Comics : Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #216
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.
After a few years of erratic quality at best, this title is finally producing some half-decent material. Too bad that Disney (the new owner of Marvel) has announced its intention to pull the plug on all non-U.S. original stories. But there's still a few original UK stories to read before doom is pronounced.
Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #216
Mar 2011 : SM Title
New York, Today: The Tinkerer is captured by Spider-Man, and sent to prison.
New York, The Future: The Tinkerer is released from jail after twenty or so years. He has spent his time contemplating the design for a time travel device, with which he intends to save himself from jail. Retroactively. And indeed upon release, he builds the device.
Being too old to survive the trip, Tink hires Doctor Octopus (the second, and female) to travel back in time on his behalf. Her mission is to stop Spider-Man from arresting the Tinkerer on that fateful day, thus sparing him a lifetime incarceration. Miss Octopus is under strict instructions to do nothing more than simply save The Tinkerer from imprisonment. Anything more drastic could "cause major disruptions in the timeline". Oooh... that sounds bad.
Lady-Doctor Octopus prepares to make the leap back in time. But just as she is ready to depart, two things happen. Firstly, Spider-Girl appears on the scene, ready to stop whatever evil plan is afoot. And secondly, Female Doc Ock declares her intention to actually kill Spider-Man, and achieve immortal fame! She then activates her time-travel bracelet and departs for decades past.
Spider-Girl hears all this, and realizes that her very existence is at stake. Spider-Man was/is her father, and without him, she is... well, frankly speaking, she isn't. That is to say, she won't be. So Spider-Girl grabs the spare time-travel bracelet (hey, they're cheaper if you make them in pairs) and heads back in time as well, hot on the trail of the tentacled trouble-maker.
Flash back to "now". Spider-Man is merrily swinging on his way to capture the Tinkerer, when Mrs. Octopus bursts onto the scene, armed with her four extra golden limbs that shoot lasers, phasers, tasers, masers, and schmasers. She also has a personal force field. So it's not surprising that the fight starts off somewhat tilted in her favor.
But before she can defeat Spider-Man permanently, the reinforcements arrive. May Parker, aka Spider-Girl, leaps in with the assist. The battle runs for a couple of pages, and Spider-Girl gets to muse on the various incongruities of fighting alongside Dad. Of course, she can't tell her Dad any details about who she is or what is going on. Too dangerous for the timestream, you understand.
However, she does mention that they already met once before. In the future. But when was that, you ask? Is this a reference to Spider-Girl #10? Well, I don't think so, since the events of that issue actually occurred in "current" time as well. Perhaps it's a reference to the story "The Amazing Spider-Legion" from Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #54. But no, that story also took place in current time. Sorry, but I'm stumped on that one.
Anyhow, despite having met in some as-yet-unidentified past/future story, Peter doesn't know that Spider-Girl is actually his daughter. And that's the way things have to stay.
The fight swings back and forth, so to speak. But with her personal force field, Octopus-ess is basically unbeatable, and it's only a matter of time before she has the Spider-Team on the ropes. Octette then comes up with a sneaky plan. She decides to use Spider-Girl's bracelet to send Spidey on a one-way trip to the end of time. However, to grab the bracelet she needs to drop her shield, at which point she painfully learns that Spider-Girl wasn't really unconscious. SLAM! KO! Good guys win!
Of course, Spider-Girl can't hang around. Too dangerous for the you-know-what. So she throws the incapacitated villainess over her shoulders and sets the time controls for home, after first impressing on Spider-Man how important it is that he carry on his mission and capture the Tinkerer today.
Sure thing. But Spider-Man has something to tell Spider-Girl. She needs to learn that "With great power..."
"...comes great responsibility. Like I'd ever forget," finishes Spider-Girl. Yeah, I guess she knows that one off by heart already.
These time-travel stories are a slight gimmicky, and very dangerous. Time travel in general is such a confusing and overwhelming concept that it really needs to be treated with great respect. Used to excess, the time-travel-trick can (a) result in a mixed-up mess of continuity which nobody can understand, and (b) render any major event completely meaningless, since anything that happens can be un-happened via a simple time-trip.
The worst thing about time-travel is that if you make it as easy as it appears in this story, then common-sense would indicate that suddenly every would be doing it. Lose a battle? No problem, Tinkerer will give you a time-travel bracelet and you can fight it again. Lose a loved one? Fail a test? Get a speeding ticket? Easy... Time Travel will fix it for you!
Basically, this story has opened Pandora's Box in order to have a bit of fun, and then walked away from the obvious consequences.
On the other hand... in pure "story" terms, this is pretty good stuff. The plot is clever and tight. The dialog is convincing, and the artwork is excellent too. So I'm torn between two extremes.
Considered as a standalone story, this is a smart, fun tale.
Considered in any wider continuity, the idea of handing out personal time-travel bracelets just makes a total mockery of any continuity for the rest of... forever.
So I'm gonna split the rating down the middle and give it an average three webs. There you go kids, maths is good for something after all. It's great for avoiding difficult decisions!