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.
This issue is a November cover date, so it's not surprising to see this UK magazine tie-in with that good old British tradition... "Halloween". For the benefit of our U.S. readers, I should explain that there's a hint of irony there, since the Brits don't generally celebrate this particular holiday, though an increasing degree of Americanization has crept into UK society recently meaning that the occasional trick-or-treat party is not entirely unknown.
Let's just go with the flow and pretend we're in America. Certainly there's decorative pumpkins (not a common UK vegetable) scattered about as the Young Heroes go from door to door demanding candy with menaces. In fact, The Punisher and Merlin are shown in the background doing just that. Hmm... is that the real Punisher in a Silver Surfer mask, or is it the Silver Surfer in a Punisher shirt... or is it some random kid in a mixed-up costume? In either case, it's probably best to play it safe. If it is little Frankie Castle, he's probably tripped-out on a massive sugar high, and he might just forget to use his mercy bullets when playing his little tricks!
On a side note. Did you know that the phrase "Trick or treat" doesn't technically mean "Give me candy immediately or I will damage your property". In its true context it actually means "Will you give me a treat, or do you expect me to perform a trick in order to earn a reward." Of course, in modern society, the idea that kids might have to work to get treats is generally outmoded. Gimme, Gimme, Gimme say the kids, and the parents are too tired to argue. That's how it works in my house. I give my kids chocolate, and they leave me alone in peace to review Spidey comics. Don't knock it, it works!
Spider-Man (dressed as Dr. Strange) and Spider-Girl (Scarlet Witch) are making their itinerant blackmailing rounds door-to-door, collecting sugary parcels as custom dictates. The Thing (a Frankenstein thing with stitches and a bolt through his head) rushes up. He's seen a headless ghost over by the tree-house! SPOOOOOOKY!
The three heroes investigate, and do discover a mysterious clanking figure walking around carrying its glowing head under its arm. "LET'S RUN AWAY!" yell the "heroes", and they proceed to do just that very thing.
Spider-Man jumps up into a tree and turns his "Spider-Torch" on the "ghost". Hey, it's Iron Man's suit of armor... minus the human part of Iron Man. Spider-Girl webs up the empty suit and they take it back to Iron Man. Turns out that was his spare suit of armor, which wandered off autonomously while it was supposed to be recharging. LOLZ!
Well, if this doesn't freak out a class of four-year-olds, I don't know what will. Headless ghosts walking in the shadows? Muahahahahaha! The forces of evil are truly afoot tonight!
I should mention that the art-work is particularly good this time around. Some wonderful shadow and specular effects have been photo-shopped into the ghost pictures. But even the pencil work is great. Seeing a kid dressed as Spider-Man dressed as Dr. Strange is just brilliant.
The story tickled my funny-bone just perfectly, and combined with the great art, this is a delightful wacky work. I'm gonna award a near-perfect 4.5 marks to artist Nigel Dobbyn, and bonus couple of tabs of LSD to writer Rik Hoskin.