Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #164
This long-running UK Magazine started out by running reprints, but these days it offers a brand new "out of continuity" Spider-Man story every three weekly issue.
The Spider-Man story occupies eleven or twelve pages of the 32 page magazine, and is aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. But what is it they say in Hollywood - "Nobody ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence of their audience." Clearly that's a maxim the publishers and writers of this particular offering have taken to heart.
The remaining pages of each issue are filled with puzzles, posters and factoids centered around the issues guest star(s), be they heroes or villains. This issue's guest villain is Professor Smythe... or more specifically, one of his Spider-Slayers.
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #164
Mar 2008 : SM Title
Peter is back from his long overseas adventure. He heads out for a nice date with Mary Jane. (I didn't realize they were back together, but maybe it happened behind the scenes.) Aunt May has dry rot in her basement. I'm not surprised, it's been years since Ben was around to service her nether regions. Anyhow, she needs money, so that means Peter/Spidey is out and about, swinging around looking for news photos.
Spidey muses on how great it is to be back home, then wonders why there's no real crime going down. Actually, I've always wondered about that. When I check the local paper, most crime happens quietly. Domestic violence, tax fraud, suburban shootouts. There's a bank robbery every couple of weeks, but what are the odds of swinging past just at the moment one of them happens? Well, I guess NYC is different, because if two hours of street patrol doesn't yield an armed hold-up, it's a cause for complaint. *shrug*
Anyhow, Spider-Man's wishes are all about to be granted. A twenty foot robot sashays into view and yells out "COMMENCE ERADICATION PROCEDURE."
"Who sent you?" asks Peter.
"CREATOR = PROFESSOR SMYTHE. PRIM DIRECTIVE: EXECUTE SPIDER-MAN."
Well, that's handy. Very kind of the professor to program the robot to reveal his identity on demand. Saves the police all that boring detective work later on. Anyhow, we get the recap that the first Professor Smythe considered Spidey to be evil, and so he dedicated himself to creating robots to destroy the wall-crawler. After Smythe's death, his son now continues the good fight.
Enough back-story. Pages of fighting ensue. The robot contains features copied from other Spidey foes - The Beetle's wings, Hobgoblin's pumpkin bombs. Of course, all those guys failed to defeat Spider-Man, but maybe together two failures can add up to success?
All along, the robot politely answers all of Spider-Man's questions. Turns out that robot has a powerful Artificial Intelligence, it can learn from its opponents tactics, and compensate. That's the Sentinel approach, and it's quite effective. If only my children could learn from experience and get smarter every time. Close the door, dammit! Don't leave the milk sitting on the bench!
More fighting. The robot produces Doc Ock tentacles, Kraven's fighting bolas, Scorpion's tail. A wild swing from the latter tears out a chunk of building, and Spider-Man is forced to rescue some innocent bystanders. The robot sees this and absorbs it, then struggles to assimilate that act into its existing programming. Spider-Man is evil, it knows. Yet this heroism shows him to be good.
The robot starts the DOES NOT COMPUTE thing. You know, like from Star Trek. Spider-Man senses his opening, and tells the robot to hop online and Google "Spider-Man". Sure enough, the robot learns of all the heroic things Spider-Man has done. This fries his little circuit-board mind, and he zaps himself out of the picture with a final TZZTZ, leaving nothing but a crackling, lifeless shell.
This plot line turns up now and again, the "villain goes to kill Spider-Man, then learns/realizes that Spidey is a hero and decides not to kill him" concept. However, I can't off-hand recall it being done with a robot. Even if it has been done, you certainly couldn't say it was over-done.
There's nothing particularly special about this version of it. I certainly don't feel any particular emotional attachment to this version of Peter, MJ and May. But on the flip-side, there's nothing too dreadful about this tale either. It's bland, but it's perfectly serviceable.
In the context of the usual offering from this magazine, a capable story adequately told is a real step up. In a rare burst of generosity, I'm going to give this tale a perfectly average, boring, mundane three webs!