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 tale is... (appropriately to the November cover date)... "The Haunted Mansion". Oooh! Spooky!
"Today, Spider-Man and his friends are helping one of their neighbours move house."
It's getting on for evening. But that doesn't keep Spidey, Cyclops and Thing from helping out the elderly gentleman who is moving into a gloomy old wooden house. The Thing helps to carry boxes. He's quite good at that.
But destiny is... well... "destined" to lead our heroes to a less menial fate. From upstairs the heroes hear a series of noises. An "Ooooooooooooooo". Then a "BANG". The heroes are tempted to investigate, but with the new tenant off pouring cold drinks in the kitchen, the upstairs of the empty house is rather creepy.
Is that... could it be a ghost at the top of the stairs?! Oh, no, it's just a funny pattern on the wallpaper. Ahhh! There's a window open upstairs! All is explained. The wind through the window was making the "Ooooooooooo" noise, and the BANG was when it slammed.
Whew! Good thing there's no such thing as ghosts! But wait... in the final panel, what are those spooky looking white shapes looking out of the upstairs windows. DRAMATIC FINISH!
In a Marvel Universe populated by Ghost Rider, by Dr. Strange and Mephisto, I wouldn't be quite so confident in proclaiming (as Spider-Man boldly does) that "Ghosts aren't real!"
If you're going to believe in Spider-Man, Cyclops and the Thing, well... it isn't too bold a leap from there to dis-corporal life forms!
Somehow I just couldn't develop any attachment for this story. Perhaps it's just my personal tastes - I've never really enjoyed the horror genre, or its kid brother "ghost stories". I'm going to allow my prejudices to color my rating and offer a two-and-a-half web rating here.
As usual, a strong and well presented set of supporting material brings the magazine out to 24 pages.
However, it's worth noting that two pages of this magazine are "competitions" that are essentially advertisements. Both are for Wii games... the first is for "Drawn to Life" and the second is for "Marvel Super Hero Squad". Sure, they're giving away free games. But for a magazine with such a young target market (and one that often manages to avoid all advertising) this does feel a little bit like the thin end of the wedge going in.