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 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.
The Rhino is on his way to class when he hears the school principal telling his teacher that there is a very important test tomorrow. Armed with this information, the super-hero class prepares for the test. But there's one minor difficulty. They have no idea what the test is going to be about.
Actually, that just triggered a very interesting question in my mind. Where are all the other children in the school? We almost never actually see any non-hero kids. Are all of the super-powered kids segregated into a class of their own? Are all the other classes full of mutant kidlets too? Or is there some sort of apartheid thing going on here? Curious, wouldn't you agree?
Spider-Man and Spider-Girl decide to practice their maths "until they run out of numbers". Ock studies while he eats - a task simplified by having multiple arms. Well, simplified until he spills his drink all over his favorite book.
Rhino practices at home, studying his alphabet instead of watching television that evening. Let that be a salutatory lesson to us all! Captain America practices his coloring in skills. Red-white-and-blue, naturally.
Mind you, none of that helps a bit when the "test" turns out to be a hearing test! And next time the Rhino might want to listen a bit better when he's eavesdropping!
In general, I tend to enjoy these Spidey & Friends stories more when they're kind of weird. But this is a good example of a more conventional story that appeals purely by nature of being well scripted and well paced.
With only four pages to work with, and only three panels per page, writer Rik Hoskin has done a splendid job of constructing a neatly-defined story with a small but clever twist at the end.
I think Rik and the team at Spider-Man & Friends do an excellent job of putting together these little tales. The whole thing is a true lesson to other writers about the wise use of 12 simple panels. I'll give four webs for this effort.