This is the fourth in the set of innovative picture story books produced by Reader's Digest in 2007/08.
Physically, this book is 8.5" x 10". It has a hard cover, contains 20 full-color pages. A hard plastic molding set into a rectangular hole in the front cover contains three coloring "pictures" on embossed plastic, rending them technically "3D". There are also four felt-tips included (red, green, blue and yellow).
The embossed pictures and felt pens are accessed via a flap in the back of the front cover.
Like it's fellow stories, this tale is prompted by a high-tech "MacGuffin" and a big-name super-villain. In this case it's a Super Robot and Doctor Doom. For a change, Doom is building the robot himself, rather than stealing it.
Actually, that raises an interesting question. In what sense is creating a super robot a criminal act that justifies the crossing of international boundaries to perform a vigilante act of what is technically terrorism. By the justification in this book, if Mr. Fantastic was to invent, oh, I don't know... say a Flying Car or a Portal to the Negative Zone... then China would be within its rights to send a super-team to destroy it?
Oh wait. I see the difference. One side is "good" and the other is "bad". Took me a while to figure it out. Labels. They make all the difference, dontcha know.
So... the "heroes" head into their super Avenger jet to stop the "villains" from acquiring "Element X"... a "super-energy source". See... never settle for one MacGuffin when you can invent two!
The heroes in this case are the Avengers (including Wolverine) plus the Fantastic Four. They four arrive at the site of the Element X and discover a huge drilling machine. They promptly smash the drilling machine. Why? Did they know who it belonged to? No. I guess it just didn't look like a good drilling machine. Probably owned by foreigners.
Ah wait. Heh. OK, now the villains turn up. Doombots. Plus Green Goblin and the Abomination. Yeah, a perfectly sensible combination. They're all... green! And look, there's a green felt pen included on the cover! How convenient! In any case, the way I see it, the Green Goblin and Abomination were just acting in self defense after the unprovoked assault on their drilling machine! Doesn't help them any though. They still get a whomping from the "good" guys.
After beating up Gobby and Abommy, the heroes run around a bit until they eventually encounter Doom's Super-Robot, which is quite naturally super-powered with Element X. Everybody fights the robot, until Iron Man tells Spider-Man to take the Element X out of the robot, thus rendering it harmless.
This book originally retailed for US$13. For that you get one very silly 20-page story, four felt tip markers, and three plastic things to draw on.
Is that a good price? Well, I'm not sure. I'm trying to put myself into seven-year-old-boy-mode to see if I can see those plastic "3D" coloring things as anything more than cheap plastic junk. It's a bit of a stretch, to be honest.
The horrible mismatched jumble of heroes and villains is hard to get past. And sure, the artwork is bright and cheerful. But it hardly drips with artistic merit, while the story itself is as contrived a piece of irrelevancy as I've seen in a long time.
Felt pens are always good. But with just four colors, I shudder to imagine the inevitable garish 4" x 6" embossed plastic disaster that proud parents will be forced to "appreciate" and tape to their refrigerator until it can be conveniently buried beneath school notices and unpaid bills.
P.S. I'm not sure where the "Race Against Time" came in. The heroes lost the race against time. They turned up too late to prevent Doom from animating his super-robot. And... they still won anyhow.