This is a 60-part weekly series being pumped into the market by Eaglemoss publications. They don't know much about Spidey, but they know that 60 * $8.99 = quite a lot. And I'm the kind of idiot who will spend that sort of money without doing the math.
There's an original 7-page story in every issue, and collectible trading cards too. Sure, the stories are terrible, the art is ghastly, and the price is far, far too high. But there's glossy paper, trading cards, and an original Spider-Man comic strip series that 99% of the U.S. collectors will never own!
I have scanned the first page of this week's "Heroes & Villains" comic story just so you can see for your self how ghastly the artwork is. Really, if I was to try and describe this for you, you would never believe me. You'd say to me "Look, Jonathan - this is an official Marvel-authorized comic book. They have their professional pride, and they have their brand to protect. They're not going to let anybody publish some artwork that looks like a five year old was having a bad day at pre-school."
Well, read it and weep. There it is kiddies. Exhibit A: Illustrated kindergarten nightmare.
The sudden-start splash-page gimmick is used for a second week in a row. It's a bit of an over-used attempt to evoke the 60's classics, starting mid-battle with "I can't fight him... no, not him!" (or something similar), then immediately jumping back to the story with a "but how did this all begin". Even in the hands of a master, it can be a painful cliche. But in the hands of a bumbling incompetent like this, used twice in a row, it's a shameful embarrassment. But we have to review all the stories, not just the good ones, so let's get this over and done with.
As you recall, Peter Parker is living in Oscorp Tower with Harry, but S.H.I.E.L.D. agents sealed off the building. Now they're letting people back in, and a very friendly agent named Jack escorts Peter back to his apartment. Jack shows Peter photos of his wife and kids. Aww... poor Jack. It's a dead cert you're in for some crap in the near future. Anybody carrying photos of wife and kids in a Marvel mag is just begging for trouble!
And trouble there is. Spider-Man goes exploring the weird Spider-labs he found back in issue #2 or thereabouts, when he is interrupted by... you guessed it... S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jack. The device zaps Jack and turns him into the Man-Spider! The other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents turn up and attack the Man-Spider, and Spider-Man is forced to defend Jack/Man-Spider, causing the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to think that Spider-Man is a bad guy. Again. Sigh.
Then Spider-Man figures that if he can destroy the machine that performed the original transformation, Jack will be restored. Just like if you destroy a can-opener, the tin of peaches will get sealed back up again. Or if you burn this magazine, it's like you never read the story at all. Hmm... tempting.
Well, Spidey tricks Man-Spider into charging into the machine (what, Spidey himself isn't capable of swinging an iron bar or something?). Jack reverts, and Spidey runs away before the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents can ask any questions. Way to keep your pals on side, web-head.
Then we waste half a page to learn... "Next issue, Venom!"
You know, with a seven page story, it really is a bit of a waste to spend a page on a shock intro, and half a page on a teaser outro. Then again, the whole magazine is a bit of a waste of paper really.
The rest of the magazine is just as bad as the main story. Lame puzzles and jokes, all with the same terrible art work. Man-Wolf features in six of the filler pages. Man-Wolf, Man-Spider, whatever.
It staggers me to imagine that the UK asking price for each ghastly issue of this magazine is £8. By contrast, Spider-Man & Friends (UK Magazine) is £2.20 and Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) is £2.25. Both are vastly superior at less than a third of the price. You would have to be a masochist to collect "Heroes & Villains".
Hit me again, baby. I deserve it.
Nothing in here makes me want to raise the rating above the one-web I've given all the preceding issues. I could go down to half a web (the lowest the Spider-Fan rating system allows), but I want to leave myself a little leeway for future issues!
It seems as though, even with the absolutely crap artwork, stories and production quality, publisher Eaglemoss are still had trouble with a weekly schedule. A little note inserted in the magazine tells me that the UK delivery dates moved to fortnightly starting with issue #5.
Mind you, that was six months ago. Here in New Zealand we're getting our magazines six months later than the UK, so obviously they're well ahead now.