Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #204
This review was first published on: Jan 2011.
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.
After a few years of disappointing plots and scripts, the preceding twelve months of this title has seen a general improvement in story quality, with the exception of a few obligatory "Iron Man" movie tie-ins which have felt decidedly forced. This issue promises to grace the reader's eye with a few well-rounded "Black Widow" curves.
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #204
Jun 2010 : SM Title
Sexy super-spy the Black Widow stars in this issue. Oh yeah, baby! There's something about redheads in black, skin-tight leather that really...
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Our tale opens in Forest Hills as Peter Parker has just about had enough biochemistry after an all-night study session. Rather than grabbing some sleep, our insomniac hero swaps into the red-and-blues, fires a webline up into the sky and swings away.
Just one question here. To what exactly can you attach a webline, high above the suburban rooftops in Queens? From the look of the illustration, Spidey has developed the ability to swing from low-flying clouds! Now that's a handy trick!
Let's just pretend that a helicopter happened to be buzzing past so that we can move on. A big helicopter, one big enough to not notice the sudden addition of an extra web-slinging passenger. One just happening to be heading into Manhattan, which is where our hero discovers a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier hovering over a high-tech research facility.
Another time-out please. Actually, I worked on the East Coast for a while, in a couple of high tech facilities. My experience was that all those places were actually on the mainland, in Boston or New Jersey. Real estate prices are just way too crazy high to put them on the island. Even Microsoft isn't rich enough to afford to put a sprawling research park on Manhattan!
Sorry. If I point out every fundamental logical flaw in this story, we'll never finish. Spider-Man swings down to investigate and discovers the luscious Black Widow attempting to defend the facility against a targeted smash-and-grab raid being performed by Crusher Creel (aka the Absorbing Man), who is working on behalf of A.I.M. That's Advanced Idea Mechanics, the guys who make a living acquiring and then selling high-tech weapons.
A.I.M. don't actually physically appear in the story, but they're the ones who sent Creel on the mission to acquire (a) some data disks, and (b) a high tech compound sample of "Dipolyethylene" - a substance stronger than steel but as flexible as latex. If you store your comics in plastic bags (as all collectors should) then you might recognize part of the name of that substance. I think that's a bit of an in-joke there.
Spider-Man drops in on the scene just in time to save the Widow from being pounded to jelly by Creel's wrecking ball. He then tackles Creel head-on and gets buried in a pile of rubble for his troubles, as Creel manages to steal both the data disks and the Dipolyethylene sample. Naturally, the Absorbing Man can't resist trying the sample, and he uses his uncanny power to give himself the super-strong properties of the new substance.
Well, that doesn't make life any easier for our two heroes, who have just dug themselves out from under half a ton of concrete. If the Absorbing Man could defeat them before, what hope do they have now? What hope? Well, if you'll cast your mind back to the start of the tale, you'll recall that Peter Parker is a biochemistry whiz. Even better, he's in the lab where Dipolyethylene was invented, and that means he has access to all the associated notes and chemicals.
The Black Widow arranges for the rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team to run a stalling action, while Spider-Man mixes up a solvent. Spidey and the Widow then catch up with Creel and the web-slinger squirts the Absorbing Man with his improvised chemical mixture. This triggers the desired chain reaction, Creel reverts back to flesh and bone, and is knocked out by a powerful Spider-punch to the chin. Game over.
This is a fairly common story pattern. Spider-Man can't overcome his foe by brute force, but his science-skills give him the edge. I've seen this plot played out a couple of hundred times, so it's hardly original. But at least it is a story and not just a slug-fest.
Two webs for the story, plus a bonus web for the Black Widow with a spray-on bodysuit, a towering 1960's hair-do, and a figure that would have an hour-glass slinking off shamefully to sign up for Weight Watchers. Three webs all up.