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 are aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. The plots for these stories feature classic Marvel characters and villains, and often echo plots from the mainstream comics, but in their own special style.
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. Last issue, Spider-Man made a deadly foe of Kingpin.
This time around the Beetle stars on the cover - but Wolverine is tucked down in one corner too. Oh yeah, there's a Wolverine movie coming to the big screen. Time for a guest appearance, do you think?
Peter Parker is at the Bugle, it's pay day. Jonah catches him and harasses him to get some photos of the Beetle, who has been making flying raids into rich-list rooftop parties and luxury boat cruises. Jonah berates Peter, but before the young freelance photog can go make some money, he has to go get Harry's plush apartment ready for Osborn's return. Harry went on a trip to a private funny-farm in Florida, but he's back soon.
But while Peter is getting the apartment freshened up, he gets a Spidey-sense tingle and follows it all the way to the penthouse where a swanky party raising funds for a kids charity has just been raided by the Beetle and his airborne assistants. Spidey quickly nobbles all the villainous helpers while the main man himself escapes.
Spidey then grabs one of the flying wing backpack kits which is no longer required by the webbed-up second-string baddies. Following a quick (near-fatal) flying practice, he eventually gets the suit under control and heads out on flying patrol. Of course, a loop past the Daily Bugle offices while wearing Beetle wings is the perfect way to get Jonah convinced that the web-head is in league with the Beetle. D'oh!
As fate would have it, Spidey eventually catches up with the Beetle who is making another heist with yet another backup gang of flying Beetle-boys. Our flying hero has no trouble taking out the hired help, but then the Beetle (rather belatedly perhaps) places his ace-in-the hole. Yep, as I had already guessed, the Beetle has a remote cut-off-switch which sends Spidey plummeting to the pavement...
...for a split second until he web-lines himself to the Beetle. One short mid-air struggle and then Spidey drives the Beetle to a hard landing. Then using the Beetle's control unit, a quick warning cut-out to the flying suits convinces the rest of the Beetle's troops to hand themselves in peacefully.
See, Spidey isn't always cursed with bad luck - and this is a victory with style. For the final wrap-up, Peter takes his photos of Spidey defeating Beetle into the Bugle and sells them to Jonah. Mind you, Jonah's not happy. He's gonna have to dump a few hundred thousand freshly-printed papers accusing Spidey of being in league with the Beetle. That's gotta hurt!
Two good stories in a row from Spectacular? Can I be dreaming? If anything, this tale is even better than last month's Molten Man story which was itself surprisingly tolerable. Perhaps it's the whiskey I poured myself to help me get through the reviewing process of what is normally an insufferable title, but this story felt original, unforced, and while not exactly laugh-out-loud it was certainly adequately entertaining.
Bonus points also for signaling Harry's return. Continuity and sub-plot isn't traditionally a strong point in this title, and it's welcome when it does appear.
I'm going to give another four-webs here. Again, this needs to be seen in the context of a title which generally has nothing but pain and disappointment to offer. In any regular comic book, this would be a three-web story, but by "Spectacular UK Magazine" standards, this one's a gem.
No Wolverine cameo after all, despite his appearance on the cover. What we do have this issue is the boilerplate Spidey background on the inside cover, an index page, 6 page first half of the Spidey story, a one-page Beetle fact-file and a puzzle page. Then there's a two-page coloring spread (Spidey, Cap and Absorbing Man), two pages of puzzles, a one-page promo for sister title Marvel Heroes (UK Magazine), a double-sided pull-out centerfold poster, a self-promo selling subscriptions of this mag, the 5-page conclusion to the main story. To wrap up there's a one-page Wolverine competition entry, two page quiz and drawing, a two-page Spider-Man "fact attack", a two page "learn to draw Green Goblin" lesson, and two pages of fan art. That's a wrap!