This UK magazine series started in 1995 running "reprints plus filler". Then in 1999 the formula changed to feature 11 pages of original story content written by UK creators. The title ran nearly exclusively original stories in that new format until 2011, when it reverted to a reprint series after Disney acquired Marvel and pulled the plug on UK-created content.
Recent issues of this magazine have featured the first real attempt to create some sort of ongoing continuity distinct from the generic "Cartoon TV Spider-Man". Writer Jason Quinn has created a "love triangle" (of sorts) between Peter Parker, MJ, and Laurence "Larry" Gentry (aka the amateur teenage super-villain "The Porcupine", thanks to the super-powered suit he inherited from his father, the original Porcupine).
A couple of issues ago, Larry carried out a failed assassination attempt on Peter, the shock of which saw Aunt May put into hospital. Now Spider-Man is hunting down the Porcupine, neither being aware of the other's secret civilian identity as fellow students.
Things start moving pretty quickly now, as Spider-Man hits the streets looking for the Porcupine. He beats up the occupants of a downtown bar frequented by crooks. In fact, as a minor criminal in Manhattan, attending a small time bar is generally a bad move - there seems to be a rule that any super-hero with a grudge is allowed to come and trash the place without any consequences or guilt.
The local hoods haven't heard of the Porcupine, which isn't surprising since Larry is new in town (and is also still pretty new to the whole super-villain thing). In fact, Larry is finally having regrets about the whole being a killer" idea. Frankly, it's a bit damn late, and it would have been a bit more convincing if he hadn't cold-bloodedly attempted to murder both Spider-Man (shot in the back with poisoned darts in Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #87) and Peter Parker (shot as he slept with poisoned darts in Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #88).
Guided by his sudden attack of conscience, Larry decides instead just to be a thief. He dons his inherited spiky super-costume once more and heads off to find a jewellery store to knock over, so that the can get enough cash to buy MJ's affection instead of killing her boyfriend. Unfortunately, Spider-Man's search for the Porcupine has attracted the attention of Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. Emerging from the jewellery store, Porcupine is captured, taken to Kingpin, and forced to promise to kill Spider-Man.
(Note that the Kingpin's belief that the Porcupine stands a chance against Spidey is based purely in the fact that the Porcupine had previously fought Giant Man (the Avenger) to a standstill. Too bad for Larry that it was his father who achieved that impressive feat!)
Larry/Porcupine heads out to the streets to try and fulfil the Kingpin's wishes (and hence save his own skin). But he doesn't find Spidey... at least not initially. Instead, Porcupine encounters another Gang Boss - the Owl and his armoured assistant Gladiator. Porcupine attempts to run away, but then he bumps into Spider-Man at the worst possible moment.
Spider-Man is furious, and yells "You'll pay for what you did to my Aunt May!" (Remember that Spider-Man believes that the Porcupine had attacked him as Peter Parker, and hence is aware of his civilian identity.) Actually, Larry had no idea before. But of course now he puts two and two together and clicks that Spider-Man and Peter Parker are one and the same. In return, Spider-Man yanks off Larry's mask and returns the favour, discovering that Larry and Porcupine are also one and the same.
Just as our college colleagues are trying to deal with their joint surprises, the Owl and Gladiator come back on the scene. It's two vs. two now, with Spidey and Porcupine facing Owl and Gladiator. Unfortunately, thanks to Larry's incompetence, the "good guys" are defeated. When Spider-Man and the Porcupine gain consciousness they find themselves in cages, on a stage, in front of an assembled crowd of Manhattan's finest criminals.
Ever the sound businessman, the Owl is offering Spider-Man's life to the highest bidder.
This issue is a massive improvement on the last two or three. Apart from Larry's rather unconvincing shift from brutal backstabbing killer, the rest of the plot is actually very well considered. There's scarcely a plot hole to be seen, which is quite unusual indeed!
Having said that, I'm not entirely sure why Larry actually obeyed the Kingpin's demand to kill Spider-Man, instead of ducking into a hotel and changing back to his civilian clothes before sneaking home with his ill-gotten cash. Perhaps the Kingpin had men watching him too closely. Anyhow, that's a minor objection compared to the ridiculous goofs from last issue!
This is surprisingly solid stuff. There's a complex plot which actually hangs together for once.
Plenty of action, plenty of intrigue. I'm going to give this one an above-average 3.5 webs.