This UK kids magazine is one of two regular Spidey magazine offerings from Panini. Spider-Man & Friends targets the 4-10 year old market, while sister publication Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) aims at the pre-teen and teen crowd.
Spider-Man & Friends features a distinctively drawn semi-Manga style kiddie Spider-Man, his cousin Spider-Girl, plus early school versions of Hulk, Wolverine, Beast, Storm and Captain America along with guest appearances from many other big name Marvel heroes and villains. Toy tie-ins are also available.
Published every four or five weeks, this UK magazine features a toy taped to the front of each issue. Inside you'll find a four page Spidey & Friends story with three panels per page, captions of 8-20 words per panel. Then there's some nice simple kids puzzles, some coloring, a couple of competitions, and a page or two of Spidey merchandise. Essentially, it's the same format as the older kids magazine, just reworked for a much younger target audience.
This issue is from May 2008, and with the Iron Man movie hitting the big screen, it's not surprising that Iron Man is also the star of our story.
"Iron Man is very good at inventing new things," begins our tale. And while he can fly through the air with the greatest of ease, that somehow isn't quite enough for our mighty metal man. He has invited Spider-Man and Captain America to the Iron Lab to see his latest upgrade. ROCKET ROLLER SKATES!
"These new rocket skates will get me wherever I need to be in no time at all," suggests our slightly brain-damaged red-an-yellow tin-plated crackpot. Right, rolling across pavement, grass and up stairs is bound to be faster than flying at Mach-10. Naturally!
I guess this is a tip-of-the-hat to classic 60's Iron Man stories where the metal-clad maestro used roller-skates to recharge his "transistors". Even so, this modern version of the tale feels slightly forced, as Iron Man's rocket-skates race out of control. Oh no!
Spider-Man throws a web-lasso around Iron Man, but doesn't think to anchor the web-line to anything, so he just gets dragged along. Captain America leaps ahead and slows Iron Man down with a shield slam, allowing Spidey to free himself and set up a big spider's web across the street. That does the trick.
Of course, no Spidey & Friends story is complete without a punchline. So here it is:
"I don't think your skates are ready for outdoor use yet," Captain America says, and all the friends laugh.
This story is neither intelligent, nor surreal, nor witty, nor redeeming in any social or moral sense. In fact, it possesses no redeeming features of any kind. Of course, there's nothing specifically offensive about it either. How could there be?
Bland and irrelevant. One and a half webs.
Coloring, sums, jigsaw, mazes, more coloring, tracing letters, "spot the difference", and a couple of Iron Man features fill out this issue. There's also the usual letters page with art and photos from kids aged from 7 years old all the way down to a 1-month year old Spider-Fan with her Spider-Girl doll. Excellent!