Over the years Marvel has partnered with various pro-social groups and corporations producing quite a number of "specialty" comics utilizing the various Marvel characters to promote specific causes or products. One of these companies that has co-sponsored comics with Marvel tying their product and/or cause with the Marvel's heroes has been Target. To date, Target has sponsored at least five comics with Marvel, three supporting literacy (reading) one with Target/St. Jude's Hospital: America's Super Heroes and one with the NCPCA, NCPCA - Spider-Man/Jubilee Flip Book which featured two stories about coping with bullies.
Spider-Man, Captain America, Thor, and Marvel Girl (Jean Grey) accompany a group of children on a field trip to Rye Playland (a real themed park in Rye, NY) where they are ambushed by Thor's half-brother, the Norse god, Loki. With the help of the children (who have acquired knowledge of Norse mythology by having read about it) the heroes manage to defeat the god of mischief.
A group of kids are being given a tour of Rye Playland by a Mr. Koli (a disguised Loki). The purpose of the trip is to learn more about the historic park and to write a report on it and report back to the class. Right away, the kids learn that Mr. Koli is from Norway, the Park was opened in 1928, and if they get lost they are to head to the music tower in the center of the Park and wait for an adult. Also in attendance at the Park today are Peter Parker and his wife Mary Jane Watson-Parker.
In spite of the fact that readers might feel otherwise, the three main of this story are actually three students (Russ, Sharon, and Austin). Almost immediately, these three kids lose tract of Mr. Koli and the other kids as Loki works his magic and causes everyone to not understand what other people around them are saying. Peter calls The Bugle to report the unusual activity, and switches to Spidey-Mode to investigate. He almost immediately discovers Loki's involvement and tries to take him down. Meanwhile the kids are looking over a map to attempt to locate the music tower, only the map is in gibberish thanks to Loki.
While the Park is thrown into chaos due to Loki's magicks the kids figure out which structure on the map is the music tower and start to head that way, only they find themselves blocked by Loki. It is at this point that the rest of the heroes are introduced into the mix. Steve Rogers, on his way to Avengers mansion spots a newsstand teaser about something up at Playland with photos coming for the late edition, Jean Grey at Xavier's school in Westchester senses thoughts of panic while Thor, who is in Asgard, also feels the presence of his half-brother causing trouble to the people of Earth.
The three heroes converge on the Park just as the rides begin to spin out of control. As the heroes arrive Loki zaps them with his magic. While the kids attempt to decipher their maps and figure out what is going on around them. They notice that Loki is reading from a scroll and that if they look through the lens finder of their digital camera the words are not mixed up, but can be read in English. They then read the End spell from the parchment and cause the mystical spell to end. Whereupon, the heroes are able to snap out of their stupor and capture the mischievous godling.
The heroes then congratulate the kids on utilizing their reading skills to be able to decipher the clues, and help save the day.
The book is fun, entertaining and educational: a perfectly crafted medium to float the message of literacy for a younger audience. I am a huge fan of companies tapping Marvel for the use of their heroes to float these types of pro-social messages. I honestly believe that by presenting these types of issues in this type f a format makes them more accessible to their intended audience. (I remember reading Treasure Chest comics as a kid; which was a series that was sanctioned by a Catholic organization, and thus, the only comicbook that the nuns let us read in school.).
There is a two-page crossword puzzle in the center of the comic, as well as a coupon for any marvel comic at Target, and a couple of Target-related ads in the comic.