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 today (in 2010).
Since I don't live in the UK, I've been dependent on the kindness of others to get my hands on a regular feed of this title. My original sources helped me get issues #103-#118, and I reviewed them as they came out. Then I lost my supply for two or three years until the late #140's when I started collecting again in earnest. Most recently I have been picking up a few back issues on eBay UK, and dutifully filling in the gaps in this Looking Back section entitled "British History".
The last couple of issues featured a surprisingly effective story where Spider-Man joined the Fantastic Four to team up with an alternate universe Doctor Doom to battle an alternate (the same alternate) universe Reed Richards Gone Bad.
This time, well, I see Spider-Man beset by a host of classic villains. This doesn't look good for our hero!
It's your typical day in Spider-Man's corner of the the Marvel Universe (UK style). The villains of Ryker's Island super-prison have all broken free, and somehow acquired all of their costumes, weapons and powers. Naturally all of their dangerous equipment was kept handy, I'm guessing.
The police are under attack, so it's naturally up to Jonah J. Jameson to throw teenage photographer Peter Parker into the new Bugle helicopter and make an unauthorized approach to get some photos. And equally naturally, the helicopter is brought down by a stick thrown by Bullseye, and crashes into the prison yard. Peter becomes Spider-Man and the scene is set.
The whole thing then becomes an excuse to parade out every Spidey villain you can imagine. Sandman, Electro, Vulture, Puma (who isn't even a villain), Juggernaut, Hydroman, Scorpion, Klaw, Doctor Octopus, Jack O' Lantern, Carnage, Grizzley, Bullseye, Shocker, Rhino, Wrecking Crew (or part thereof), Beetle and more.
Spider-Man's original plan is to rescue the hostages, but he's barely able to rescue himself. Fortunately he does manage to break free, and then stumbles into the Molten Man. Molty has always been a mostly-good-guy. Even more so since he's up for parole soon and want no part of the breakout, so he explains to Spider-Man how Ock is behind it all. Seems that Otto managed to overcome his power-restraining collar, then cracked the computer system to free all the other prisoners from their power-restraints too.
Well, Spider-Man tracks down Doctor Octopus in the control room, and Ock can't help but soliloquize a little. Seems the Master Planner's master plan is to free all the villains and make his own private army. And to keep them behaving, Ock has created a handy-dandy portable device capable of re-activating the restraining collars. Of course, Otto boasts loudly about all this - which is his downfall as Spider-Man has surreptitiously activated the intercom and broadcast his plans to his fellow villains.
Naturally, the shortly-to-be double-crossed villains turn on Ock. Making short work of him, they turn their attentions to Spider-Man. But Spidey has a card up his sleeve. He purloined Ock's power-collar-re-enabler and uses it now to good effect.
Wrap up: Villains back in their cells. Jonah fires Peter for running away, then un-fires him for having taken plenty of photos. The punchline? Peter chuckling at the photo he kept of Jonah's freshly-wrecked, super-expensive helicopter.
Writer Ferg Handley returns for this issue after a couple of months holiday. As you'll soon learn (if you don't already), I'm really not that much of a fan of Ferg's style. And after having reviewed many of those stories, I've become rather attuned to his particular technique. So much so that within the first page of this tale, I instantly mused to myself... "Hmmm... ludicrous over-burgeoned story setup filled with unlikely co-incidences? I bet Mr. Handley is back." And I wasn't wrong in my guess.
But that said, once the story does get under way, it's not actually all that bad. It moves along at a cracking pace, manages a pretty decent twist, and fills in the gaps with lots and lots of bad guys. And while it's filled with stereotypes, the plot itself is basically original.
I've read worse between the covers of this title. I'm not going to get too lavish with the web ratings, but I think I can spare a good solid three webs for this debut script.
This story is 13 pages long for a change. Pretty much every other story in the series is 11 pages. I guess they just had too many villains!
The remainder of the 36 pages contains only 1 page of advertising, and even that is for nothing but Spidey toys. The rest of the space is the usual mix of puzzles, posters and fan letters. Despite the two recent price rises, the £1.99 cover price was pretty good value even back then.