Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #223

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This review was first published on: Dec 2012.

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. 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 erratic quality at best, this title is finally producing some half-decent material. Too bad that Disney (the new owner of Marvel) has announced its intention to pull the plug on all non-U.S. original stories.

Very soon, this will become a reprint-only title, so this issue is destined to become one of the last original Spider-Man stories to be created and and released outside the United States.

In Detail...

"Moon Madness"
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #223
Jul 2011 : SM Title
Summary: 27-Jul-2011
Editor:  Patrick Bishop
Writer:  Ferg Handley
Artist:  John McCrea
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Our story is entitled "Moon Madness", and it dutifully begins on the moon, where the Inhuman royal court are just standing around in their palace in the way that people never do.

One of them notices a small fluffy creature the size of a golf ball on the floor of the castle, and stomps on it. This turns out to be a bad move, as it promptly explodes into a dozen copies of itself, in utter disregard for the physical laws of conservation of mass. But putting aside such trivial objections, it appears that the Inhumans have a problem on their hands.

Cut to New York City, where Spider-Man's evening rounds are interrupted by the sudden appearance of Lockjaw, the giant teleporting pet dog belonging to the Inhumans. Spidey is a bit confused, but notes that they just happen to be near the Baxter Building, home to the Fantastic Four. Together Spidey and Lockjaw teleport into the FF's living room where they encounter the super team.

Immediately, the Fantastic Four's robot H.E.R.B.I.E. motors into view, ready to take the offensive. Apparently there is a pointless and irrational long-standing enmity between H.E.R.B.I.E. and Lockjaw, which continues as a sub-plot throughout the issue.

But to return to our main story. Reed notices a data disk attacked to Lockjaw's collar, which when decoded is revealed as a call for help from the Inhumans. Their moon base is being overwhelmed by the rapidly reproducing creatures, which are also consuming all of the available oxygen. Oh noes! Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four must leap to the rescue, because... well, I don't know.

I also don't know why Lockjaw was sent by himself, with just a data disk. Lockjaw is capable of teleporting with many others. So why not send another Inhuman along, just in case, I dunno, Lockjaw got lost. Or perhaps nobody noticed the data disk on his collar?

Let's remember that the Inhumans are a population of tens of thousand beings each with unique super-human abilities. Please also note that while the FF have carefully equipped themselves with oxygen masks, that's not going to be much use to Johnny Storm, aka the Human Torch. His powers will be essentially useless in the oxygen-deprived atmosphere of the moon base. Even if he does manage to get up a flame, he's just going to use up the remaining oxygen and further suffocate the people they have come to save.

In any case, from here on in, the story basically descends into further confusion and silliness. Lockjaw teleports Spider-Man, H.E.R.B.I.E. and the FF back to the moon base, where they uncover meandering and ill-considered plot by Maximus the Mad (a rogue Inhuman who regularly launches plots to sabotage the Inhuman society and seize control of the throne).

The plot involves a giant monster, these genetically engineered self-replicating "Druffs", a machine to suck up all of the oxygen, and a neutron bomb with a remote control. Naturally, the earth heroes save the day, while the Inhumans look on with wide-eyed gratitude.

As for the mandatory comic punchline? The Thing invites Lockjaw back to stay at the Baxter Building for a vacation, much to the annoyance of H.E.R.B.I.E.

In General...

What a disappointment! The quality of the stories over the past few years had been steadily improving from "abysmal" through "mostly adequate" to "occasionally quite good". But this is a tragic relapse to the bad old days.

Not only is the plot silly, illogical and superficial, but the sub-plots and characterizations are terrible too. The whole thing is capped off with some slap-dash, half-finished artwork that makes the whole thing seem like one ill-conceived eleven page bundle of "we just got fired so who gives a damn anyway."

Overall Rating...

I'm really disappointed. The stories in this magazine were rarely exceptional in any positive way. But recently they had at least been generally well-constructed, competent and professional.

This is a tragic way to finish, with a story that clearly had abandoned seriousness in terms of humour, but failed on that front also.

One and a half-webs.

Footnote...

This isn't the end for me in terms of Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine). I still have a dozen or so back-issues of this title left to review in our "British History" Lookback series.