Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #201
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. This is Spidey's primary UK non-reprint magazine. He also appears in the pre-school Spider-Man & Friends (UK Magazine), along with occasional guest appearances in Marvel Heroes (UK Magazine).
The Spider-Man story occupies eleven or twelve pages of this 32 page publication, and is aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. The plots for these stories feature classic Marvel characters and villains. While they often echo plots from the mainstream comics, they do so in their own special style.
Did I mention that in true Brit-Mag fashion, each magazine comes with a "Free Toy" taped to the cover of the magazine. I don't collect the toys myself (they really mess up the way the comics stack on the shelf), but it's always entertaining to see what Chinese plastic miracle they can manage to afford for the 50 pence budget they probably allocate.
One thing you can be sure of, odds are pretty good it involves "Blasting" or "Missile". For example, this issue is a "Heli-Blaster". The following issue was a "Missile Blaster", and the issue after that included a "Missile Launcher". With all those blasting missiles, it's surprising there's a pre-teen boy's bedroom still left standing in England.
Well, let's launch ourself into this blasted story.
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #201
Apr 2010 : SM Title
To set the scene, Peter is just returning MJ from a night at the movies. They saw a horror flick, and Peter is teasing Mary Jane about zombies and vampires. You'd think he'd know better than to joke, having tackled both zombies and vampires at least a dozen times each. Still, it doesn't stop him from needling his girlfriend. She's not impressed. But I am. The artistic team (lead by Penciler John Royle) are first rate, and Ferg Handley's script is natural and easy as he tackles the interplay between the two young adults.
Cut to late the following night, and Spidey just happens to be patrolling past the inner-city museum where Mister Fear is launching a smash, terrify and grab raid. In case you haven't done your homework, Mister Fear's trick is to emit a gas that causes terror and hallucinations in his victims. He's already got the guards cowering in a corner, and when our web-headed hero arrives he quickly launches into the standard routine.
That works for a bit and the Fear-meister has Spider-Man on the run. It seems that Mister Fear knows a little about Spidey, and he takes the opportunity to throw in a few taunts and barbs that twist the metaphorical knife a little deeper... until Spider-Man's enhanced metabolism cuts in and gives the web-head his second wind.
But that respite doesn't last long, as Mister Fear (aided by a little martial arts training and Spidey's still woozy head) manages to catch our hero with a full-dose chemical scratch that has Spider-Man back on the ropes again, this time more frightened than ever. In fact, it looks like curtains for Spidey until... he fights back with redoubled fury. Indeed, that's the thing that it seems the villain overlooked. While fear makes some people collapse, others it can cause to fight like demons - and Spider-Man more your "category B" kind of guy.
Our champion saves the day, and swings off resolving never to make fun of Mary Jane's fears again.
This story makes two excellent points. Firstly the reminder that fear can inspire as well as incapacitate, and secondly the lovely lesson that Peter learns about the unkindness of taunting people about their fears.
On the negative side... nothing at all. The pencil, ink and coloring on this story are superb. Everything is bright and bold and perfect for this magazine's format.
This story is clearly targeted at the magazine's teen/pre-teen market, but the story itself is well-considered and flawlessly executed. Four solid webs.