I recently posted review number one-thousand on this site. In that number is joy and sorrow mixed in a thousand different quotients.
Some reviews I approach with a sense of delight, and others I can only complete by smothering my sense of despair under a pillow of obligation.
This book "5-Minute Marvel Stories" started with delight, then quickly turned to something dangerously close to nausea.
The delight came from my initial examination. This book is pleasingly substantial... a luxury padded cover and bold artwork makes this 8" x 11" book attractive to hold. It is nearly an inch thick, and contains 188 pages of sturdy, high-quality and richly coloured material.
There are twelve stories. At five minutes each, that neatly rounds out to an hour's worth of reading. And glancing through the casual shopper might well be convinced into parting with their money merely by the liberal distribution of richly-coloured illustrations.
In fact, the illustration team have done a fantastic job. There's half a dozen different illustrators credited to the stories, but they've all come together to create a consistent and highly-commendable look to the product. Every page has an illustration, and quite often the artwork fills the whole page with bleed-to-the-edge impact.
Unfortunately there's also a story, and that's where it all falls apart. Every single one of the half-dozen writers have vied with one-another to create the most insipid and meaningless tales of all time.
Spider-Man appears in four of the tales. He tackles Kraven, Sandman, the Sinister Six and the Lizard, in uniformly dull and irrelevant fashion. Technically, I should be writing four separate reviews, but none of these tales justifies a dedicated write-up. In fact, a paragraph is giving them undue attention. Even a bullet-point is probably granting them undeserved dignity.
1: In "Keep Away From Kraven the Hunter", Peter Parker goes to the zoo and encounters Kraven the Hunter. Spider-Man hits Kraven on the jaw and wins the fight. This adapts the plot and re-uses artwork from the Kraven story in The Amazing Spider-Man Origin Storybook Collection.
2: In "Spider-Man vs. Sandman", Peter Parker is bullied at school. Spider-Man then fights Sandman and decides he needs to "outsmart Sandman", just as he would outsmart a bully. So he uses a vacuum cleaner to suck up the villain. This adapts the plot and re-uses artwork from the Sandman story in The Amazing Spider-Man Origin Storybook Collection.
3: In "Spider-Man vs. The Sinister Six", Spider-Man fights Kraven (Webbing), Electro (Punch to Jaw), Sandman (Covers him with Cement), Vulture (Webbing), Mysterio (Punch to Jaw), and Doc Ock (Dunks in Water). This adapts the plot and re-uses artwork from the Sinister Six story in The Amazing Spider-Man Origin Storybook Collection.
4: In "Peter Parker's Pictures", Spider-Man fights the Lizard. He grabs a convenient potion which returns the Lizard back to human form. This adapts the plot and re-uses artwork from The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Lizard (Origin Storybook).
There are eight other stories in the book which feature other Superheroes. The X-Men, Thor and Hulk get a story. Iron Man gets two. The Might Avengers get three. None of them are any better than the Spider-Man material. Several of them are worse.
All four of the Spidey stories in this book are actually borrowed, adapted and lengthened from other sources. What is impressive is that these tales have all been made worse in the adaptation. While the images are unchanged, the writers have taken generic and generally mediocre text as input, and have produced output which is unequivocally bad.
I find it difficult to explain just why I loathe these stories so much. The world is full of uninspiring stories constructed for no reason other than to squeeze some cash out of the juvenile end of the Marvel product base.
Naturally. Disney is just trying to get some return on their investment. It's perfectly sensible. It's just sad to see.
The problem is, there's just no heart in these stories. There's no brain either. In fact, they're missing lungs, kidneys, skin, bones and pretty much everything else. You wouldn't need an infinite number of monkeys to write this stuff. A half-dozen rats could do the job in half a week.
It's so stupid, I could write these damn stories in five minutes. Here, let me try a page for ya:
"Spider-Man knew that the Rhino was very dangerous. He was worried that if the Rhino charged at the police, the people standing outside the jewellery store might get hurt. So Spider-Man spun a big web between two lamp-posts. Then he decided to taunt the Rhino, to trick the villain into getting stuck in the web."
"Hey, Horn-Brain!" yelled Spider-Man. "Why did you steal that necklace. You're too ugly to have a girlfriend!"
Spider-Man knew that if he made the Rhino angry enough, he would run into the web-slinger's trap.
See. Instant crap. Any idiot can write it. And these stories are full of it.
Anton Chekhov famously said — "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."
These stories have nothing in them. There's no sub-text. No rhythm. No creativity. No spark. Whoever wrote this should have their Poetic License revoked. It's the literary equivalent of chewing gum. Or cardboard. Or Ramen Noodles.