Ever wondered what happened to the Spider-Man of the 90's TV cartoon series? Well, he's alive and kicking in Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine, currently being released every three weeks in the United Kingdom. Each issue features a swag of puzzles, posters, letters, and general all-out Spidey fun - all aimed at the young at heart. Plus, there's an 11-page original story featuring more of Spider-Man's Adventures.
Spidey's having a nightmare, with Doc Strange in it. In this dream, Doc is trapped by the guy we indeed know as Nightmare, with a capital "N". Heh, could this be what I think it is? Peter awakens with a jolt, and he's curious enough to head out for a midnight swing past Strange's house. He can't resist knocking on the door, and the worried look on the fact of Wong (Strange's assistant) is enough to confirm his fears. Yep, the good Doctor is having one heck of a bad dream... it's lasted two days already!
Spidey agrees to be hypnotised into sleep, and so enters the dread realm of Nightmare. There he encounters demonic versions of his classic foes (from whom he sensibly flees), and a nastly looking nightmare version of Mary-Jane, from whom he also runs! Smart boy. Making his way at last to the spooky castle he saw from afar, positioned clearly at the high-point of the realm, Spidey discovers that his arrival was long known by the castle's inhabitant - the lord and master of this dread dreamland, the one and only Nightmare. Well, it's not like that was a surprise.
Nightmare sets his forces on Spidey, while gloating about having discovered a spell to entrap Doctor Strange. This is, of course, his downfall. The villain gets far too engrossed in his gloating, and gives the web-slinger the chance to cast a spell freeing the Doctor. Yep, sneaky old Wong taught Spidey to cast a spell, and the Strange one is freed. Of course, they're not out of the woods yet! Strange and Spidey race off, with Nightmare in fast pursuit on his fiery steed. Things look bad for our heroes, until they manage to lead Nightmare into the "Region of Madness". Nightmare had been too intent on his chase to realise that they had all entered the one part of this plane that even he could not control.
Nightmare is himself trapped by the frightful denizens of this insane area, who are none other than the monsters that normally would serve him, but who are free in this place to seek revenge on their former master! The heroes bargain with Nightmare, and win a promise of freedom in return for saving the dreamlord. He honors the deal, and the good guys go free. On returning his normal plane of existance, Spidey declares that he needs a good sleep - that last nap has totally worn him out!
This is a perfectly good story. It features some classic and perhaps well-worn elements. Rescuing Strange from the plane of (XYZ) is pretty common, and the battles in the land of Nightmare follow well-established trails. The villain's gloating recap of his scheme-so-far being the hero's opportunity for rescue and escape. Even the villain's furious pursuit leading him into trouble is not exactly novel.
But, like so many things, it's not necessarily what you do - it's the way that you do it. The dialog is light but tight, the pace is well-measured (not too fast, not too padded), and there are no serious plot holes. There's a nice little twist with Spidey turning the magic tables on the two mages, and a bit of a droll chuckle at the end.
None of this is gonna win the Man Booker Prize, or an Eisner Award. It's all pitched at kids, but the basics are done well enough for me to be able to read the story without feeling like it's a chore. Here's a generous three-and-a-half webs for a competent tale with nice bright, fun artwork.