This long-running three-weekly UK Magazine started out by running reprints for 51 issues. But starting with issue #52, it launched a string of original out-of-continuity Spider-Man stories created in the UK which was to last for more than a decade, until Disney pulled the plug in 2011.
The stories changed their tone throughout that time. The early original stories followed in the style of the preceding reprints, which is to say, similar to Spider-Man Adventures, or the Spider-Man TV (1994) television series. Much later, the stories shifted sideways to become more like a watered-down imitation of Ultimate Spider-Man.
In any case, the original Spider-Man stories occupied eleven or twelve pages of this 32 page publication, which was aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. The plots for these stories featured classic Marvel characters and villains. While they often echoed plots from the mainstream comics, they did so in their own special style. The remainder of the content was filled with puzzles, coloring, posters (reprinted art), fan letters, and promotions for DVDs and computer games.
I'm currently running catch-up reviews for all the back issues I've managed to find in the past twelve months, in our Lookback section... "British History". Currently I'm up to 2001, which seems to have been a tough year for this title, with the publication schedule temporarily extended to every 8-weeks instead of every 4-weeks.
Last issue, Spider-Man was returning home to New York by ocean liner from Eastern Europe, after being temporarily crowned as the King of Pagadora. This was, of course, part of a subtle plot which was intended to save the nation of Pagadora from becoming the first pawn to fall in a global game of world domination at the hands (or perhaps "tentacles") of Hydra, the international terrorist organisation.
However, the ocean liner has just been blown up, sending Spider-Man hurtling into the sky...
Now, this explosion is a most peculiar sort of thing. The explosion is powerful enough to engulf the entire ship in an instant ball of fire, and sink it, while hurtling Spider-Man high into the air. However, as we will soon learn, none of the crew or other passengers are actually killed. This is obviously a very special explosion.
Up in orbit, S.H.I.E.L.D. hear that Hydra have claimed responsibility for the explosion, and that no bodies have been found. Nick Fury heads over personally to investigate. We'll met up with him later.
But first, back to our web-slinging hero. He has been knocked unconscious, although he has also managed to cling to some driftwood, while floating onto a Mediterranean (Adriatic, more specifically) deserted island, covered with palm trees.
Here he meets a lovely young woman in a skin-tight dress, who lures Spider-Man into a trap. Our hero is captured by agents of Hydra, and the woman is revealed as...The Supreme Hydra!
Spider-Man is then subdued with sleeping gas, and taken to the caverns under the island. Here he is "forced" to work alongside all of the other ship passengers in the diamond mines. Let me summarize:
This goes on for a bit, until Spider-Man decides that it's time for action. He easily breaks his handcuffs and then attacks the Hydra guards. The Hydra guards shoot back, but they accidentally hit some of the machinery with a stray shot.
"It's too late! The matter converter's about to blow!" yells the Supreme Hydra.
All the guards and the prisoners run out of the side tunnel, except for the Supreme Hydra. Oh, yeah, and except for Spider-Man, who has stayed behind to rescue the Supreme Hydra.
Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. flies past at this exact moment, and spots the explosion on "an island that is supposed to be deserted". That's pretty good remembering by Nick. There are 1246 full-sized islands in the Adriatic. Not bad stuff, knowing off by heart exactly which ones are deserted and which ones are inhabited. Well done, Mr. Fury.
But we're not done yet. The Supreme Hydra wasn't committing suicide by staying in the underground cavern. No, she intended to use the secret rocket which is kept permanently fuelled and ready to go. It's not a very secret rocket, because it has the Hydra symbol on the side. But other than that, it's secret. Presumably the rocket also contains a lot of the diamonds. Maybe. Not sure.
Spider-Man manages to leap onto the side of the rocket just as it takes off, and then he smashes a window and climbs inside. He punches the Supreme Hydra unconscious, then crash-lands the rocket into the sea, causing a giant explosion right in front of Nick Fury. This explosion is equally special, in that Spider-Man doesn't lose consciousness, or even suffer any obvious further harm.
Well, there's no shortage of explosions, rockets, submarines, diamonds and high-tech gizmos!
Unfortunately, there is a bit of a shortage of common sense.
Why did Hydra blow up the ship BEFORE taking the passengers hostage? Why not hijack the ship first and then blow it up?
Why in this modern world would you use forced labour anyhow? Half a dozen of those diamonds would buy all the machines you need? Surely one trained, fit, young, willing Hydra agent would be a hell of a lot more useful than six unwilling, fat, middle-aged, unskilled upper-class prisoners in a high-tech modern mine. These slaves were being used to pull mine carts, for goodness sake! Why? To save spending a few thousand bucks on an electric engine that would have done a much better job with much less fuss?
And anyhow, if Hydra's plan was to steal the diamonds, what was the point of the coup in Pagadora?
And what was the "Matter Converter" for? I'm presuming that the diamonds were being converted into something else. They sure as hell couldn't be sold. As soon as the diamond market realises that somebody is about to sell five tons of diamonds, the price will crash to nothing. Diamonds will be worth the same price per ounce as toilet paper.
What was the rocket for? Rockets aren't cheap. Ask NASA. Why build a rocket base in the middle of a mine, when you have a perfectly good submarine base to work from?
None of these questions will be answered next issue, 'cos this is the end of the arc.
The cover of this magazine asks... "Is Spidey All Washed Up?"
Sadly, I believe the answer is "Yes". One web.
The art work is as slapdash as usual. According to a quick calculation of scale, this ocean "liner" is about 30 foot across, and about 120 foot long, which is ridiculous.