This is yet another 8" x 8" soft-cover kids story book from HarperCollins. Featuring a 24-page full-color out-of-continuity Spider-Man story, this one starring the Molten Man.
Empire State University has just received some space rocks and meteorites, and J. Jonah Jameson of the Daily Bugle orders Peter Parker to go photograph them. Why? Because the Bugle has an interest in science? No... so that this story can happen, of course!
Peter Parker naturally changes to Spider-Man to complete his photography assignment, because... well, for no reason at all. In fact, surely completing the assignment as Spider-Man would just put his secret identity at risk - since the science guys at ESU would know that Peter Parker never went near the rock samples.
But once again it does help the story along, as the Molten Man smashes into the laboratory to steal the rock. Why? Because the Molten Man was formerly a scientist until he gained his molten powers from an identical asteroid. What powers? Well... first among Moltey's abilities must the power to burn off all his clothes except for his gold lamé swim trunks!
Spider-Man's webbing melts before it reaches Molten Man's burning skin. So instead Spidey leads the Molten Man on a chase until he tricks M.M. into a freezer, which instantly chills the bad guy solid. Peter then returns to Jonah with photos of the space rocks, but J.J.J. yells at him for not getting pictures of the Molten Man fight instead.
Half an hour ago I just wrote a review of Spider-Sense Spider-Man: Spider-Man and the Great Holiday Chase, another Spidey picture book for kids published by Harper Collins around the same time.
The two books have much in common. Both take an existing half-hero/half-villain (Silver Sable, Molten Man) with a complex background and simplify them to a one-dimensional "bad guy". Both construct a tale based around a simple fight/chase between Spider-Man and the villain. Both are filled with senseless assumptions and inexplicable (or at least unexplained) behavior contrived purely for the convenience of advancing the oh-so-linear plot.
But there the similarity ends. "Holiday Chase" is harmless fun which carefully puts common sense aside and treats us to a childish romp. By stark contrast, "The Menace of the Molten Man" attempts to take itself a little more seriously, and in doing so loses every element of charm to which it might otherwise have laid claim.
The same faults which I could bring myself to forgive in Spider-Sense Spider-Man: Spider-Man and the Great Holiday Chase are irritating and grating in this book. Artist Andie Tong does solid work, but the text is unendearing beyond the point of any rescue.
One and a half webs.