This long-running UK Magazine started out by running reprints, but these days it offers a brand new "out of continuity" Spider-Man story every three weekly issue.
The Spider-Man story occupies eleven or twelve pages of the 32 page magazine, and are aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. The plots for these stories feature classic Marvel characters and villains, and often echo plots from the mainstream comics, but in their own special style.
The remaining pages of each issue are filled with puzzles, posters and factoids centered around the issues guest star(s), be they heroes or villains. This issue's story is "Time Quest (Part 5): The Sands of Time". Five super-villains intended to travel back in time to defeat Spider-Man, but instead have become isolated and stranded in random periods throughout time.
The Fantastic Four is still trapped in the Negative Zone, but Spider-Man has been busy attempting to recapture the various villains before they destroy history as they know it. The remaining two baddies-at-large are Doc Ock and Sandman. H.E.R.B.I.E. has located one of the pair in the near future...
Spider-Man checks in with the FF's progress. They've created a gateway device, but are still looking for a power source, leaving the web-head to work on the villain clean-up side of the problem. H.E.R.B.I.E. teleports our hero and himself through to the near-future, but without changing location - the bad guy is in Manhattan. It only takes a moment before we see Sandman and the near-future NYPD in a classic shootout.
Spidey naturally joins the boys in blue as they attempt to bring in the Sandman. But while Sandy is surprised to see Spider-Man join the battle, that's nothing compared to the shock that the web-slinger's appearance gives to the NYPD. Because... "How can that be him. He's..." Hmm... I think we can safely surmise that the arachnid avenger is no longer on active duty in this particular future universe, if indeed he is still alive.
But that's an issue for another moment... if at all, as Flint Marko (a.k.a. The Sandman) is getting the upper hand in the fight. This would be a good time for some assistance, perhaps? Ah... here it comes now, in the shape of... Spider-Woman. Actually, it's Spider-Girl. She naturally considers Spider-Man to be an impostor, because of course, well, you know why. But she can't help but trust this stranger. Together they continue the scrap with Sandman, the two of them working perfectly in tandem.
Spider-Man can't help but believe there's some relationship between them - especially when he runs out of webbing, and Spider-Girl lends him some web-fluid cartridges which are of course an exact fit. Together the pair of Spider-Heroes push Sandman back towards the time-travel platform, then Spider-Man tricks the villain into turning into human form just in time to apply a knockout punch to the jaw. The cross-time good-guys have won the day.
Spidey and H.E.R.B.I.E. return to their own time, while Spider-Girl returns home to... her parents, Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson-Parker. Seems that the future version of Peter is still alive, but retired from action after a leg injury. He reveals to May the truth that it was of course a younger version of himself who she aided in the fight, but of course he couldn't tell her about it until the event was over, lest he risk changing the past. Or, that is, the future. Or... oh, I don't know!
I've given writer Ferg Handley a tough time over the last few years for offering us dumbed-down, formulaic pastiches instead of smart, interesting stories. Well, today is a long-overdue exception. Of course, having read Spider-Girl, the future-characters were pretty familiar to me. But that's not a complaint at all.
I reckon this story hit the target teenage audience pretty much spot on the mark. Even more importantly, while we've already seen at least one MC2/Universe-616 crossovers, this one still had enough freshness left in it to make a story that was almost enjoyable to read.
Childish and simple, but with enough redeeming aspects to place it several notches above the regular fare we've been seeing from this title. So far above the norm that I'm going to offer a might 4 webs.
The rest of the issue is padded out with a Sandman fact-file, a Spider-Girl fact-file, puzzles, posters, a competition page, a self-promotion page, 2 pages of ads, and some fan art and letters.