Marvel Heroes is the third UK Spider-Man/Marvel Magazine title from the Panini stable. The others are Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) for early teens, and Spider-Man & Friends (UK Magazine) for the pre-school market. Marvel Heroes is a recent replacement for the relatively short-lived Rampage (UK) which was also aimed at the mid-late teen market.
This magazine features 36 glossy pages. As the title indicates, the content is 100% Marvel related, and most of the major Marvel Heroes get a look-in from time to time. The audience is clearly early/mid-teens, with plenty of DVD, movie and video-game link-in.
Two original and separate 7-page comic book stories headline the issue. This time around there's a Fantastic Four story, and an Iron Man story. We had a Spider-Man story last issue, so it might be a little while until we see him again. Actually, Spider-Man doesn't really appear in this issue at all, except in a few advertisements, and in the odd bit of artwork, e.g. the top left corner of the cover.
The first content page is essentially an advertisement for this years hardback UK annuals, including a Spider-Man (UK) Annual 2009 and a Marvel Heroes (UK) Annual 2009. Hmm... I'll have to make sure I get both of those. Also on that page is a promo for Hasbro Spidey toys tying-in with the new Spectacular Spider-Man Animated TV series. From only £7.99 at all good toy shops.
Strangely, the next page is marked "ADVERTISEMENT". It's a promo for UK Marvel TPB reprints. For some subtle reason, the preceding page wasn't marked "ADVERTISEMENT". The difference is hard to see. Both pages are ads, pure and simple.
There's a "Create your own SUPER HERO" page, including a reference to the online Super Hero generator at marvelkids.com. Then a 2 page data file on the Fantastic Four leads us into our first original story featuring the FF, Mole Man, and a giant Monster!
Mole Man is using a glowing scepter to control his unwilling monster during his attack on the "surface dwellers". The FF defeat him in text-book fashion. However, this story is all about the sub-plot. Specifically: The Thing is carrying a cardboard box containing something important. Also, when he is thrown smashing into somebody's apartment, he takes some flowers from the window box.
Why? Well, when the battle is over, we learn that it is the three year anniversary of the activation FF's robotic receptionist "Roberta". The box contains a cake, and the flowers are for her also. Hey, even computers need a fuss made over them sometimes. Right?
Sadly, I'm not entirely sure that this "sub"-plot works. I don't get my pets presents on their birthday, and I sure as hell don't steal flowers for my computer.
If this is supposed to be a kidult version of "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" then unfortunately it really fails to hit any major points. But I must commend writer Rik Hoskin for having a go, even if I don't feel that he truly succeeded at achieving any depth to his story.
Interestingly, I see that the three fan letters are from a 7 year old, another 7 year old, and an 8 year old. That's very interesting, since previous issues have heavily featured advertisements for the Iron Man DVD (PG-13) and the Spider-Man Web of Shadows video game (rated "T" for TEENS).
One explanation is that Panini might have accidentally dumbed down their content so far that they're undershooting their target market age. Alternatively, parents of 7 and 8 year olds are happily giving their kids PG-13 movies and TEEN video games to watch. In any case, somebody has messed up - either Panini, or the Advertisers, or the Parents, or the Movie and Video Game Ratings Board.
There's no Spidey in here, but let's rate the stories anyhow.
The Fantastic Four story tries to be smart, but fails. Let's say two webs.