Welcome to our "British History" lecture series. Our goal is to shed some light onto the murky history of one of Spidey's lesser known current titles... the alternate universe UK-only series Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine).
Started in 1995 as "reprints plus filler", it transmogrified itself a few years later and swapped that reprint content for 11 pages of original story content written by UK creators.
It's still running currently (in 2010). But we only started regularly reviewing from issue 100 or so (and even then we had a break for a couple of years during the #120's and #130's). Now, thanks to the joint miracles of eBay UK and international shipping, we're planning to track down and review all those other stories that slipped through the cracks the first time around.
This is the oldest "new, original Spidey feature" issue of this title that I own, and I'm leaping in cold to the middle of an ongoing story arc. As the splash page informs me, Spider-Man is off on some desert island battling terrorists, and in his absence a terrible crime-wave has engulfed New York. It's not quite clear if this is due to the webhead's absence, or merely coincidence.
I guess it doesn't really matter. Peter Parker is back in town (not sure what cover story he used), and he's short of cash. His only obvious legal option for getting some dough is taking photos for the Daily Bugle, and the only story Jameson is interested in is the crime wave. Of course, Jonah wants photos proving Spidey's involvement. Always the optimist.
So Spidey hits the streets, and also hits some muggers, gun-runners and general hoodlums. As the clunky artwork and childish script elaborates, Kingpin is far from happy with this, not least because he paid Hydra good money to have the wallcrawler whacked in Pagadora (which I guess is where the last couple of issues were stage-set).
Kingpin sets up a fake gang meeting as a trap for Spider-Man, and our hero falls for it hook, line and sinker. Catching Spidey by surprise, the Kingpin's hired help chain Spidey and toss him from a great height, then shoot him with a flamethrower. But it's not long before the battle swings back in favor of the good guys, and Spider-Man eventually walks off leaving a pile of thumped thugs behind him.
Of course, that didn't really do him any good. Spidey didn't actually bother asking what was going on, or even who was behind it all. Instead he limps off to hospital with no photos and various broken bones.
Meanwhile Kingpin laments that Spider-Man has ruined a valuable operation. It's not clear which one, however. All we saw this issue was a few beaten-up thugs and some damage to a warehouse which the Kingpin preselected as the location for the fight, so presumably it wasn't a particularly strategic set-up. Not sure. Maybe it was something that happened last issue that he is still complaining about? In any case, Kingpin swears that one day he will have his vengeance. Sure. Whatever.
Looking back nearly ten years in this magazine is a bit of a culture shock. I often complain about the gaping plot holes and silly pointless nature of the recent stories in this title. But this tale seems pitched at an even lower age-group.
Everybody speaks in semi-literate sentence fragments, and the dialog states every obvious move just as if it were actually written for a radio show. The art is never allowed to do its work, which is a shame. Mind you, the artwork is reduced to basics too, primitive, large and blocky it's not exactly cutting edge stuff.
Again, maybe it's just the difference in target age group. Where the current issues try and hit the early teen market, perhaps this one is aiming more at the pre-teens? I'm going to go with that explanation. It seems the most generous option. Perhaps also back there the magazine didn't have the same resources, or as much access to graphics design software.
Even with allowance for a younger target market and less sophistication in the production team, I still can't give too much credit here. There's too much violence to really make this "kid-friendly", but it's too dumb to be "teen-target". Not sure who this would appeal to, but it doesn't really appeal to me.