This UK kids magazine is one of two regular Spidey magazine offerings from Panini. Spider-Man & Friends targets the 4-10 year old market, while sister publication Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) aims at the pre-teen and teen crowd.
Spider-Man & Friends features a distinctively drawn semi-Manga style kiddie Spider-Man, his cousin Spider-Girl, plus early school versions of Hulk, Wolverine, Beast, Storm and Captain America along with guest appearances from many other big name Marvel heroes and villains. Toy tie-ins are also available.
Published every four or five weeks, this UK magazine features a toy taped to the front of each issue. Inside you'll find a four page Spidey & Friends story with three panels per page, captions of 8-20 words per panel. Then there's some nice simple kids puzzles, some coloring, a couple of competitions, and a page or two of Spidey merchandise. Essentially, it's the same format as the older kids magazine, just reworked for a much younger target audience.
"It's a sunny, autumn day. Spider-Man is walking in the woods when he sees a man walking his dog." Well, so far so good. I don't really know how much time Spider-Man can spare to go walking in the woods, I guess crime rates are down at the moment. Or perhaps woods-related crime rates are up, and Spidey's on patrol.
"YIPES! Suddenly the man falls over."
Mugging? Innocent bystander in a super-villain-initiated-woods-related robbery? Skrull sneak attack? No, not exactly. The man has slipped over on a pile of slippery leaves.
"Don't move!" Yells Spidey. "Let me call a civil lawyer who can get you the compensation you so patently deserve!"
Well, that would be the natural reaction in the U.S.A. But this is a UK comic, so Spidey's reaction is equally bizarre though in a different direction. Instead of suggesting to the man that he avoid walking through the muddy parts, or perhaps take more care if he finds it necessary to do so, Spidey says... "I'll need some help! Somebody should tidy them up. This would be a good job for super heroes!"
Clearly, no normal woodsman or janitorial caretaker could deal with this crisis to wood-walking humanity! Only a super-powered response can resolve this pending disaster! One single super-hero will not suffice to move this slippery pile of leaves from one place in the woods to another place in the woods! A TEAM IS REQUIRED!
"Spidey calls his friends and tells them his plan."
"A simple leaf re-arrangement will make of this woodland paradise... a woodland paradise!" He doesn't actually exclaim this, but he should have.
Spidey and the Thing set to with rakes and buckets. But Doc Ock has a six-nozzled turbo-charged leaf sucker with super-sized back-mounted leaf storage sack! It scares the bejeezus out of the wildlife, but he cleans up the whole forest and stores the leaves in his backpack, which grows and grows until the Thing can no longer lift it!
Yes indeed, Ben Grimm can't lift a bag of wet leaves. That's one for the book of shame.
Ock's bag of leaves is still growing... until... BOOM! "Suddenly the bag bursts like a balloon. The collected leaves go everywhere."
The assembled "super" "heroes" examine the "mess". They decide to "clean up" the "old-fashioned way." Would that be... the way that super-heroes have dealt with leaves for countless generations? I.e. left them the hell alone!
Eww... all these yucky leaves messing up the forest. Look children, you must dedicate your adult lives to removing leaves from the forest and transporting them to a distant landfill. The environment depends on you!
This is the most goddamn stupid socio-environment message I have seen since the NeoTokyoPlastiCorp suggested we should all wrap our poop in plastic zip-loc bags before flushing it.
Forest floor leaf breakdown is a fundamental part of the woodlands life cycle! When a man slips on leaves, the correct response is to say "Hey, are you OK? Watch out for those wet leaves which incidentally have a far more important role in this forest than you do."
The most lame-ass idea you could possibly propose is "let's get a bunch of super-powered morons out here to move these leaves from where they belong to a place where they can do more harm to the environment."
Why couldn't this story have taken place in the city? A man walking his dog slips on a pile of rubbish, and the heroes help clean up. Surely that would have made perfect sense, and had a message that didn't inspire brain damage. You can easily imagine a dozen different simple ways to rework this story and make it comprehensible.
I award this story a half-web, and a small cake fork jabbed in the left eyeball.