Parragon Publishing in the UK have been very active since 2012 through 2014 producing a varied and generally high-quality range of Marvel and Spider-Man coloring and activity books.
The two products we're looking at today are both "3D Sticker Books". One features Spider-Man, and the other is a "Marvel" product which in practice means "Iron Man" and "Captain America" (no Spider-Man, but I bought it anyhow). Both products are identical in format and layout, so we'll cover them both in a single review.
Each is 6.4" x 8", square-bound with a satin-textured thick card cover. The front cover features a fold-over flap inside which is tucked a pair of cardboard red/blue 3D glasses. The glasses are very minimal, they don't have arms to hook over your ears. You have to hold them in front of your face, or perhaps wedge them very carefully to balance on your nose.
The book proper contains 48 pages of "comic stories", plus an extra six sheets of stickers specifically connected with the stories.
In each book there are three separate chapters. Two of those are heavily truncated adaptations of previously released tales from the "Origin Stories" series. The Spider-Man book adapts The Amazing Spider-Man: An Origin Story and then The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Green Goblin (Origin Storybook). The Marvel book reworks The Invincible Iron Man: An Origin Story and The Courageous Captain America: An Origin Story.
At regular points within these stories are blank spaces where the stickers (from the six sheets at the back of the book) need to be affixed in order to complete it.
Every page in the full-color stories has a red/blue three-dimensional visual component, although they're often pretty subtle with at most a foreground/background effect. Sometimes the entire panel is just raised off the page. Or sometimes within the panel, characters will be popped forwards away from the wall or other flat background illustration.
The third story in each book is an eight page black and white line art story for you to complete the illustrations, then add color and dialogue. There are prompts to keep you moving through the action. In the Marvel version, the DIY comic has the Avengers fighting a Troll, some Doombots, and Baron Zemo. Spider-Man gets to fight Electro and Hydro-Man.
There's not a lot of subtlety or flexibility in the overall plot, but generally there's a good balance of guidance and free-form creativity. There's a page for you to sketch and color your very own comic cover too.
All of the material in these books has already been presented many times before, by Parragon and by their co-publishing colleagues "Scholastic Australia". But while the illustrations are all familiar and well-worn, the format is new and innovative.
The books are visually very impressive, and while small in size, they have a nice solid and robust feel to them. I find a lot of activity books tend to be rather fragile and get easily dinged up, even before you get them home. But these books are nice and rugged.
The stickers don't claim to be "removable" (and in any case, there's only one place to put them). So once you've finished the illustrations and the sticker placement, I'm not sure how much longevity there is in these books. But I guess there's still 40 pages of comic story, right? Well, 48, counting the one you just created.
The comic book drawing sections are appealing and inviting. The 3D is a nice, subtle touch. The stories are harmless adaptations of the original classics. For the £4.99 list price, I reckon these books are perfectly reasonable value for money.