Marvel Heroes is the third UK Spider-Man/Marvel Magazine title from the Panini stable. The others are Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) for early teens, and Spider-Man & Friends (UK Magazine) for the pre-school market. Marvel Heroes is a recent replacement for the relatively short-lived Rampage (UK) which was also aimed at the mid-late teen market.
This magazine features 36 glossy pages. As the title indicates, the content is 100% Marvel related, and most of the major Marvel Heroes get a look-in from time to time. The audience is clearly early/mid-teens, with plenty of DVD, movie and video-game link-in.
Two original and separate 7-page comic book stories headline the issue. This time around there's a Spider-Man story (at last) and an X-Men story. Iron Man features in many of the puzzles and articles, this time around, since the Iron Man DVD release took place around this time.
The Spider-Man story is a by-the-numbers "Freeze the Lizard" tale by Ferg Handley, who is the regular writer for Panini's other teen-oriented Spidey offering - Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine).
MJ calls Peter one night and persuades him to go ice skating the next day. Meanwhile, Doctor Connors has become the Lizard, and comes on a night hunt for Peter Parker. Parker becomes Spidey and with a flash of inspiration the web-head leads the Lizard to the ice-skating rink. The night guard runs away, Spidey cranks up the cooling fans and the Lizard falls into a chilled sleep.
Later, Spidey talks with Doc Connors and discovers that the Lizard read Peter's name off the "list of people that have helped me" that the Doc left lying around the place. The End.
As you'll probably know from my reviews of Spectacular Spider-Man UK, I'm no fan of Handley's writing, and this tale just reinforces my prejudices. But I guess it boils down to what you're trying to achieve. If the goal is simply "script seven pages that we can illustrate showing a sequence of events involving Spider-Man" then I guess they succeeded here.
But personally, I just ask for more than that. Call me old-fashioned, but I think that every time a writer sets pen to paper, they should try and produce something original and worthwhile. Every time. For me, the idea that somebody would scribble down some old recycled piece of crap just to fill in the space... well, that's a total anathema to me. It just makes me angry.
There are so many talented writers and Spidey fans out there who are utterly desperate to get a chance to show their skills, that to see this dross filling the magazine pages just to make up the page count... I can't help but feel infuriated. It's like watching a truck dump a load of fresh food at the tip while kids on the other side of town go hungry to school. This is a crime against humanity!
Well, OK... maybe popular entertainment is slightly below world hunger on the global injustice scale. But you see my point. I personally know at least ten people who could write better stories than this, and who would do it for free. Mind you, after five years of dissing Panini in public, I don't expect to get an invitation in the mail myself. But there are plenty of folks out there would could and would produce something far more worthy.
Hey, maybe I'm completely misreading the market. Maybe thirteen year old kids can't tell shit from gold. Maybe Ferg is a reliable writer who always gets his scripts in on time - and maybe the sales figures wouldn't shift one iota if Joss Whedon took up the position. Maybe it's part of the licensing agreement... Panini can publish Spider-Man stories in this magazine as long as they only use recycled concepts, so as to leave the dwindling pool of fresh ideas available for the mainstream U.S. titles.
Or maybe this is a piece-of-crap magazine for teens that only buy it for the pretty pictures. Am I asking too much when I beseech a publisher to care about the quality of some rag which probably never aspired to be anything more than a piece of marketing tie-in fluff? Hell, I don't know.
It's shite, and it makes me mad. The premier issue features a couple of worthy stories, but now in the second issue we're back to the usual "here to make up the page count" filler. One web.
Other stuff: 1 page "infomercial" for Iron Man DVD. 1 page promo for an Iron Man Rocket Blast Launcher toy by Hasbro. 2 page promo for Spider-Man Web of Shadows video game and Marvel TPB reprints. 2 page Iron man data file. 1 page Spider-Man poster. (Nice) centerfold Marvel Heroes poster. 1 page X-Men poster. Lame 7 page X-Men story featuring X-Men rescuing a Dutch mutant kid from an anti-mutant task force and a Sentinel. 2 page Sentinel data file. 1 page cut-out Iron Man mask taken from the pre-school Panini mag Spider-Man & Friends (UK Magazine), 1 page draw Doc Ock, 2 page Iron Man puzzles, 1 page competition entry form, 1 page Spider-Man cut-out factoid card.