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. This is Spidey's primary UK non-reprint magazine. He also appears in the pre-school Spider-Man & Friends (UK Magazine), along with occasional guest appearances in Marvel Heroes (UK Magazine).
The Spider-Man story occupies eleven or twelve pages of this 32 page publication, and is aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. The plots for these stories feature classic Marvel characters and villains. While they often echo plots from the mainstream comics, they do so in their own special style.
After a few years of erratic quality at best, this title is finally producing some half-decent material. Too bad that Disney (the new owner of Marvel) has announced its intention to pull the plug on all non-U.S. original stories.
There's still a handful of original plots yet to appear before the final bell sounds. This month guest villains are the "Circus of Crime".
In a recent raffle, the Daily Bugle gave away the top prize to a young boy to lives a hundred miles out of New York. Being legally obliged to have the reward presented in person, cheapskate Bugle editor-in-chief Jonah Jameson decides to send junior photographer Peter Parker out to photograph the event, and persuades Peter to take along his attractive girlfriend Mary Jane Watson to do the handing-over honours.
While the Bugle budget allows only for off-peak bus fare with accommodation under a bridge somewhere, Peter's wealthy pal Harry Osborn decides to treat his friends. He joins them for the trip, and drives them up in his sports car, as well as paying for a hotel.
Things are looking up, for a brief moment. However, we know that Spider-Man's life never runs smoothly. When the three friends arrive in the hick town of "Moose Jaw", the buddies learn that (a) the kid who won the competition is a complete spoiled jerk, and (b) the town mayor is a slimy, shifty lowlife.
More importantly, they learn that the presentation is to be given at the half-time break during the local college football game that evening, and that the remainder of the half-time show is to be performed by a travelling circus act, which has been arranged by the mayor himself. What generosity!
Peter, MJ and Harry settle down to enjoy the match. When half-time arrives, Mary-Jane duly hands over the prize to the lucky winner, who is quite reasonably unimpressed when the grand prize is revealed as a cheap alarm clock. Mind you, as nasty surprises go, that's nowhere near as nasty as the revelation that the half-time show is to be performed by... the Circus of Crime! Given that their faces were all over the front cover of this magazine, that shouldn't really come as a surprise to any of the readers.
Well, Peter has tackled the Circus many times before, and they don't have any new tricks. Step A, Hypnotise the crowd. Step B, take all the wallets. Step C, profit. Pretty basic stuff.
Our web-headed hero makes an excuse to his pals, ducks behind the stands and thus avoids being hypnotised while changing into costume. He then announces his presence, and mops up the circus without too much problem. Sure, it takes him four pages of action, mostly because we get the fight in glorious technicolour detail.
The Ringmaster is the last to be captured. He runs off to ask for help from the local mayor. Spider-Man overhears the discussion, and learns that the mayor was in on the whole deal, in return for a share of the takings. A bit of webbing stops them both in their tracks, and it's all over.
There's not a great deal of dramatic tension in this story, as Spider-Man is a bit too clever for the Circus of Crime. It's pretty clear that he's on top of everything, and is headed for a nice easy victory. However, the whole thing hangs together very well, and there's some nice sub-plotting scattered throughout.
Perhaps the most notable downside is in some haphazard artwork by McCrea and Townsend, particularly in the drawing of faces. The face artwork is terribly erratic, and some of the panels a truly terrible.
Low on excitement, and haphazard artwork. But a nicely detailed story with capable scripting.
Let's go for three webs.