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.
After a few years of erratic quality at best, this title is finally producing some half-decent material. Too bad that Disney (the new owner of Marvel) has announced its intention to pull the plug on all non-U.S. original stories. But there's still a few original UK stories to read before doom is pronounced.
Last issue, Peter Parker and Dr. Curt Connors joined a scientific expedition to collect dinosaur DNA from the Savage Land. Curt became the Lizard and attacked the camp. He defeated Spider-Man, and threw him down a cliff, from whence he was discovered and rescued by Kraven the Hunter.
Kraven gloats over Spider-Man, and explains that he intends to (a) find out what Spider-Man knew about the secret mission on which Kraven has been employed, (b) hunt Spider-Man to the death, and (c) unmask and humiliate him. Just the usual stuff.
So Kraven begins to interrogate Spider-Man. But since Spidey knows nothing about Kraven's mission, it is in fact Kraven who ends up giving away the secrets. It turns out that Kraven has been hired by the less-than-ethical "Helix Corporation" to acquire some Dino DNA on the quiet. Kraven is equipped with a bunch of high-tech toys to help him in the job, and now he intends to...
THWACK! Spider-Man ends the discussion with a pre-emptive strike. Smart guy! Kraven is out for the count, and Spider-Man destroys the illicit DNA samples, along with the necessary equipment. But he didn't count on Kraven's rapid recovery. The Hunter asks for a rematch, and they fight their way across the Savage Land for a few pages, until they end up in... the lair of a giant (and I mean GIANT) spider!
Kraven is terrified. But the huge arachnid doesn't attack Spidey, obviously recognising their common connection. This gives Spider-Man an idea. As Kraven flees, Spidey hops onto the back of the spider (hey, I told you it was big) and heads back to the camp.
The Lizard has the camp under control, and has kept the scientists alive as "bait for Ssssspider-Man". Well, he wanted Spider-Man back, and Lizzy has what he asked for. But he perhaps didn't bargain on Spidey being a bit more organized this time. Specifically, the web-head is (a) teamed up with a super-sized spider-pal, and (b) wielding Kraven's tranquillizer dart gun, with the sedative replaced by his patented "turn the Lizard back into Curt Connors" serum (essential hand luggage for any trip of this kind).
Spidey's plan runs like clockwork. The serum dart hits the target, taking care of Connors. Meanwhile the arachnid ally goes head-to-head with the big lizards. That allows Spidey to quickly change back to Peter Parker, rescue Connors and the scientists, and make a run for it in the plane.
Meanwhile, Kraven is left stranded without a radio. Still, the Savage Land is Kraven's idea of a perfect holiday, really. I'm sure he'll be fine.
Hey, this is a great finish. Spider-Man really used his brains this time. Here's some examples.
Firstly, he remembered to pack some Lizard-reverting serum. Bright boy. If you plan on hanging around Curt Connors, this is an essential item.
Secondly, using the tranquillizer dart gun is smart stuff. How many times have we seen Spidey struggling to pour a test tube down the Lizard's throat in the middle of a fight? Why make it so hard? This is a much better method!
Plus there's is some great timing in popping Kraven on the jaw while he's in full-stream monologue, and some rapid thinking while making his excuses to protect his secret identity. All great stuff that adds up to a plot smarter than the average bear.
After last issue's rather uninspiring set-up, part two of the story brings the whole thing home with a hiss and a roar. It really feels like the creative team is getting up some momentum. Shame it's all coming to an end in a few issues.
But in the meantime, here's four webs for ya.