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.
The Spider-Man story occupies eleven or twelve pages of the 32 page magazine, and is aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. But what is it they say in Hollywood - "Nobody ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence of their audience." Clearly that's a maxim the publishers and writers of this particular offering have taken to heart.
The remaining pages of each issue are filled with puzzles, posters and factoids centered around the issues guest star(s), be they heroes or villains. This issue's guest villain is Electro.
I have to confess, I'm really struggling here. Not only do I face every issue of this sorely disappointing series with an increasingly heavy heart, but to make matters worse, I'm rapidly running out of fresh insults! I tried using the online Shakespeare Insult-O-Matic, but it gave me "Truly thou art damned, like an ill-roasted egg, all on one side" (from as You Like It) five times in a row, and I gave up.
So, I figure that if writer Ferg Handley can recycle crappy old plot-lines, then there's no reason why I shouldn't re-run a few of my favorite put-downs. And with that, let's on with the show!
Just as last issue, we open with a full splash-page of Spider-Man on the back foot in his battle with the guest-villain. Spidey can't get close enough to land a punch on Electro, and he's getting tired of dodging those zap-blasts! Why? What? How? Once again, we need to flashback to earlier in the evening.
Peter Parker picks up his girlfriend Mary Jane for a date. MJ would be very sexy if she was a little better-drawn. Peter's on time, but confesses that he has to go do a photo shoot of a public science experiment for the Bugle, so MJ agrees to accompany him and then they will do the real date thing later.
Have any of you ever attended a public ground-breaking science experiment? Have you ever heard of one. In fact, have you ever, in your entire short-lived human experience seen any reference to any scientist ever activating any new and untested device in public?
This experiment involves a high-energy device which hopes to "mimic the conditions at the very birth of the universe." Hey, that's just like that Hadron Collider. Except there are a few differences. In comic-world the device fits in a single room in the heart of New York, where it is activated by a single scientist in the presence of random school children and passers-by. While in real-world the Hadron Collider occupies several acres of territory underground beneath a mountain range in Europe, and no sane person would ever consider demonstrating it to any outsider until it had been completely tested.
But back in fantasy land, the massive energy-consuming machine is activated, in the presence of MJ, Peter Parker, and Max Dillon, aka Electro.
Electro reveals himself, Peter swaps to the red-and-blues, and there's seven pages of fight scene culminating with Spider-Man suddenly noticing a couple of handy drums of di-polymethylsiloxane. As we all know, that's a brand new type of conducting foam, which Peter fortunately knows about because he "covered it in class last month".
Now just stop for a second there. Do you remember your high school science classes? Well, did you get taught a single goddamn fact that might be considered recent science by any stretch of the imagination? Hell no! Every boring regurgitated detail was painfully extracted from 20-year old text books and matching 20-year old teaching notes delivered by a 60-year old teacher who hadn't performed a single novel or ground-breaking experiment in his entire miserable life.
Fortunately, Peter's inner-city public school is blessed with a dedicated enthusiast who ensures that his course content is updated every month to include each new earth-shattering discovery of each and every innovation in the field of industrial insulating foam!
Spider-Man doses Electro up good with the foam, and that's the end of that. He swaps back to Peter costume, catches up with MJ. Then they wander out of the high-tech science facility where the massive crime has taken place, with no police interested in recording their testimony. They go and share a chilli-dog as the night grows dark.
CRACK! BOOM! Is it Electro? Nope, it's a thunderstorm. Electro is locked up safe in a cell, waiting for just one decent lightning strike to land near the prison...
Ogden Nash once said... "Middle age is when you've met so many people that every new person you meet reminds you of someone else." Well, in that case, I'm positively geriatric when it comes to reading comics.
Spectacular public science experiments always end up in either (a) hijacking by a super-villain, or (b) the birth of a new super-villain or hero. Battles between Spider-Man and Electro are always (a) too damn long and (b) concluded by Spider-Man either insulating or short-circuiting Electro. Combine those two standard formulas together and you get this issue.
There's nothing fundamentally wrong with this story. But there's sure as hell nothing fundamentally right about it either. Not a single ounce of originality or creativity went into this tale. No twists, no clever ideas, no fresh dialog even. Just a sad, worn-out re-hash of what has gone many times before.
Truly it be damned, like an ill-roasted egg, all on one side.
Does that even make sense?
Extras this issue are a 1-page simple crossword, 1 page self-promotion, 2 page Electro fact file, 2 pages of puzzles, 1 page coloring, pull-out double-sided centerfold poster (4 pages altogether). 2 pages of test-yourself questions about the story, 2 page "Spidey's greatest masters of disguise" (including The Invisible Woman... somebody has clearly confused disguise and concealment).
Then finally a 2-page "make a Sandman desk tidy" project, 2 pages of fan art, 1 page "spot the differences", another 1-page self-promotion, and a Spider-Man poster on the back cover.