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 has been 90% 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!
Buckle your seatbelts, true believers, as this week's "Spider-Man Heroes & Villains" seven page out-of-continuity story features a two opponents of cosmic proportions - Silver Surfer vs. Mephisto!
Our tale opens with the Silver Surfer sacrificing his own safety to protect the world from a "cosmic flare". I guess the Van Allen belt was up to its old tricks. Given that we used to survive just fine for several millennia before the Silver Surfer arrived, I'm presuming that the Surfer's primary concern was to prevent any possible interruption of pay-per-view satellite TV.
As it turns out, the cosmic champion pays a high price for protecting the broadcast integrity UFC semi-finals, as he falls "to Stygian Depths"... where he encounters Mephisto.
So, what? Is there a giant hole in the earth somewhere that drops right down to Heck?
Mephisto traps the Silver Surfer, but lets his board go free. Spider-Man discovers the board floating around New York and goes surfing. He encounters the Human Torch, Iron Man and Thor, and they all race around trying to find what happened to the Silver Surfer, assuming that some trouble has befallen him. As indeed it has.
Well, after a rapid surfboard-propelled tour of the world, Spider-Man is starting to figure that maybe the Surfer isn't... anywhere? Then he has an idea. The web-head takes the Silver Surfboard to Mr. Fantastic, who's instruments reveal that the Silver Surfer is trapped INSIDE HIS OWN SURFBOARD!
Then, Mephisto (who was waiting for... what, exactly?) transports Spider-Man to his own realm, and offers our hero a choice. Will Spider-Man exchange places with the Silver Surfer?
What a cosmic conundrum! Though.. technically, I'm not sure that would make a lot of difference, since both of them are prisoners of Mephisto right now. It's kind of like being on death row and asking to move to a cell slightly closer to the toilet block.
Anyhow, it's a trap, though, actually rather a pointless and ineffectual one. It works like this: Since Mephisto is powered by negative emotions, if Spider-Man chooses not to swap, then he will be doomed to swap. While if he does offer to swap, then Mephisto will be powerless, and both will go free.
So how does that work? Firstly, remember that Mephisto trapped the Surfer, even though he fell to earth by making a great personal sacrifice! Secondly, even as Spider-Man is contemplating his choice, his primary concern is for his Aunt May. So even if he didn't offer to swap, it still wasn't going to be a selfish choice.
Finally, if (knowing those pesky heroes) the most likely choice of offering Spider-Man the choice was going to be total defeat for Mephisto, then why did Mephisto even bother offering such a deal in the first place? Why not just shove 'em both in the surfboard and be done with it. The whole exercise seems pretty damn pointless.
Oh, yeah. Naturally Spider-Man makes the self-less offer to trade places, since Silver Surfer does so much for the planet Earth. Both go free. The End.
For a couple of issues there, I thought we were seeing an upwards trend in the plot quality of these stories. But as I sadly suspected, it was just a statistical anomaly, a passing blip.
This week's story returns us once more to our standard "Heroes & Villains" fodder, namely a well-meaning but ultimately confused bundle of non-sequiturs loosely glued together with implausible leaps and illogical inferences.
Perhaps the one positive side-effect of a terrible story is that the amateur dialog, clumsy art-work and garish coloring is no longer quite so stark a contrast.