The Marvel Super-Hero Squad are the latest "kids version" of the Marvel Franchise. Featuring a simplified, shallow version of the classic characters, with no nasty questions about ethics or motivations, the books, comics and TV programs are free to manufacture undemanding entertainment based on endless battles between good and evil.
This is, of course, perfect training for all you need to know about American foreign policy. There's good, and there's bad. Please cheer four our team whenever we hold up the signs. If you have any questions, please ask them at the end of the show, which will be... never.
But enough cynicism. There are plenty of parents out there who don't want to have to get into nasty discussions with their children about how sometimes our team isn't always 100% right, and how occasionally the "bad guys" can actually have a valid point. Let's pretend to be one of those parents, and we'll look at this book in that context.
Physically, this book is 9" x 11.5" thick card bound, with a square spine nearly 1" deep. Inside is a spiral wire binding for the pages, which are thick card, separated into three non-equal segments.
There are five "leaves" in the book. For each segment you can choose to flip to any one of them, including the back cover, so you actually have SIX choices each for the beginning, the middle, and the end of the story you will see. In theory, then, that's 216 different "stories" you can construct. On the right hand side of the page, you will see a multi-part image which parallels the text.
Here's an example: "Commanded by Dr. Doom, an army of Sentinels marches through Super Hero City and smashes down the door. Hulk and Thing are there playing checkers. Enchantress charms them with her beauty. Iceman coats the floor with ice so that Ms. Marvel (who is actually Mystique in disguise) eats the entire cake. Cyclops uses his super powers to melt the ice cream, and the villains slip and slide in the sticky mess all the way back to Villainvile.
Yes, you're right, it doesn't make any sense.
Personally, I like my children's entertainment to be just a little bit more subversive. Give me Roald Dahl, or Pinky and the Brain, please. This Super Hero Squad stuff is about as sophisticated as the Teletubbies. Six-year-olds deserve better, if you ask me.
Physically, the book is very attractive. The colors are bright, and the mechanical construction seems relatively solid and well-assembled. Mind you, for a book made in China that costs $14.99, you would kind of hope that would be the case.
Of course, the stories are inane, and the entire "Super Hero Squad" concept lacks any sense of subtlety.
In terms of final rating? Well, I must confess a bit of a soft-spot for these highly engineered books, so I'll go as far as three webs, despite the rumblings of disquiet from my deeper instincts.
Spidey makes a couple of cameos in the artwork of this book, but doesn't get a mention in the text as far as I can see.