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. Currently we've just kicked off "Bad New Day", a story arc which promises to make Spidey's life pretty tough, starting by having some anonymous mastermind us the Tinkerer's robot Spider-Man to have the original webslinger framed as a criminal. Again.
So how is Spider-Man going to get out of this mess? Well, a couple of things are fairly easy to guess. Firstly, it will take a few more issues, and secondly the cover would indicate that Black Cat, White Tiger and Molten Man will form at least part of the next stage in the process.
This episode leads with Peter Parker and Mary Jane walking together in the park. Mary Jane believed Peter was in Washington on a college trip, while in fact Peter as Spider-Man was being held hostage by the Tinkerer in New York the whole time. The unwieldiness of that particular plot convolution was the subject of some discussion in last issue's review. We'll say no more on the topic here.
Of course, Peter is then in trouble with his course tutor who is quite aware that he didn't make the trip. But instead of working hard to make up the credit, Peter dons the old red-and-blues and heads off trying to clear his name. To no avail, as crime-fighting heavyweight team The Avengers publicly announce that they will be out to capture Spider-Man if he doesn't turn himself in within 48 hours.
Well, Captain America has always trusted Spider-Man in the past. But I guess one apparent crime can't outweigh 500 stories fighting side by side and trusting each other with their lives, can it. Nah.
Well, Spidey heads to find a good lawyer, but Matt Murdock is off in Japan, so he burns off some steam fighting crime. Of course, with his ruined reputation, the crooks think Spidey's just looking for a cut, while the cops all want to arrest him. In a completely pointless interlude, Spider-Man spends two filler pages tackling The Grizzly, before swinging down to investigate some guy dressed in a big black overcoat, wearing a gas mask, and firing a rifle at him.
Surprise! The guy has sleep gas up his sleeve, which he uses to send the web-slinger to sleepy-bye-byes land. Then the man in black reveals himself to be none other than... Tombstone! Sure. Whatever.
Well, Spider-Man wakes up from the gas to find himself in the Manhattan Gallery of Art. Moreover he is not alone, sharing an exhibition room with Black Cat, The Prowler, White Tiger and Molten Man. All are "mostly good" guys, and all are foes of the man who reveals himself to be behind the latest kidnapping. Yes, it's. Umm... let me check. Oh yeah, it's The Kingpin, coming to you live via a web-feed to a self-destructing laptop.
So, what's the plan? Battle killer robots? Battle two-hundred armed goons? Battle... each other? Nope. Nothing at all. Just frame them all for an art robbery and call the cops. Here come the boys in blue now!
Well, actually, that wasn't too bad. Sure, nothing really happened until right at the end. In fact, I'm sure Stan Lee would have scripted the last two issues into ten pages and still have room for two Hostess Twinkies advertisements before he hit the center staples.
But despite the slowness of the plot and the couple of filler pages, we're getting somewhere. In fact, I'm tempted to use the word "inexorable", and to be honest that's a big step up from the other word I usually use to describe this title, which is "execrable".
Go on then, let's head into to "Better Than Average" territory with three and a half luscious webs.
The usual filler pads around to make 11 pages of story into a 32 page magazine. One of the sides of the pull-out centerfold poster features "Menace" from the mainstream titles. No idea why, she has never appeared in the Spectacular UK issues as far as I'm aware.