Comics : Amazing Spider-Man: The Demon's Eye (Ladybird)

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

This review was first published on: Oct 2013.

Background...

As a kid growing up in England and New Zealand in the 70's, I was well familiar with "Ladybird" books which were among the most popular graded reading books available. Nowadays they have been overtaken by a new generation of modern children's literature, but are still popular with collectors.

This one is This is another Spider-Man book in the classic "Ladybird" format. The other that I'm aware of is Amazing Spider-Man: Saves New York (Ladybird). They were both published in January 1990, making Spider-Man a relative latecomer to the Ladybird imprint.

In Detail...

Amazing Spider-Man: The Demon's Eye (Ladybird)
Jan 1990 : SM Title
Find ISBN 0721413366
Publisher:  Ladybird Books, Ltd.
Writer:  Mike Sharp
Illustrator:  Robin Davies
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Review

The Ladybird format is 4.75" x 7", hardback square bound cover. This one is 28 pages. Each page features a color illustration.

Ladybird books vary in the difficulty of this text. This one seems to be for independent readers maybe around eight years of age. Each page features between six and eighteen lines of text. The story (such as it is), is this:

J. Jonah Jameson is ranting at photographer Peter Parker and reporter Joy Mercado. He wants Spider-Man behind bars, and he wants them to prove the webhead is a crook.

Without warning, we transition to the city museum where a Swami is unveiling the mysterious "Demon's Eye". The Vulture crashes the event, snatches the jewel and soars out of a window, laughing "wickedly".

Somewhat inevitably, Peter becomes Spider-Man and chases the high-flying criminal. The Vulture escapes by wielding a "Sonic Gun" to stun the hero.

Jonah harangues Joy Mercado, demanding to know where Peter went with the photos, but Spider-Man is out searching for the jewel. He finds it... perched atop a Manhattan water tower.

No, seriously. The vulture plans to use the power of the gem to command the sun's rays, ruling the land as well as the skies. Spider-Man swings down and foils the villain. But what is this, why is Spider-Man retreating? Ah, the rising sun is causing dazzling rays, blinding the Vulture. Our wall-crawling hero leaps back into the fight and ends the battle with a generous application of webbing.

Peter provides photographs, the Daily Bugle has its story, and Spider-Man is vindicated. A happy ending all around.

In General...

This story is poorly assembled, but with a little good luck it does just barely manage to hang together.

The mystic nature of the Demon's Eye is not really addressed at all. Is it magic? In the end, its sole power seems to be to sparkle a great deal for a few moment at sunrise. Otherwise, there's no sign of a Demon, or any particularly interesting "power". That's probably all for the best, this story didn't really need a mystic element.

There's plenty of other odd notes. Did the Vulture really need a "sonic gun"? Did Jonah really need to be so painfully over-the-top in his characterisation? Could Peter not have spared to phone call to Joy instead of disappearing without explanation and then turning up the next morning? And what was the Swami's role? Why a Swami, not just a museum curator?

On top of all that, the writing was staid and stilted, as if a British writer-for-hire had been ordered to hastily construct some sort of tie-in children's prose story merely to capitalise on a cross-media marketing tie-in with some American licensed property, without really having any great desire to do so.

Oh, wait. Yeah, I guess that last bit makes sense.

Overall Rating...

There's nothing particularly good in this story. But honestly, it could have been much worse. In fact, the other book in the series was utterly terrible. So merely "not good" is actually quite an achievement.

I'm going to give it two webs.