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.
Before I begin, I'd like to say a big fat "no bloody thanks" to the distributors of this comic who decided to tape toys to the cover of the comic using a sticky tape that cannot be removed without damaging the cover of the comic. As a collector, it's delightful to receive a brand new comic which is already "pre-ruined". Nice one, guys.
Anyhow. Today, Spider-Man and his friends (Spider-Girl, Hulk & Cyclops) have decided to go cave exploring. Yeah, excellent subliminal suggestion to make to the under-five market! Next couple of preschoolers end up trapped and starved to death in a small muddy hole in the British countryside, hope you guys feel real guilty! What? No, I'm not still mad about the sticky tape thing... why do you ask?
It's very dark in the cave, but Spider-Man and Spider-Girl turn on the torches in their costume. "We can't get lost now," Spider-Girl says. Oh really? As long as you have a torch, you can't get lost in a network of underground tunnels? Handy hint there. Thanks S-G. Maybe we can print that... ON YOUR TOMBSTONE!
The torches make scary shadows. Cyclops makes giant bunny ears on Hulk's shadow. Heh, actually that's quite funny. They find Spiders. Spidey-Girly like da Spideys. There's bats too. And echoes. Hulk likes echoes, and he shouts REALLY LOUDLY. The ceiling collapses and all the heroes are crushed.
Heh, nah, just kidding. The ceiling collapses and the heroes are very nearly crushed. Hulk is left to hold up the roof. Kind of like in Secret Wars #4 for all those old enough to remember that. Anyhow, Hulk starts wondering if the guys can do something to help, 'cos the roof is kind of heavy. So, Cyclops starts laying around with his eye-zap-beams to "move the rocks away." Meanwhile Spider-Man uses webbing to help "hold up the roof". Hold up the roof? With webbing? Well... maaaaayyybee I can believe that. But don't push it too far, OK?
Then Spider-Girl and Spider-Man move rocks using shovels they have made out of webbing. No, seriously. They make a goddamn web-shovel and use it to move rocks. A... shovel... made... out... of... webbing. I mean seriously, why not just make a rotating tunnel-drill out of webbing? Or a web-radio to call for help? Or a bunch of rock-eating-web-nanobots?
The heroes emerge into the light, followed by bats. The heroes are gonna find the bats a new cave to live in.
Well, I take it back. There won't be any kids going tunneling this week... 'cos they've all had the crap scared out of them by a story that teaches them that yelling in caves will cause you to be trapped in the cold, dusty underground with bats and spiders. Yeah, suck on that, nature-lovers!
Not your finest hour, sorry Spider-Man & Friends. If "heroes" means "people who dress up in funny costumes and carelessly destroy the habitat of native species," then you're right on the mark. But somehow I think not.
Two webs. And one of those is for the Hulk's bunny ears.