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", soon began printing original stories in a kid-friendly generic Spider-Man world very similar to that of the "1990's Spider-Man TV Cartoon". It later rebooted itself to be more similar to the "Ultimate Spider-Man" universe. The series is still running today (in 2011), but I have recently been acquiring back issues and filling in the long-neglected review gaps for the middle issues of the series.
In issues prior to this story, Norman Osborn is dead... at least for now. Nobody (except Spider-Man) knows that he died as the Green Goblin. Osborn's son Harry believes Spider-Man to be responsible for the murder of an innocent man, and has mounted an increasingly aggressive campaign against our favorite web-head. This came to a head a few issues back when Harry's conspiracy was exposed, and Spider-Man was declared innocent in court. Harry has subsequently gone missing, amidst signs of a struggle.
Spider-Man is enjoying his renewed status as a hero, but is still concerned about what might have happened to the recently-disappeared Harry. He also has something new to worry about. Specifically, this: while web-slinging past an advertising billboard, the message momentarily changed to read "Spider-Man: R.I.P"
Strange hallucinations... could this be the work of Mysterio? Well, whoever is doing it seems to know about Peter Parker's secret identity, as a picture message sent anonymously to Peter's phone shows a foot squashing a bug. The message then deletes itself. Curiouser and curiouser.
Peter tries to relax a little by heading to Flash Thompson's birthday party with MJ. But that doesn't help much, as Flash appears to have gone mysteriously missing. Ah... there he is, in the car park, unconscious on the pavement with The Sandman standing guard over his body.
Sandman? What's going on here then?
Naturally Peter changes to Spider-Man and confronts Sandman, who rather than fighting decides to run, carrying Flash Thompson's prone figure all the way to Central Park. So now it's time for the fight. Spider-Man vs. Sandman. And vs. Beetle. And Electro, Tombstone, Scorpion and Hydro-Man.
Yeah, same old story. Whenever you don't know what to write a story about, it's time to drag the Sinister Six back out of storage. Couple of pages of intro and the battle scenes will take care of the rest.
Clearly, somebody is organizing this whole thing, as the TV cameras have been tipped off. So the whole world gets to watch as the Six hand Spidey a pretty one-sided butt-kicking. Oh no! Our hero is out for the count! "Could this be the end of the webbed wonder?"
A trap to bring Spidey to the Sinister Six. A shadowy figure watching from the sideline. This is all pretty well-trodden ground.
Note that the "mystery" side of things isn't explained (yet). But Spider-Man's relationship with Peter Parker is pretty well known, especially to Sandman, as shown in an earlier storyline. There's no explanation of how the billboard or cellphone gimmicks were produced, however such slight of hand tricks aren't too difficult to explain in a world full of time machines and teleporters.
This is really just a set-up issue, and performs that role as well as might be expected. Let's go with a "safe" three web rating until we see where this one is going.
I probably don't say it often enough, but the "filler" material in this magazine is always of a pretty high standard. There's only a couple of pages of advertising each issue, so to bring the eleven page story up to the total 36 page count (including inside and outside covers as "pages") still requires at least 20 pages of "additional" material each time around.
Most of that extra material contains original art, puzzles, games and fact files - all of which are produced to an excellent quality.