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. Over time, the excessive self-promotion which marred earlier issues was gently scaled back to more acceptable levels.
Most recent issues feature a pair of interlinked half-length stories. There's the occasional one-story exception. In any case, the total "story content" of each issue adds up to about fourteen pages. The rest of the content is puzzles, posters, fact files, letters page and other fun and games. Early issues were padded with DVD, movie and video-game "comp-ad-titions" and "infomercials". That commercial filler has quietly disappeared in recent issues.
This month we have two linked stories that form a single short arc. Same writer, different artists. Spider-Man appears in both, along with Shang Chi. Iron Man joins the fray in Part Two.
Spider-Man is out swinging around Manhattan when he spots a team of ninjas attacking kung fu hero Shang Chi. Spider-Man intervenes and tilts the fight in favor of the good guys. Lady Deathstrike then arrives to equal things out once more. The predictable scrap ensures, with Spidey wise-cracking all the way.
Mid-battle, Shang Chi explains that the ninjas are pursuing him because he has stolen "The Bronze Phoenix" from Lady Deathstrike, who herself stole it a few days ago. The Phoenix was created at bequest of the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang. At the same time, Huang also had created "The Bronze Shield", another artifact which was stolen at the very same moment from another museum.
As will all good mystic ancient artifacts, this one comes with a very convenient prophecy which will (a) provide the good guys with the clue to move the story to the next chapter, and (b) provide a Deus Ex Machina at the end. In this case said prophecy is "The Phoenix will cross East to a New Land, to Battle the Dragon when the Sleeping Army awakens from earthen slumber!"
Hmm... I wonder if this has anything to do with the demonstration of the ancient Chinese Terracotta Army soldiers being shown at the New York Museum? There's a billboard advertising the exhibition right next to the rooftop where the battle took place.
I'm not sure why people would pay good money to advertise the Terracotta Army to passers-by on a rooftop. Surely one that faced towards the street would be a better location?
But let's put that aside, and also ignore the incredibly convenient set of coincidences that make up the plot. Let us instead consider that the art work is good, and the dialog is well-paced and convincing.
Hardly prize-winning stuff. But the art and writing overcomes the uninspiring plot to produce a half-decent tale. Three webs.
Now go read about the conclusion in Marvel Heroes (UK Magazine) #24 (Story 2).