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 today (in 2010).
Since I don't live in the UK, I've been dependent on the kindness of others to get my hands on a regular feed of this title. My original sources helped me get issues #103-#118, and I reviewed them as they came out. Then I lost my supply for two or three years until the late #140's when I started collecting again in earnest. Most recently I have been picking up a few back issues on eBay UK, and dutifully filling in the gaps in this Looking Back section entitled "British History".
This issue features Black Widow on the cover, always a favorite of mine. Also on the cover is ... M.O.D.O.K. the floating psycho cyborg-brain. I've never understood the fascination with M.O.D.O.K. but for some reason he seems to be a popular star in these kinds of out-of-continuity books. Finally, for some reason the cover says "Don't look BEHIND YOU..." However, with a killer-genius behind you, surely looking would be a sensible thing to do?
This one's a pretty linear story, so we'll just go through it by the numbers.
Number one, Spidey is swinging home late after a hard day studying when he stops to rescue an old lady being mugged by a bunch of guys in suits. The guys in suits surprise him by pulling out ray-guns and zapping our web-slinging hero, leading him to need a rescue by their elderly female victim who turns out to be the Black Widow (aka Natasha), dazzling super-spy extraordinare.
Two, Natasha explains she's on the trail of a gang kidnapping scientists, and she disguised herself and set herself up as a trap. But she needed to blow her cover to save Spider-Man from being killed by the baddies. That messed up the mission, except that Spidey managed to tag one of the escaping villains with a tracer, which leads the two heroes to a seemingly abandoned factory.
Number three, the factory isn't abandoned, but is occupied by A.I.M. agents, lead by the mind-blasting, mind-controlling M.O.D.O.K. Spidey and Natasha sneak in, but then accidentally trigger an alarm and are forced to fight M.O.D.O.K, the A.I.M. baddies, and even the scientists who are mind-controlled - though conveniently Spider-Man and Black Widow are too mentally strong to be controlled by M.O.D.O.K despite the factory being rigged with psionic enhancers.
Number four, M.O.D.O.K explains that he himself is protected by a force field, and the psionic enhancers are protected by force fields that repel any attack with a response twice the power. So Spider-Man tricks M.O.D.O.K into launching a massive blast, dodges, the blast hits the "double-power-back" device and bounces back to M.O.D.O.K taking him out.
Five and final, Nick Fury turns up with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, and thanks Spidey. Black Widow thanks him too, and the wall-crawler swings away making jokes about not wanting to tell M.O.D.O.K how close he nearly came to winning, as it might give him "a big head".
Nothing really of any interest here. Sure, Natasha is sex-on-a-stick. But there's only so fair that perfect buttocks and breasts in air-brushed rubber jumpsuits can go towards saving an otherwise entirely unexciting plot. Captured scientists, evil villains, and a pretty standard "use the villain's powers against himself" finish. Wrap it up with a happily ever after and we're all going home.
Yawn. Two webs.