Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #85
Welcome to our "British History" lecture series. Our goal is to shed some light onto the murky history of one of Spidey's lesser known current titles... the alternate universe UK-only series Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine).
This UK magazine series started in 1995 running "reprints plus filler". Then in 1999 the formula changed to feature 11 pages of original story content written by UK creators. The title ran nearly exclusively original stories in that new format until 2011, when it reverted to a reprint series after Disney acquired Marvel and pulled the plug on UK-created content.
At Spider-Fan, we reviewed many of those original stories as they came out, until we lost our UK supply chain. Now, thanks to the joint miracles of eBay UK and international shipping, we're planning to track down and review all those other stories that slipped through the cracks the first time around.
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #85
May 2003 : SM Title
Wilson Fisk, Kingpin of Crime is battering Spider-Man unconscious in a wrestling ring, surrounded by a crowd of gangsters.
Can this be true? Has our hero really been defeated? Or perhaps, the man in the Spider-Man suit is actually... Jonny Mags?
Who? Well, I've got no idea. From what I can tell, the Kingpin has persuaded some poor irrelevant sap to dress up in a costume and be beaten up in public. How does it advance the story? What does it add? Absolutely nothing at all. But it consumes a page and a half, so I guess that's why it is there.
Meanwhile, the Kingpin tells the Enforcers to bring him the real Spider-Man to fight, which they don't do. Instead, the Enforcers pay off a crooked prison guard. And he brings them Spider-Man? No, the prison guard presses a red button to release Cletus Kasady, aka Carnage. So Carnage is going to capture Spider-Man as requested by the Kingpin? No, Carnage is just going to kill Spider-Man. All of which goes to show, it's hard to get good help!
But what of our star? Peter Parker is at college, where he gets a telling off from his lecturer for being late. He also gets a telling off from fellow student Lawrence "Larry" Gentry. Larry doesn't like students who don't take their studies seriously. Then later at the Silver Spoon coffee bar, Peter meets his on-again-off-again girlfriend Mary Jane. MJ is having coffee with her long-time friend... yeah, you guessed it... Larry.
Of course, Larry Gentry isn't really just a college kid. He is also the owner of a porcupine weapons suit bequeathed to him by his father, who was a military scientist. Larry is jealous of MJ's affection for Peter, and so he has a plan. Larry's plan is to change into his porcupine outfit, kidnap MJ, then change back to his regular clothes and rescue her. Hence he becomes a hero, and MJ abandons Peter.
Unfortunately for Larry, things don't go according to plan. Peter and MJ have a date at the bowling alley, when Porcupine arrives and robs the cash register first, before proceeding onto phase 2... kidnapping.
However, by the time he gets around the phase 2, Peter has already ushered MJ to safety, and re-entered the fray as Spider-Man. The two costumed characters fight for three pages or so, before a somewhat outclassed Porcupine manages to tag Spidey with a paralysing dart and win enough time to make his escape.
As this issue closes, Peter's date is somewhat ruined. Larry has failed to win over the girl of his dreams, but at least he has a small pile of cash to show for his troubles. Meanwhile, Carnage is on the loose, and hunting for blood.
There's a couple of things that don't quite work. Firstly, the whole thing with Kingpin vs. some loser in a Spidey suit. What on earth is the fat man trying to prove?
Secondly, how come Larry was such a jerk to Peter when they first met at college? The line about "I haven't really got time for people who aren't serious about their studies" is a bit of a joke coming from a guy whose idea of a day's work well done is wearing a hand-me-down porcupine suit to knock over a bowling alley for a few hundred bucks.
All I can assume is that Larry recognised Peter's name from talking to MJ, and just made up some excuse to be a jerk to him. But that isn't stated in the comic at all, it's just me trying to patch the plot holes after the fact.
Just like all of the preceding stories, the characters are absolutely two-dimensional, while the plots are clunky and rather forced.
Still, in context, this is far from being the worst of the lot. I think I can offer it two webs.