This UK kids magazine is one of three 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. Finally, their Marvel Heroes (UK Magazine) hits the same mid-teen crowd but with a video game/movie angle.
But let's get back to Spider-Man & Friends. It 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, plus in 2009 they produced a hardback annual.
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. It's similar to the formats used for the older kids' magazines, just pitched for a much younger target audience.
This month's story is... "Recycling Rhino!"
Interesting, a tale with a Kenyan twist, I suppose. What to do with four tons of White Rhino after poachers have killed it, taken the horn and left the rest of the corpse. So, let's settle down for a set of helpful tips of big-scale butchery and...
Oh, wait. My bad. Seems like The Rhino is just learning to separate his paper, glass and plastic. Well, slightly less exciting than my version, but far less messy and much more suitable for the target audience.
Spider-Man's class are being taught all about Recycling. They learn the basics, and agree that recycling is fun. They all go through the school and find things to recycle. Spider-Man and the Lizard find quite a bit of scrap paper. But the Rhino finds the most paper. He goes to the library and grabs handfuls of books to fill his box. He's going to win the competition!
Well, no actually. Turns out that our poop-for-brains pal in the grey armored body-suit needs a quick lesson to teach him that we only actually recycle rubbish, and that pulping half the schools new books is hardly a smart move. But at least he can recycle his (now empty) cardboard box.
What a maroon! The Rhino really is the "Special Kid" in the class. Seems like his super-power is walking and chewing gum at the same time, and he can't always manage to do that if anybody is watching.
Not a particularly interesting sequence of events, but given the practical social message, I'm going to err on the side of generosity and offer a run-of-the-mill three web.
Despite the rather dull main-story, it is important to note that overall this really is a top-quality magazine. There are no advertisements at all, just 24 quality pages of pure kids content. What's more, the production values just seem to go up and up. This issue features quite a bit of photo-quality images throughout.
Every time I flick through one of the issues, I can't help but think that for two pounds UK cash, this is a excellent value-for-money magazine - either for a young Spider-Fan at home or as a kindergarten teaching resource.