Welcome to our "British History" lecture series. Our goal is to shed some light onto the murky history of one of Spidey's lesser known current titles... the alternate universe UK-only series Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine).
Started in 1995 as "reprints plus filler", it transmogrified itself a few years later and swapped that reprint content for 11 pages of original story content written by UK creators.
It's still running currently (in 2010). But we only started regularly reviewing from issue 100 or so (and even then we had a break for a couple of years during the #120's and #130's). Now, thanks to the joint miracles of eBay UK and international shipping, we're planning to track down and review all those other stories that slipped through the cracks the first time around.
With the Ringmaster prominently features on the cover, it's easy to anticipate how this story is going to go. But let's wait until the end before we pass judgment.
Spider-Man surprises a couple of safe-crackers, then realizes he's late to meet Mary Jane at the circus. Yeah, circus. Surprised yet? MJ is there with Flash and Betty. Flash has his arm around MJ even though it seems that MJ's date is Peter. Confusing, but not critical to the plot. Flash and the girls go into their seats as Spidey arrives late.
Just as he arrives his Spider-Sense starts tingling, and he is almost immediately attacked by the Great Gambonnos, Princess Python and the strong-man guy who's name I forget for the moment. But hey, didn't all you guys work for the Circus of Crime with Ringmaster? Yeah. That guy. The guy with the swirly disk on his hat. Ooooh... look at the swirly disk...
Flash has just nipped-out to get a hot dog as the Ringmaster enters the ring and mesmerizes the audience. You know the gig right? Hypnotize the punters, steal their loot, and send 'em home having had an imaginary wonderful night out (but not quite sure where they left their valuables). This time there's an extra twist - Spider-Man is an enthusiastic member of the Circus of Crime.
And who can stop the web-slinger and his fellow felons? The entire audience is hypnotized. Everybody. Oh, wait. Flash isn't. He has his processed meat snack, and now he's back, and on the attack! Flash to the rescue!
Flash hurls his hot dog and knocks the ring-master's hat to the ground. He dodges bad-Spidey (who conveniently is moving slowly as he attempts to fight against the Ringmaster's control) and seizes his only chance. Taking the hypno-headgear for himself, Flash releases the audience (and Spider-Man) from their trance just in time to see all heck break loose.
Spidey mops up the Circus of Crime as Flash heads out to bring back the police. Before long our costumed champion has everything under control. Or perhaps not. The police arrive to nab Ringmaster and his crew, but the villains then claim that Spider-Man was the true leader behind the scheme. Ooops. Spidey is in trouble. Time for him to disappear and bring back his civilian alter ego.
Not so good there either. Peter is in trouble for being late. MJ gives him a yelling-at and then heads off home with Flash. Peter is left to thump his fist in impotent angst. Oh yeah!
The script and art in this story is just as simplistic as the tale I reviewed just prior - which is Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #74. The difference is that while the previously reviewed book featured a violent storyline told in a childish way, this time around the simplistic script and art is a good match for a fun little kid-suitable plot. That makes all the difference.
All the elements are well matched here. Four webs for a kid's story that perfectly belongs in the surrounds of this kid's magazine.