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.
"Today, Spider-Man and his friends are trying out their canoes at the local river. They're being very careful and they all wear life jackets in case they fall in." So far so good. Spidey's friends in this case include Hulk and Lizard. All three of them love splashing in the water.
Spider-Man and Hulk stop to eat their sandwiches, but Lizard decides to carry on down the river by himself. From a safety point of view, that's a pretty big call - especially since he soon comes to some steep rapids and a serious looking waterfall. Well, like an idiot, Lizard paddles right into the rapids and looses his canoe. He manages to grab an overhead branch, but it breaks and dumps him in the water.
Spider-Man and the Hulk come instantly to his rescue, which makes no sense? Why? Well, from a pure chronology point of view. Hulk and Spidey have (according to the story) had time to land their canoes, find, unpack and start eating their sandwiches. In all that time, the Lizard hasn't even traveled far enough to be out of sight, our out of earshot (where pounding rapids would mean that earshot isn't very far).
Our web-slinging star snags Lizard with a web, but then gets dragged in as well (so much for super Spidey-grip). Hulk has to jump in and save them both. Lizard abandons his long-gone canoe and hitches a ride home with Hulk. The End.
To be honest, I'm really not sure that the 12-panel pre-school format is particularly well-suited to the action/adventure genre. It's kind of a better fit with quirky morality plays, silly situation gags, and the occasional "theater of the absurd" scenario.
What's more, it kinds of takes the edge of Marvel's premier super-heroes when the high point of the story is "they fall into the water and can't get out".
There's nothing in here to pique the interest. Two webs is generous.