Welcome to our "British History" lecture series. Our goal is to shed some light onto the murky history of one of Spidey's lesser known current titles... the alternate universe UK-only series Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine).
Started in 1995 as "reprints plus filler", it transmogrified itself a few years later and swapped that reprint content for 11 pages of original story content written by UK creators.
It's still running currently (in 2010). But we only started regularly reviewing from issue 100 or so (and even then we had a break for a couple of years during the #120's and #130's). Now, thanks to the joint miracles of eBay UK and international shipping, we're planning to track down and review all those other stories that slipped through the cracks the first time around.
This issue we're once more leaping into a story-in-progress. I'm not sure exactly what's going on, but according to the cover art, Daredevil seems pretty seriously involved.
Ah, here comes the hero of our tale. Spider-Man... no, wait. Wrong long-johns. That's Daredevil and he's late to his court appointment. To make things worse his client hasn't showed up at all. How bad can that be? Well, Matt's client is Leland Owlsley. Aka "The Owl". You know the guy. Scary hair. Flies. Completely bonkers.
So where in all of this is our hero? Well, I know where he isn't. He isn't being Peter Parker at the hospital with his Aunt May, Mary Jane Watson and Aunt Anna Watson. Also inexplicably missing from the hospital scene is a guy named "Larry" who somehow MJ is expecting to attend. Clearly this was something that came out of the previous issue, so we'll just have to make up our own explanation for how Spider-Man and Larry (aka a costumed guy named "The Porcupine") ended up in cages prisoner of The Owl and The Gladiator.
Yep. Cages. Even more amusing is the fact that the Owl is auctioning off the right to kill them both. Do we hear $200k? Yep. And much more. Plenty of people want Spider-Man for Christmas, and they're planning to open him up with kitchen implements!
But lawyer Matt Murdock aka hero Daredevil isn't sitting around idle. He's hot on the trail, beating his way through New York's scum trying to find a clue as to what's going on. Meanwhile, Kingpin has also heard what's going on, and he's not happy with Owlsley's attempt to take over the New York crime scene.
Things come together real fast as the auction hits six million, everybody is converging on the scene and suddenly the lights go out. Daredevil leaps into the fray as the mobsters panic in the darkness and start firing. DD manages to free Spider-Man from the cage, but the web-head is still so groggy from beatings and electric shocks that he's really not much use in the fight. Can anybody stop the Owl?
How about the Kingpin? He's just kicked down the door and now he's facing off against the Owl. It all ends with the mobsters. Are they going to back Fisk or Owlsley? Silly question, there's really no contest. Kingpin has the support and The Owl is history. Daredevil KO's the Owl with a billy-club, then as Gladiator launches as Daredevil, Spidey takes him down with the old "webbing-to-the-ankles" trick.
So what happens now? It's still a standoff between Kingpin and the good guys (where the "Good Guys" appears to include Larry in his porcupine suit). Well, Kingpin tells Spidey and Daredevil to get out of there, on the theory that any victory he achieves will give reflected glory to The Owl who performed the original capture. Spider-Man isn't keen to walk away, but Daredevil sees that Spider-Man is in no shape to fight, and persuades him that discretion is the better part of valor.
Final wrap-up sees Kingpin tell Porcupine to stay out of his sight. Reading between the lines, I guess that Kingpin actually hired Porcupine to do something or other, and he failed. Peter heads home and sneaks in to bed looking so beaten and bedraggled that when Aunt May and the girls get back home from the hospital, he actually gets sympathy from MJ. As things go, that's a happy ending for a change.
Meanwhile, The Owl gets back to court and is given life imprisonment. His lawyer, Matt Murdoch, seems strangely pleased.
Is it just me, or would most lawyers agree that representing a client you just arrested and beat up is some sort of conflict of interest? Also, how often is sentencing performed immediately after the jury announces its verdict?
Ah, let's put aside the legal technicalities. On most other fronts, this isn't a bad story. Yes, it's very childish. All of the original stories in Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) up to and at this time were all basic "kids" tales. They had a look and feel somewhat along the lines of Spider-Man Adventures and Adventures of Spider-Man which formed much of the early reprint material too.
There's nothing wrong with pitching to a young audience. The challenge is to produce a story where the plot, script, art, filler material, presentation and target market are all in synchronicity. And this is just what they did. Three webs.