The team that brought us "Marvel Pocket Novel #8: Crime Campaign" return for another showing, #11 in the series. Paul Kupperberg writes once more, while Len Wein and Marv Wolfman are credited with "Packaging and Editing".
Unlike the first two Spidey novels, which were solo excursions for the web-slinger, this version is a Hulk/Spidey team-up. Well, team-up/beat-up, as per the usual approach to such mis-matched duos. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
The format is little changed from the previous pocket novels. At 208 pages, the text is marginally longer than "Crime Campaign". Size is 4" x 7", slightly smaller than regular paperback. Full-color softback jacket, inside is B&W. Each chapter features a half-page black and white line drawing showing Spidey (or the Hulk, as best fits the chapter contents) in a classic pose.
But into the text itself. We open with a classic "Army vs. Hulk in the desert" scene. Hulk wins. No plot, but we set some character.
Chapter two cuts to Spidey. We're in 1979 Spidey-time here, with Mary Jane having skipped New York. Peter Parker is blissfully in love with Ms. Cindy Sayers, who you may recall was the gorgeous P.I. who Jameson hired in "Crime Campaign" to pretend to be his niece, in order that she follow Peter around... well, it doesn't matter if you don't remember. Cindy is nothing but parsley sprinkled atop this story. Her character is so thinly written that you can see traffic lights shine through her.
So, ignoring Cindy, Spidey is out and about when he stumbles across an organised raid on a company doing some NASA research. The wall-crawler doesn't quite save the day, but returning to the Bugle he immediately gets dropped into a story to cover the latest StarLab spy-in-the-sky satellite which is due to drop back out of the sky. That story takes Parker out to a U.S. aircraft carrier. But when the satellite vanishes from the radar, everything changes.
Meanwhile, Bruce Banner is minding his own business, until he is attracted by a newspaper advertisement offering a potential treatment for his green condition. The gamma-guy follows up on the ad, but finds himself kidnapped by "the bad guys".
The bad guys consist of a fairly standard pairing of a moderately-evil super-scientist, unequally partnered with a stop-at-nothing business guy with a plan for making zillions. The plan is to steal various bits of navigation technology from NASA, hence allowing them to control the descent of the satellite and drop it into a volcano. Then, they kidnap the Hulk (the only one who can withstand the heat enough to recover the satellite from the volcano), and use a mind-control device on him. The Hulk then becomes their security guard, as they transport the satellite to their launch facility on the U.S./Canada border, and return the satellite into space.
The satellite then allows them to tap into all the world's communications systems, generating information they can sell to the highest bidder. Just in case, the satellite also generates a high-powered ruby laser beam which can be targetted to within 10-meter accuracy, and is focussed enough to generate a 1-meter ground footprint, with enough power to penetrate the atmosphere and obliterate any target.
Of course, Spidey figures this all out, turns up at the base, battles the mind-controlled Hulk, frees the Hulk. Spidey and Hulk spend a couple of hours running around outside the base dodging the laser-beam, before returning to the base and completely trashing it.
See... it doesn't sound like a lot when you say it quickly. In practice, it is of course a phenomenally far-fetched plan, breaking not only every fundamental law of physics, but also every law of common sense - not to mention most of the rules governing human decency. We're talking plot-holes big enough to shoot an orbiting space-satellite laser beam through!
On the plus side, the text flows quite nicely. If you can get past the sheer improbability of it all, the reading isn't too onerous. But despite that fact that the combination of the Hulk and Spider-Man cannot fail to provide an interesting juxtaposition, there's really no depth in any of the characterisation, and there's nary a plot-twist to be found.
An implausible tale, passably written. Really nothing more or less than we could really expect. I'd say it's worth 2.6 webs, so let's round it up to three in a rare fit of generosity.