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.
This month... "Out of Reach!"
Doc Ock rebuilds his mechanical arms to make them even longer. Now he can use his super-extended metal tentacles to play practical jokes on his friends without even being in the same room as them!
Unfortunately for Ock, being in a different room means that he can't actually see the joke to enjoy it!
Now, I have no idea how this is supposed to work. For example, in one case, Doc Ock sticks his head around the door of the classroom in order to place a funny hat on Captain America's head. So he can see perfectly well when playing the prank. But somehow he is not capable of peeking through a window or around the same door in order to observe the moment when the gag comes to fruition?
Frustrated by his own inability to look through a window, Ock decides to abandon his practical jokery, and instead go play with his friends. However, what he fails to realise is that his "friends" are wise to his tricks, and have planned a little revenge.
So when the assembled super-kids get together for a tricycle race, Ock asks to join in.
"Of course," is the reply.
But as Spider-Girl waves the start flag (being a girl, she is usually excluded from these dangerous activities), the other heroes race away down the track. Doc Ock, however, finds his trike stuck to the ground with fresh webbing.
Looks like the joke is on Ock, this time! Still, at least he got to see this one.
Once again, this is a story that almost makes sense, except for one unnecessary logical flaw.
Specifically, the bulk of the plot attempts to turn itself on the supposed problem that Ock cannot see his own practical jokes. This is a problem which is (a) rather inexplicable, and (b) entirely irrelevant. It is essentially a redundant element, introduced only to increase the number of plot flaws above zero.
In fact, the "new and improved super-long tentacles" explanation is also somewhat redundant to the story. We're talking four-page stories here, with twelve panels. There's really no need for padding! A four page story only needs one primary concept.
This is very nearly an adequate story. So I shall very nearly give it an adequate rating.
Two and a half webs, just a little below par.
This is the last of the current batch of Spider-Man & Friends (UK Magazine) issues that I have had shipped to me from the UK.
Of course, all of the UK Marvel magazine titles are very much up in the air with the recent takeover of Marvel by Disney. From what we can tell, the two sister magazines Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) and Marvel Heroes (UK Magazine) are both going to have their original UK-created content cut, and will continue purely as reprint magazines.
However, it appears that Spider-Man & Friends may escape the axe, and could well continue with original stories featuring their somewhat modified version of the Marvel characters we know and love. Rest assured that as long as original Spidey stories are printed, SpiderFan will carry on reviewing them, for better or for worse!