This book is for Spider-Fans who may have fallen away from following the adventures of our webbed hero over the years (or even recently due to the upsetting events of Marvel's Civil War Event or even the recent Mephisto Incident). Hence, given that, this series is fast becoming a refuge of sorts form the ugliness of those corporate storylines. So, if you are interested in returning to the Spider-fold (and read Spider-Man stories without having to deal with the weight of 45 years of continuity or current editorial malfeasance) this is the series for you.
So, if you are looking for truly amazing adventures of a teenaged Spider-Man that are set in the modern-day world, (rather when many of us first met him back in '62), then you've come to the right place. While it is certainly true that this series is actually targeted towards a pre-and teen audience, it is certainly enjoyable for us old fogies as well. The reason for this is because it not only has been developed to evoke the look and feel of a Stan Lee-style action tale, but it is wrapped up and delivered in a contemporary art package, which makes it attractive to both younger readers, as well as older readers who might have fallen away from the main Spider-Titles. Second, while Mary Jane Watson has yet to appear in the series, there is also no sign of Mephisto.
While Spider-Man is swinging along on his usual patrol route he spots a citizen that is calling out for help. As it turns out this gent is being accosted by a pair of ruffians that are dressed up like refugees from a Lewis Carroll book, that is to say they are wearing what appear to be matching playing card Halloween outfits. To make matters worse, they are even spouting lines from Alice in Wonderland ("off with his head"). Our man Spider-Man makes short work of them only to have them run off quite scared, and not at the main web-slinger from this book, but rather, his dark doppelganger, Venom, who is hovering over Spidey's head in a typical Spidery pose. (As it turns out, the civilian also runs away.)
Well, instead of mixing it up with our hero, Venom indicates that he wants to not only go straight but become Spidey's sidekick as well! Understandably cautious with this offer Spidey questions Venom further, and learns that Venom actually went ahead and captured the crooks and didn't eat them, something odd for the off-kilter dark spider. Not convinced, Spidey still refuses until Venom, tapping into his shared knowledge of Peter's psyche convinces the teen hero that if he doesn't give Venom the opportunity to at least try out for the role of sidekick, he'll make a point of ratting out all of Peter's deepest, darkest secrets to all of his loved ones.
Still not convinced, but unwilling to "Pull a Parker" (as they will say during Civil War, but totally forget about afterwards due to...oh, never mind) Spidey allows Venom the chance to at least try and prove he's on the up-and-up. So off the spider-iffic duo go, swinging over the streets of Manhattan from Central Park to 30 Rock, to the top of the Empire State building they travel, but find nothing. No crime. No one to beat up. Venom is bored, and really wants to hit something. Only now is when Spidey swings down to Famous Ray's Famouser Pizza house for a couple of slices (Spidey saved Ray's place from getting torn up by the Rhino a while back (perhaps this occurred just after Marvel Adventures Spider-Man #34, when we last saw Rhino who had moved into the extra room at Aunt May's place after Doc Ock was tossed back into the slam).
Regardless, the two cling to a wall had wolf down dinner, only Venom still has ants in his pants, and scoots off for more adventure, which he finds in the form of a car speeding away from a couple of patrol cars. Spidey jumps head-first into the fray (to show Venom how it is done properly) only to discover that he is strangely out of web fluid (hum, you think that he's make a gauge or some type of alarm to sound off when he runs low on fluid. Too bad he didn't have organic webbing.) Well, Venom does, and quickly takes up the slack, by swinging into the action that Spidey can't.
Venom lands on the hood of the car, causing it to flip over, and spill out the passengers, who are (oddly enough) dressed like mad hatters, and attempting to steal a silver tea set. Just as Venom is about to revert to his old ways, and squash the perps, the twin spiders hear of another robbery going down at the library where the thieves are apparently trying to steal a rare manuscript. Right about now, Spidey starts to put all of the pieces together and realizes that he's being played.
Only Venom swoops him away and they head off towards the library. Once there, Venom switched back to Eddie Brock and slips in among the police to discover what is going on while Spidey must change the old fashion way (by actually getting out of costume and into his civies. Well, before he is able, Brock is back with the skinny on what is going down, requiring Peter to switch back into costume. Venom reveals that the new set of crooks are beating a hasty retreat towards the West Side docks with an old manuscript of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
Then, he's off with Peter still donning his costume and struggling to catch up. Once at the docks they spot a yacht named the SS Dodgson (Charles Dodson was Carroll's real name). The two of them split up, and storm the boat. When Spidey gets to the bow, he discovers all of the playing-card henchmen and their leader White Rabbit, who points out that she has captured Venom and chained him up in front of a very big foghorn. She threatens to sound the horn and kill Venom if Spidey doesn't surrender.
Spidey indicates that he doesn't really care what she does to Venom, because he realizes that it was Venom who set the entire charade up from the beginning (due to his shared knowledge with Peter). Realizing that the jig is up, Whit Rabbit and her team tries to take down the Spider, only to have him mop the place up with them. Then when Venom figures out that Spidey has rejected him yet again he tries to escape, only to have Spidey sound the massive fog horn to which he is strapped, essentially melting the sentient suit.
I think that it is great that a reasonably talented writer can craft such an elegant tale that involves a fair and balanced use and of action, adventure, and deductive reasoning to entertain us all without having to resort to either editorially over-manipulated Faustian deals with the devil or, well, magic. Is that cool or what?
Ah yes, here again we have one more in a long line of unbroken yet light-hearted episodes in the life of Peter Parker and the people around him that make up his life. It is my considered advice to all Spider-fans out there who are crying in their webs over the recent tragic events in Amazing Spider-Man that they should get their monthly fix of Spidey by reading this title and The Amazing Spider-Girl (another fine Spider-title that features the one, true Spider-Man within its pages).
So once again, since these stories aren't cannon, (and don't require anal attention to hardcore continuity) these stories are thoroughly enjoyable to read.
There is a one-page Chris Giarrusso mini-marvel strip at the end of this story. You could very nearly miss it if you are not paying attention as it is essentially one of those '60s Charles Atlas ads (where the bully kicks sand in the 98 lb weakling's face and he pumps iron 'til he is bigger and stronger and comes back to get the girl. Only in this ad, the "after" image is Iron Man who shoots a repulse blast at the bully. There is also a cut-away panel featuring Iron Man and Wolverine commenting on the ad. It is easily the best of this current Iron Man Armor stories yet.