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.
Spider-Man is having a birthday party. He invites everybody to his tree house. But Doctor Octopus accidentally drops his invitation before he has read it, so he doesn't know about the party.
On the day of the party, everybody arrives, except Doctor Octopus. Except that Doctor Octopus turns up shortly afterwards, by complete coincidence. And when Ock sees the party, he gets angry because he thought he had not been invited. He sneaks in and eats all the cake, pops all the balloons, and steals the presents to throw on the ground.
Fortunately, the Silver Surfer spots the falling presents and grabs them before they are ruined. Then Spidey explains that he saw Doc dropping his invitation. Ock is ashamed that he was so naughty. He gives everybody else a ride on his new sled.
If Spidey knew that Ock had dropped his invitation, why didn't he chase after him and make sure he got it back again?
Why pick on Doctor Octopus to be the "bad guy". Is he actually "more bad" than the others? Why couldn't Spider-Girl or The Thing have been the one to get angry and spoil the party? Is Doctor Octopus doomed to turn to evil? One of the charm of this magazine is that Ock and Rhino are just part of the team. This issue undermines that wonderful shared innocence a little bit.
Plus, how did Ock sneak past half a dozen heroes into a tiny club-house without being seen? Can we assume that this version of Spider-Man doesn't have a Spider-Sense?
Finally, it's hard to get too excited about a ride on a sled when last issue, Silver Surfer took Spider-Man and Captain America to the freaking Moon, for goodness' sake! Can we have a little perspective here please?
Basically, this one just feels contrived.