Comics : Spider-Man's Amazing Powers
This story is part of a Lookback Series: Book of the Month Club
This review was first published on: 2003.
Dorling Kindersley, aka "DK" are a prolific publisher, focussing on non-fiction books, typically with a high graphical content. Among their huge range are a small handful of Marvel titles, most famously the "Ultimate Spider-Man" and "Ultimate X-Men" titles.
They also have a range of "Dorling Kindersley Readers", grouped into four categories of reading skills, from "1 - Beginning to Read", through to "4 - Proficient Readers". Among these "DK Readers" are two titles featuring Spider-Man, namely "The Story of Spider-Man", and "Spider-Man's Amazing Powers". Both of these are level 4 books, which appear to be targeting the pre-teen audience.
Both books are 48 pages, 6" x 8" in size. Both are available in three printing formats, soft-cover, hard-cover, and "library binding". Both the hard-cover and library bindings are hard covers without dust jacket. However, the more pricy hardcover is actually far more attractive than the rather cheap and cheerful library binding. In fact, the library binding seems to be constructed by taking a paperback version (perhaps they had heaps left over) and slapping a glossy photo-copied heavy card cover onto it. If you're looking for a gift, I recommend you spend a little extra on the hard-cover edition.
Whereas the more detailed "Ultimate Spider-Man" was written by well-known Marvel writer Tom DeFalco, these two books were assembled by editors/writers with no obvious Marvel background. Given the target audience, that doesn't seem to be a problem.
Spider-Man's Amazing Powers
Sep 2001 : SM Title
Find ISBN 0789479222
"Spider-Man's Amazing Powers" describes exactly what it promises. The book starts by describing how Peter Parker gained the powers of Spider-Man, and then proceeds in fairly basic terms to work through all of Spidey's powers.
There's not much scientific detail, for example you won't find an explanation of how Spidey's wall-sticking power actually works, or how many newtons-per-fortnight-squared acceleration his swinging generates. You also won't find hard-figures of distances and angles for Spidey's web-shooters. In fact if you're really looking for the nitty-gritty, you might be better advised to check out the Spider-Man entry in the various editions of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe.
Regardless, there's plenty of coverage suitable for giving your average ten year old a thorough grounding in all of Spidey's powers. What's more, the writer actually uses Spidey's powers as an excuse to touch on many different real-world phenomena.
Most of this is done by the use of side-bars on each page, in a smaller font (12 point or so) than the rather chunky main text (16 point I'm guessing, or 23 lines per page). Sider-bar topics range from a mention that X-Rays are a kind of radiation, to a description of how spiders actually dissolve their prey before eating it. Yum!
Other side-bar entries go into extra detail about specific powers, e.g. how Spidey's webbing is fireproof. The whole technique works really well, allowing weaker readers to work through the main body of the text, and then come back and bite off smaller chunks of side-bar info.
The whole book is generously illustrated with a mix of panels from comics, character illustrations, and plenty of photographs of real-world topics, from genuine spider-webs to RADAR receivers (in a discussion of Spidey's Spider-Sense). Like the other Spider-Man book in the "DK Readers" series, the whole parcel is wrapped up with a glossary of some of the interesting words used in the book, and a nice one-page index.
If I was to pick out one niggle with this book, it would be that the mix of (typically magnified) comic panels give a strange constrast with the high-resolution artwork from real photographs. But that's a fairly minor detail, and shouldn't detract from the wonderful way that both Spidey books in this series manage to be educational, fun, and readable. In fact, I'd say re-readable. I can easily imagine kids picking the book up and browsing through their favourite bits.
If you know a pre-teen who loves reading, or one who needs a bit of motivation, like a fascinating book about their favourite super-hero, then you won't find better than these two books. Four webs.