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.
The Spider-Man story occupies eleven or twelve pages of the 32 page magazine, and is aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. But what is it they say in Hollywood - "Nobody ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence of their audience." Clearly that's a maxim the publishers and writers of this particular offering have taken to heart.
The remaining pages of each issue are filled with puzzles, posters and factoids centered around the issues guest star(s), be they heroes or villains. This issue's guest villain is Doctor Octopus.
Our splash page features Spider-Man KO'd at the hands of Doctor Octopus. Our embattled hero is poorly-drawn, depicted with a ultra-skinny waist which makes it seem as though Ock defeated the web-slinger by tricking him into wearing a "Deadly Girdle... OF DOOM!" But nope, it's just guest artist Jack Lawrence stamping his lack of talent onto the very first panel. I see Jack hasn't been invited back in the following few issues, and I'm not surprised.
Nope, it seems that it wasn't a girdle that did our hero in. Instead, his downfall is apparently "music" - in a story entitled "Total Control". What? Our hero was defeated by The Motels? Well, I'd sell my soul for total control over the script of a Spider-Man magazine. But, somehow I suspect I'm reading that wrong. Let's go into flashback mode and resume the thread of our story... four hours earlier...
Flash is hassling Peter as our alter-ego hero eats pizza. "Careful bookworm, eat too much and your scrawny legs will collapse under the strain."
Our super-genius protagonist can't abandon a perfect set-up line like that one. With razor-edged with he fires back with a cutting retort. "What, like the way your BRAIN collapses when you're reading a cereal packet?"
OUCH! BURN! Flash zero, Parker INFINITY points! Parker and MJ high-five each other. Flash realizes he's totally out of his league, and skulks off, plugging in his brand new MP3 player. Which he found. On the pavement. Loaded with unknown songs. Peter's spider-sense fires up as soon as Flash activates the player. Oooh... spooky!
Peter tries to warn Flash, but that's never gonna work. So he trails Eugene (that's Flash's real name, but I guess you knew that). He follows Flash home, and then later follows Flash as he heads to an abandoned warehouse. But it's not quite so abandoned, it's full of people wearing MP3 players! Oh yeah, and Doctor Octopus is there too!
Spidey snags a player, and as you'd imagine, it's Ock's voice with a high-pitched oscillating hypno undertone. Everybody is being instructed to commit crimes and return with the proceeds.
Umm... did it not occur to Ock that perhaps at least ONE of those semi-conscious, robot-like amateur criminals might actually get arrested, and that the headphones would lead the police right back to his lair, where Ock would find it impossible to actually get his hands on his loot. And what are these hypnotized people going to steal? Are they all going to walk, zombie-like, into banks and demand cash, then stroll off down the street?
No, the best most of them are going to do is turn up with second-hand TVs. And then Ock has a pile of crappy loot which is impossible to unload. So did he never consider that all he needs to do is hypnotize ONE lousy stock trader, ship the cash to Switzerland, convert it to diamonds, and he'll make ten thousand times the profit that this dumb scheme could ever clear?
Well, Spidey doesn't care. He yells out a warning to Ock (as he always does) then launches his attack. Fight, of course Spidey wins, but then Ock calls in his mindless minions (as always happens in these situations). The minions defeat Spider-Man by sheer weight of numbers ('cos Spider-Man never thinks to simply leap up and stick to the roof out of reach). Then Ock slaps some headphones on Spider-Man, and the wallcrawler is instantly under his control!
Except... Spider-Man already tried the headphones on, which is how he learned what they did. So we're not really that surprised when it doesn't work this time. He leaps clear, KO's the good Doctor, then activates the "fail safe device" conveniently mounted on the wall. Yes, Doctor Octopus spent a great deal of time creating a device which instantly de-hypnotizes people. Why would he do that? Well, maybe Otto figured that there was a good chance that one day he would give up his life of crime, and wanted to be sure that the option as always open to him.
Spider-Man reveals that he got hypnotized once, ages ago, and trained himself to be immune. Then our hero tells all the now-released people that they shouldn't just keep stuff that they find on the pavement. Finally in this earth-shattering denouement the web-slinger informs Ock that it's a shame he turned to crime, since he would have made a great DJ, running six tables at the same time. HAHA! Laugh? I nearly did!
This is the same old drivel we've been seeing in this title for a couple of years now. A hackneyed old recycled plot, some shabby excuses for characterizations, a totally predictable conclusion, with some tragically disappointing attempts at humor.
The rest of this issue features a coloring page, a full-page advertisement for Manchester United stickers, a two-page factoid spread on Doc Ock, and a couple of pages of puzzles. Throw in a two page "Marvel Movie Update" covering Iron Man and the Dr. Strange animated feature film, plus a nice centerfold pinup poster, and another page of "subscribe to this magazine" advertisement.
Finally there's a two-page "Test Yourself" page (what item did Spidey notice all the people in the warehouse wearing (a) Baseball Caps, (b) Headphones, (c) Pink Wigs). Cut out and make some targets to throw your Goblin Gliders at. Did I mention each issue comes with free toys? There's two pages of "partner profiles", two pages of fan art, and a final "spot the differences" puzzle.
Inside back cover is another self-promotion page for the next issue, and the back cover is advertisements for a collectible card game "Gormiti".
You know that something's really not right with a magazine when the coloring-in page is the most entertaining part.
Once upon a time, there used to be a regular cycle of writers in this magazine, some good, some not so good. However, Ferg Handley has been the full-time writer for at least a year, and I haven't enjoyed a single damn story in all that time. This latest offering is no exception. One and a half sorry webs.