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 The Vulture.
Our story opens full-tilt, as the Vulture heads down to the diamond district once more to top up his pension plan. Spider-Man quickly joins in the fun, looking to mess up Vulchy's retirement funding strategy, but The Vulture seems to have the edge over Spider-Man today.
Yep, the Winged Wonder is faster and more agile than ever before, and it doesn't take a genius to figure that it probably has something to do with that funky new full-face high-tech helmet that the villain is wearing. Spider-Man chases after the Vulture for four pages or so, but finally has to settle for tagging him with a tracer.
But there is something else that Spidey notices. The Vulture's otherwise fast and fluent flight takes a little wobble as he zooms past a transmitter tower. Are you thinking what I'm thinking, B2? I think I am, B1! It's high-tech interference time!
Indeed, back at home, Peter whips up a little surprise for The Vulture, built out of a couple of old cell phones and some other bits and bobs. But there's another avian adventure waiting at Forest Hills. Aunt May is bird-sitting a green budgie for one of her friends who is in hospital. The budgie bears and uncanny resemblance to the Vulture. More surprisingly, the budgie is fond of squarking "Peter's a Doofus". No, seriously.
That makes no sense at all to me. Why would an elderly gentleman friend of Aunt May train his budgie to say "Peter's a Doofus". Is this just an absurd random coincidence, or part of a deeper plot. Time will reveal all. Or perhaps it won't.
Spidey tracks down the Vulture using his Spider-Tracer as the Vulture commits his next crime. I don't know why Spidey didn't just wait until 2am when the guy was asleep, then simply call the police. I guess Spidey just loves the excuse to endanger innocent civilians and cause maximum collateral damage. Which they proceed to do, enjoining combat once more.
But this time, Spidey is prepared. Grabbing his mobile, he dials up the Vulture and speaks to him... his words reverberating in the Vultures fancy new headset, which has suddenly become a giant liability to the poor long-suffering villain. Bad guys never seem to get a break, do they.
Then in a fit of cruelty, Spider-Man patches the entire New York cellphone network into the Vulture's high-tech head-gear. Imagine simultaneously receiving the text message output of half a million bored Manhattan teenagers. ZOMG! L8R DUDE! Yeah, it's unnatural cruelty by my standards!
The Vulture throws aside his helmet and prepares to duke it out with the fist-flinging web-slinging hero of our tale. The outcome is predictable and painful for the Vulture. Spider-Man dons the helmet and confirms his suspicions that the high-tech gadget was hooked into GPS, UPS, InfraRed, UltraBlue, Lidar, Slydar, Radar, Gaydar, the Internet, the Outernet, as well as having ABS, ATS, under-steer correction, twin carburettors, and sixteen overhead turbo EFI cams.
Finally, heading back home, Peter discovers that the budgie is still foul-mouthed and intractable. Peter threatens to buy a bird-eating spider on eBay. That's the punchline. Bada-BOOM!
This story is founded on the premise that everything is connected to everything, and all you need to hack into any system is a handful of electronic bits and a soldering iron.
The Vulture's helmet is affected by radio waves from a transmission tower. Hence Peter can use a cellphone to hack into the helmet. Similarly I live on a farm and the electric fence causes static on my telephone. Hence, armed with a battery and a roll of number 8 fencing wire, Peter Parker could create a device which could give me free toll calls to Botswana.
This is just one example of the "Universal Science" fallacy, which basically says this. Science is just one big blob. Once your IQ reaches the magic threshold (I'm guessing that's around 160 or so), you become a Scientist, you instantly understand all Science, and can manipulate any piece of science technology to make it control/interact with any other piece of science.
This fallacy is universal in comic books, but it's actually a fairly common misunderstanding in real life too. "Hey, you're a neurosurgeon, so can you help me get my printer working? Yeah, my operating system is Microsoft Word. I've had trouble with the printer ever since I upgraded my hard disk to a twenty inch flat-screen."
This kind of thing happens all the time in comics, and I'm prepared to let it slide this time. I love the idea of hooking Vulture into the text message network. That's dangerously close to an original idea, and Dawg knows this magazine needs all of those it can get.
What I really do NOT like is the budgie turning up and saying "Peter is a Doofus". That's just lame. It makes no sense at all, and is never justified or explained. Also, the art work is kind of shabby. Once more, Aunt May is drawn so badly it looks like she came off second best in a particularly challenging Siamese Twin separation procedure.
Three webs for the main story, but two webs for the budgie story and second-rate pencil work. Call it two and a half all up.