Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #120
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).
Started in 1995 as "reprints plus filler", it transmogrified itself a few years later and swapped that reprint content for 11 pages of original story content written by UK creators. It's still running today (in 2010).
Since I don't live in the UK, I've been dependent on the kindness of others to get my hands on a regular feed of this title. My original sources helped me get issues #103-#118, and I reviewed them as they came out. Then I lost my supply for two or three years until the late #140's when I started collecting again in earnest. Most recently I have been picking up a few back issues on eBay UK, and dutifully filling in the gaps in this Looking Back section entitled "British History".
Last issue we started a brand new story arc as Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four join forces with an alternate future version of Good Doctor Doom and travel back to the alternate future (hey, that has a nice ring to it) to face down alternate future Evil Reed Richards.
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #120
Aug 2005 : SM Title
After a one-page re-cap of the events of the last issue, the FF + Spidey + Doom exit the inter-dimensional/inter-chronological portal to find themselves standing in a beautiful modern world. Could this Paradise truly be the nightmare future which alternate Doom has described? Well, indeed it seems to be.
For while the future citizens live in a peaceful time, that peace comes at a terrible price. All humanity lives in fear of the many Thing/Human Torch/Susan Storm robots which roam the idyllic planet enforcing the irresistible law of Reed Richards. But how did such a thing come to pass? Ah... the roots lie in tragedy, as we learn that in this universe, the original Ben Grimm, Johnny Storm and Susan Storm gave their lives to defeat an alien invasion.
Reed survived and the aliens were destroyed. But Reed's mind was damaged by his grief. Taking control of the planet he crushed it in his flexible fist - culminating in his final strategy. Richards has forced all citizens (on pain of... pain) to wear a head band which is the receiver for a network of mind-control satellites that encircle the globe!
But there is yet time. For the satellite network is not yet active. It is to be switched on tonight, which was the trigger for Doom's desperate mission.
Does that all make sense? Pretty standard cross-time global conquest strategy #24B, really.
Anyhow, I don't know about you, but I've had enough exposition. Surely it's time to bring on the fighting! And indeed, as we cut to the alternate-world Baxter Building and meet alternate Reed Richards, a man destroyed. With nothing but robot versions of his former friends to console him, he has thrown himself into his deluded attempt to render the world perfect. But here comes somebody to spoil all his plans.
The Heroes gatecrash and work their way through the robot retainers like six teenagers working through a jumbo box of popcorn. CRUNCH!
Evil Reed meanwhile still believes that Doom's allies are merely reprogrammed robots, including his lost love Susan. It's only when the real Susan breaks down in un-robot tears that he suddenly understands how far he has strayed from sanity. Reed abandons his attempt to activate the mind-control satellites...
...only for Doom to advance on the satellite control console! Oh no! Is Doom a villain after all? Zzzzzaap! and the console is destroyed. Doom is a true hero after all. Seems that he abandoned his own plans for world domination after seeing what happened to Reed when he finally achieved his goal.
Tears all around, and the heroes return home. Alternate universe saved and lessons learned all 'round.
Well, that was a pretty quick wrap-up. More recent issues of this title would have taken a story like this and run it out for half a dozen issues. But here writer Mitchel Scanlon keeps up the pace. Yes, it's a relatively linear story, but there's action and pathos in equal measure, supported by rich, bright artwork and a well-matched script.
Mitchel takes this plot and makes the story his own. He keeps up the pace and serves up a tale that more than satisfies. Four webs.
The price this issue jumped from £1.75 to £1.99. The page count is unchanged at 36 pages.
There's two pages of competitions (prominently featuring sponsors' products), along with a couple of pages of out-and-out advertisements. Still, given the way things are here and now in 2010, at least we should be grateful there are no limited-edition variant covers.