This UK kids magazine is one of three 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. Finally, their Marvel Heroes (UK Magazine) hits the same mid-teen crowd but with a video game/movie angle.
But let's get back to Spider-Man & Friends. It 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, plus in 2009 they produced a hardback annual.
Published every four 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. It's similar to the formats used for the older kids' magazines, just pitched for a much younger target audience.
"The heroes are playing outside. Iron Man has a football, the Beast has a big kite and Spider-Man is swinging from tree to tree on his special web."
I don't get it. What's so important about today that Spidey is using his special webs instead of his plain old regular webbing? Somehow, I suspect this will never be clarified.
The kiddy-heroes go inside to Iron Man's workshop. It's one of the delightful discrepancies in this series that while some of the friends in the pre-school class are still learning basic literacy, some of the others (including Iron Man and Doc Ock) are certified mechanical geniuses.
So the heroes try to kick balls and fly kites indoors, with the less-than-ideal results you may have expected with a moment's thought. Instead they decide to do some drawing, an inside activity. That's much more successful! They have a lot of fun, and they never would have thought of it if it hadn't started raining.
Pah! How unrealistic! In the first place, if it was raining, the guys would have instantly hit the PS3 and played "Death Match 7 - the Killing Stream" until 2am. In fact, how many American kids do you know who actually play outside any more in the first place? Even if it was a lovely day, it would be Death Match 7 until their eyes bled! C'mon keep, get it real!
I'm just kidding. Well, I'm kidding about the "get real" thing. There's nothing good to be said for realism in this case.
Regardless of the tragic state of modern youth and their near-total eschewing of basically any activity that requires more physical input than tapping plastic buttons, there's a lot more to be said for a magazine which at least makes an effort to suggest some activities which involve engaging the brain, the body, or both.
This is all good, wholesome mom-and-apple-pie stuff - exercise is fun, but when it's raining, try doing something quiet and creative indoors.
As a father or four kids, I endorse this message! But unfortunately there's not much else to commend outside the main moral of the tale. Yes it's beautifully illustrated and capably scripted, but there's no real hook in the plot, no twist or no zing. There's no real laughs or engaging absurdities (excepting the usual incongruity of the basic concept).
All that is just a fancy way of saying that this story is sound, but rather boring. Three webs.