Reader's Digest isn't exactly the first name that comes to mind when you think of Spider-Man books, but in 2008 they produced a curious set of four different story books, all featuring some kind of active element.
This one is a "sliding panel" book. It's kind of like a folding-flap book, but not quite.
This book is 7" x 9" and features a hard, squared-bound cover. The book is of solid construction, being about half an inch thick despite featuring only ten pages (including the front and back inside cover).
The story is very to-the-point. The Green Goblin is on his way to steal an "experimental teleportation beam" from a "secret research lab". Spider-Man, web-slinging through the city, is closing in. No other background. This one's about the ACTION, baby!
And now is a good moment to introduce the "active" part of the construction. This double-spread (and the other two that follow) all feature a "sliding panel". A sort of louver effect means that when you pull the tab at the side of the book, a part of the picture slides in three segments to reveal a different image at that point in the page. Basically, it's a high-tech 2D folding flap.
Technically, the tabs are a bit tricky to work. Pulling them out is easy enough, but they tend to stick when you push them back in. Getting the louver panels to line up again nicely is a bit fiddly and requires two hands.
The next page sees Spider-Man distracted by the pumpkin bomb, but managing to tag Goblin with a Spider-Tracer and hence successfully track him to the research facility. Curiously, the facility is deep in woodland but within sight of the Manhattan skyline. Spider-Man is shown swinging far, far above the trees. Just what, exactly, might he be swinging from do you think?
Meanwhile, Bruce Banner is deep in the lab, finishing the beam. Doctor Doom bursts in, and Banner transforms (cue sliding panel) into THE HULK.
Turn the page again, and The Green Goblin arrives followed closely by... ummm... the Human Torch actually. Not sure where he came from.
Final double-page spread. Torch and Spidey wrap up the Doombots and the Green Goblin. Human Torch encases Doctor Doom in a cage of fire, saving the day.
The mechanics of this sturdy book are quite impressive at first glance. For $9.99 you get a solid slab of cunningly-constructed cardboard.
The front cover also has a die-cut hole so that the first sliding panel is actually visible through the front of the book. That's a pretty good idea from the point of picking up impulse sales.
The story itself is... serviceable. It's a shameless vehicle for getting two villains and three heroes into one place at one time. It has five pages to do so, so I guess it can be forgiven for employing a certain ruthless efficiency verging on brusqueness! Writer Michael Teitelbaum has penned many Spider-Man stories, and he knows what he's doing. The complete lack of context or character development will be deliberate, not the product of any lack of writing ability or knowledge of Spider-Man.
Format is nice and solid, though the tabs are slightly fiddly.
The art is rich and bright.
In story terms, there's really nothing to comment on. What story?
Overall, I think the good outweighs the bad. Three and a half webs.
P.S. Is now a bad time to point out that Doom's armor is fire-proof?