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.
Recent issues of this title have featured some very disappointing stories. This time round, Story Time offers us "Spidey keeps fit!" I must say I'm not filled with confidence...
"Today Spider-Man and his friends are keeping fit. It is very important for Super Heroes to exercise because they never know when they'll have to rush into action."
The "Super Heroes" in question are Spidey, Hulk and Captain America. The Rhino turns up. "Can I join in?" he asks. Yeah, of course. There are no villains in this Marvel kiddi-verse.
The heroes run. Captain America is the winner. Spider-Girl cheers him on, and then disappears again. I guess girls don't need to exercise.
Rhino is no good at running. But that's OK, because it's time for Jumping. Everybody enjoys Jumping! Spider-Man is great at jumping. He practices every day. But Rhino is no good at jumping either. Hey, back up the truck a moment. I thought Rhino WAS really good at running. It's just stopping he hasn't got the hang of.
Ah well, let's put that aside for now. Spider-Man has, he's looking in his "How to Keep Fit" book. It says that to stay fit you need to eat healthy food - like lots of fruit.
There is an apply tree near by. But Hulk is not tall enough to reach up. Never fear. Rhino uses his horn to shake the branches. The apples fall down. Now the heroes have enough apples to make apple pie. That is Captain America's favorite. Nobody mentions the fact that apple pie contains sugar and fat, and makes the whole "fruit" angle rather pointless.
So, Rhino can't run... but he's the best at getting applies down from a tree? Hulk was really good at jumping, but couldn't jump up to get apples? Spidey couldn't climb? Captain America couldn't throw his shield?
Maybe I'm just fussy - but I do like even my kids stories to follow the basic elements of logic. Either that, or if the stories are going to make no sense, I prefer them to be completely and utterly surreal, that works too. But this one is neither. It tries to be a morality tale, but just collapses under its own weight.
This issue works neither as a sensible story, or as a bizarre piece of entertainment. Double-fail. Two webs.
The regular mix of activity pages completes the issue. Story quiz, join-the-dots, maze, coloring, counting, letters (Z is the special letter this month), more coloring, spot-the-difference, a read-aloud story where kids say the hero names by identifying the pictures, and some cut-out paper badges. Finally, two pages of fan letters and art. All for £1.85.