Welcome to our "British History" lecture series. Our goal is to shed some light onto the murky history of one of Spidey's lesser known current titles... the alternate universe UK-only series Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine).
Started in 1995 as "reprints plus filler", it transmogrified itself a few years later and swapped that reprint content for 11 pages of original story content written by UK creators.
It's still running currently (in 2010). But we only started regularly reviewing from issue 100 or so (and even then we had a break for a couple of years during the #120's and #130's). Now, thanks to the joint miracles of eBay UK and international shipping, we're planning to track down and review all those other stories that slipped through the cracks the first time around.
This issue, we're at part three of a Doc Ock arc that has just... Unmasked Spider-Man!
Carefully ambushing Peter Parker at Flash Thompson's birthday party, Doc Ock has exposed him as Spider-Man. How? Well, by the simple expedient of tearing his shirt to expose the Spider-Man costume underneath.
Now Peter finds himself in prison, wearing his costume (without the mask), and waiting for arraignment on charges of conspiring with Doctor Octopus to commit the recent robberies performed by Otto and his ally The Eraser. Oh dear, oh dear! How on earth is our hero to get out of this mess?!
Well, first up, Peter has a few visitors - starting with his distraught Aunt May. Naturally, Peter explains that he believed that Flash's party was fancy dress. Mary Jane is next, offering her support and her perfect anti-gravity breasts, and the interesting piece of news that Laurence Gentry is coming to visit also.
Laurence who? Ah well... some history for those who are reading more recent issues. You see, in issue #137 or #138 of this title, there was a reboot from a "Loosely 1990's TV Series Spidey" to a "kind of Ultimate Spider-Man sort of Spidey". In the earlier continuity, this Laurence guy is a crook-but-not-really-totally-evil super-villain named Porcupine. But more importantly, he is Peter's rival for the love of Mary Jane, and both he and Peter know each other's secret identity.
So... Laurence turns up offering to "borrow" Peter's spare costume, then pretend to be Spidey in order to prove that Peter (being in prison) isn't the real Spidey. Naturally, Peter doesn't trust the guy and declines the offer. Laurence leaves, promising to "take care of Mary Jane". That doesn't help Peter's temper at all! The prison guards have to restrain him... an impressive feat. Presumably despite being really angry, Peter still knows he has to hide his real strength.
But enough soap opera. Where are the real villains of the piece? Let's start with Electro who has just been released from prison for "Good Behavior". Seriously? What the hell kind of revolving doors do they have on those Marvel Universe prisons anyhow?! Meh. It's a plot device. Let's move on. Electro (aka Max Dillon) uses his electrical powers to tap all the cities phone lines. Really? I mean, even if he could tap a million phone lines, he still only has a single human brain to listen to those calls on. And who's to say that Ock is making any phone calls today?
Oh, let's forgive that silly little plot device too and move on to where Electro gate-crashes the secret high-tech hideout where Ock and The Eraser are planning their next crime. There's a short tussle, during which The Eraser wipes out the top lightning bolt from Electro's mask. Betcha ten bucks it magically re-appears by the next time we see him.
As Ock, Electro and The Eraser prepare a three-man crime wave to make the most of Spider-Man's absence, a few things at least are looking up for Peter. He has a few allies joining his team. Firstly, Jonah Jameson reckons that his photographer Peter can't be Spider-Man (Jonah's ego won't allow him to believe he was fooled all along). And as the Bugle launches its campaign, Matt Murdock (aka Daredevil of course) is appointed as Peter's lawyer.
Now, Daredevil's enhanced hearing allows him to know that Peter is lying when he denies being Spider-Man. Knowing that the real Spider-Man is in trouble, Daredevil acquires a (somewhat over-sized) Spider-Man fancy dress costume and sets out to swing about New York and hence demonstrate (in the same way that the Porcupine offered to do) that Peter Parker can't be Spider-Man.
It doesn't take long for Daredevil/Spider-Man to find some action. Ock/Eraser/Electro are out on a spree, helping themselves to an armored car shifting $10,000,000 of payroll (you're kidding right, does nobody use electronic banking in America yet?) DD's timing is perfect, as Hydra (seeking revenge on... well, basically everybody) flies in with their heli-carrier.
It's a five way full-fury free-for-all. The final result is: (1) Hydra's heli gets hurled in the Hudson. (2) Ock & Co. escape with the loot. (3) Daredevil in his Spider-Man costume is severely beaten and has to follow discretion as the better part of valor and leave the fight. But fortunately for him, (4) plenty of bystanders and photographers grab enough shots to sufficiently demonstrate (via the Daily Bugle) that Spider-Man is clearly outside of prison and hence Peter (being inside of prison) cannot be the web-head.
End result: Peter Parker is released. Matt Murdoch (still somewhat battered and bruised) gives him the good news, and also whispers to Peter that he really needs to "sort out Ock and his gang before anyone gets seriously hurt."
So do we think Matt is going to help Peter fight a civil case for compensation for wrongful imprisonment? Or do we think instead that now that the two New York icons know each other's identity that they will team-up to hand the bad guys the butt-kicking the so richly deserve by now? Only time (and next issue) will tell.
As for this story, well there's plenty of silliness here. For starters, how about the fact that being seen with a Spider-Man outfit under your clothes is sufficient evidence to have somebody locked up without bail? I can imagine that legal precedent putting a bit of a damper on Spider-Man costume hire! Then there's Electro's ridiculous early release, his ability to listen to thousands of phone calls at once, and Ock using an unencrypted phone line.
But the one that really caps it all off for me is Electro shooting the Hydra helicopter out of the sky with a lightning bolt. Daredevil was hanging from the 'copter, but had to bail out because of "the electric current". Really? What current? Helicopter in mid air = no earth = nowhere for the current to flow to. C'mon guys, this is basic electrical theory. Check out Scientific American's article - What happens when lightning strikes an airplane?.
Completely ludicrous, impossible over-the-top rubbish. I loved it.
I know I often complain about plot holes and lack of realism. But frankly, when a story is bubbling over which this much pure fun, a few gentle stretches of the fundamental laws of justice, physics and common-sense can all be forgiven.
This is what kids stories should be like. Four webs.
P.S. You owe me ten bucks.