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. This is Spidey's primary UK non-reprint magazine. He also appears in the pre-school Spider-Man & Friends (UK Magazine), along with occasional guest appearances in Marvel Heroes (UK Magazine).
The Spider-Man story occupies eleven or twelve pages of this 32 page publication, and is aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. The plots for these stories feature classic Marvel characters and villains. While they often echo plots from the mainstream comics, they do so in their own special style.
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 features... well, according to the cover it's a "Robot Special".
The first thing I notice on opening the issue is that the inside cover and page 1 of the real content is filled with a double-page advertisement for "Monster Hunter: Freedom Unit" on PSP. It's an instant hit to the eyeballs, as up until now the advertising inside this magazine has been generally quite limited both in quantity and also quite adept in keeping the advertising subtle and well-balanced with the content.
By contract, the realistic look and feel of this PSP ad, along with the earthy coloring makes this introduction stick out like a sore thumb. Let's quickly move on and hope for some better balance within the main body of the magazine.
We don't have to wait long for action. Spider-Man is robbing a bank. KO'ing a couple of cops he heads off with the loot. Naturally when the news hits, JJJ is delighted. But Mary Jane has other problems. Her part-time boyfriend Peter Parker is on a science fair trip to Washington and hasn't called.
Another of Peter's female friends is also worried about him. Black Cat is scouring the city until she spots Spidey... heading out of a Jewelery store with another sack full of loot. It sure looks like the real thing! Felicia chases Spidey down to ask him what's going on, but gets a beating for her pains. Strangely, Felicia's "bad luck" powers don't cut in. Spider-Man heads off again without saying a word and this time Black Cat follows at a discreet distance until she tracks him back to a warehouse where the Spider-Man android hands over the loot to the Tinkerer.
By this stage we're five pages in to an eleven page story, and there's nothing here that wouldn't have been more simply covered by saying "Spider-Man stock story #17B with Tinkerer option".
Ah, here we go. We now see that Tinkerer has Spider-Man captured and chained. What's more we learn that ol' Tink is working for somebody else, and the primary goal of the exercise is to frame Spider-Man. The healthy profit is just a bonus. Well, Felicia doesn't wait for much more explanation, she drops down and lets Spider-Man free. Spidey then explains that he was "jumped while on patrol on Sunday".
Well that makes no sense. Mary Jane was quite explicit that Peter had headed out of town. But clearly he was in New York. So who told her that he was in Washington on a science fair? Unless it was complete coincidence that he planned to go out of town, told MJ, but then was out on patrol one last time before leaving and got kidnapped just before he left? Bit of a stretch though, isn't it?
Well, there's no time to figure out the whys and wherefores. The Tinkerer has spotted the two heroes on the loose. Tink himself zaps Felicia with an electro... zapper, while Real Spider-Man tackles Robot Spider-Man. That's a bit of a problem, as Robot Spidey has every move that Spidey knows programmed into his data banks. So, in a clever moment of inspiration, Spidey grabs a metal disk and makes like Captain America.
The shield-throw slams the robot, which promptly explodes. That sets off a chain reaction of chemicals, destroying all the evidence Spidey needed to prove his innocence. Meanwhile The Tinkerer has vanished too, leaving Spidey somewhat in the doo-doo. Furthermore, all signs point to things getting worse, as this story is entitled Public Enemy: Prologue to 'Bad New Day'
Perhaps this is the start of some UK Spectacular Magazine version of "The Gauntlet"? Clearly Spider-Man is being set up for a good run of hard-luck issues as an anonymous mastermind sets out to ruin our heroes life.
As always at the start of these long Spectacular UK Magazine arcs, I push down the painful memories of the last five years and hope for the best. I'm sure I'll be disappointed, but for now I will (as ever) give the benefit of the doubt and offer a "could be much worse" 2 webs.
The gaping plot-hole with Peter's alibi is still unexplained. Also, there's no explanation of why the Tinkerer didn't unmask Spider-Man. I guess we can say that "he was under strict instructions not to do so". But we shouldn't have to make up these explanations - the writer of the story should be thinking through the angles.
Aww... who am I kidding?
Posters, puzzles, coloring pages, fan art and letters. The usual stuff fills out the rest of the issue. Robots in general are the theme for much of the bonus content.