Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #172

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.

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. Recent issues have featured Iron Man and Hulk stories to tie-in with the contemporary movies. This issue sees us back to our scheduled program with The Prowler appearing in a story named "Identity Crisis".

Story 'Identity Crisis'

The "Identity Crisis" tagline is somewhat worn-out in Spider-Man Storyland, having been the moniker already attached to a couple of tales in the regular comic books. This particular example opens with Peter Parker having a nightmare in which all his friends have turned against him. But he awakes to reality, and the realization that things are actually going pretty well in his private life. But how long can that last?

About a panel-and-a-half, actually. The Daily Bugle morning paper front page features Wilson Fisk announcing that he intends to reveal Spider-Man's secret identity... as a public service. Major bummer, arachno-dude!

You and I might guess that Fisk doesn't actually know Spidey's identity, and that this is some sort of trap. But for the sake of the plot, Spider-Man is duly worried, and heads over to Fisk Tower to case the joint and see if he can foil the fat man's plans. And he's not alone. The Prowler (aka Hobie Brown) is there. Spider-Man has previously encountered the Prowling one in an earlier issue, and knows that Mr. Brown is one of the good guys.

Spider-Man observes The Prowler breaking into Fisk Tower. Instantly, Peter is sure that the Prowler intends to try and recover whatever evidence the Kingpin has, in an attempt to protect his pal Spidey's anonymity. Spider-Man knows that Prowler is out of his league, so heads in as backup... just in time to see Prowler captured by the the Kinpin's hired killer... Puma. Puma promptly tosses Hobie through the N-teenth story plate glass window.

Well, you can probably guess the rest. Spider-Man fails to save Hobie, and is instead nerve-punched by Puma, who then has the upper hand on Spider-Man. Meanwhile, of course, Kingpin reveals that he never really had any evidence and that the whole thing was a set-up. D'uh! Did anybody see THAT one coming?

Spider-Man is about to get his lumps courtesy of Puma when Prowler swings back through the window and does the rescue thing, incapacitating Puma with some compressed-air blasts to the ear-drums. Spider-Man KO's Kingpin, who topples out of the broken window. Naturally, Spidey makes the save, hauling Fisk in via a web-line.

So the web-head managed to escape the trap, but he still feels pretty jerked around. Can the wall-crawler get any revenge and balance the scales? Sure he can, with his parting line: "Funny, ain't it? You go to all that trouble to unmask me... but for the past year, you've been paying my wages."

If that doesn't make Fisk paranoid, I don't know what will!

General Comments

Regular scripter Ferg Handley isn't famous for his original story lines, and this one is a pretty good example of classic Spidey fodder rehashed for the umpteenth time. The "plot twist" is visible a mile off, and there's very little to add any freshness to the whole affair.

On the plus side, nothing is too badly handled, and Spidey's parting shot is a pretty clever piece of decoration which is worthy of note. Clever lines in this magazine are few and far between, and each one deserves special mention.

Overall Rating

Two webs for a run-of-the-mill rehash piece, with a bonus half web for a funny line. That makes two-point-five by my count.