was plenty happening, and it all dovetailed together with no real problems. However the dumbness around Egghead's parole conditions and the complete and utter lack of surprise in each of the three "guess who" character appearances really put all the other good work to waste.
It looks like a two-web story. But I'm actually going to give it... wait for it... the score is... two webs.