Comics : Spider-Man and the Menace of Mysterio

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Book of the Month Club

This review was first published on: Apr 2011.

Background...

This Spider-Man kid's novelette is one of a series of ten books that could only be purchased by joining a Marvel book-of-the-month club through your local school. I have the book, but I don't have any of the trading cards, posters or other bits and pieces that came with it.

The book is 6.25" x 7.5", soft cover, 48 pages. The cover is full-color, but inside the text is black while the illustrations and framing of each page are monochrome blue. There is an illustration for each of the six chapters, with the occasional artistic decoration on some pages.

In Detail...

Spider-Man and the Menace of Mysterio
Oct 2006 : SM Title
Find ISBN 0439900409
Publisher:  Scholastic, Inc.
Writer:  Scott Ciencin
Cover Art:  Yancey Labat
Cover Design:  Michaela Zanzani
Designer:  Emily Mushinske, Kim Sonsky
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Review

Spider-Man is going about his usual business (catching muggers in Manhattan) when an unidentified man leans out of a helicopter overhead and (despite a Spider-Sense warning tingle) manages to shoot our hero with a drugged dart, rendering the web-head unconscious.

Spidey comes-to and finds himself inside a building, where he has been trapped by an unknown attacker. Unknown? Well, not really. I think there's a lot of reason to believe that Mysterio may be behind it all. Something to do with his name being all over the cover of the book!

In any case, his "as-yet unidentified" assailant has re-kidnapped an old women who Spider-Man rescued from The Vulture last week. Yeah, it's Aunt May. Who else? Mrs. Parker is held hostage in another undisclosed location (visible to Spider-Man on a closed-circuit TV monitor). To save the woman, Spider-Man must "solve a puzzle", and defeat the challenges that lie behind three doors.

Spider-Man duly goes through each door and defeats (a) The Lizard, (b) Kraven and Doc Ock, and (c) Venom, Electro and the Green Goblin. He then figures out the puzzle, namely that the whole thing is faked - his foes are merely robots and the various battle locations are carefully crafted sets.

Smashing down through the "pavement" of the stage Spider-Man reaches the basement of the building, where he finds Aunt May and (with a little help from the old lady) defeats Mysterio.

In General...

The story is badly written, but hovers just above the level of "utterly awful". The characterizations are unsurprisingly non-existent, the motivations are laughably facile, and there are a few major unanswered questions.

For Example: Why does Mysterio not sneak a peek at Spider-Man's true identity while he is unconscious? Why does Aunt May not consider it strange when Spider-Man calls her "Aunt May"? And if Kraven and Doc Ock are robots, how can Spider-Man defeat them by taunting them and getting one to fight the other? That seems like pretty self-destructive programming to me.

Not only that, the way Spider-Man bundles Aunt May into a taxi to send her home after being kidnapped and held hostage is delightfully inadequate!

Overall Rating...

To my mind, the blue design of the inner pages is dirty and unappealing, and the story is forgettable at best.

On the other hand, I was expecting it all to be much, much worse. Let's call it "just-above-rock-bottom" at one and a half webs.