These UK magazines produced original stories for ten or more years from 1999 until they were shut down following the Disney buyout of Marvel in 2012. Apart from the occasional reprint, each issue features an 11 page story produced by a UK-based creative team. The stories were out-of-continuity, but were loosely based on mainstream Marvel characters.
These issues are pretty hard to find, but I've managed to acquire nearly a complete set, and I'm catching up with reviews as I acquire them under our lookback section "British History".
Not sure how to begin a Spidey story? Well, if you have absolutely no idea at all, then you can always fall back onto the "Spider-Man was swinging around Manhattan looking for villains. He was just getting bored when suddenly..."
...a stream of squad cars races past with sirens blazing, all on their way to the Avengers building. The police don't really know what's going on, but there are explosions, and Spidey can see Boomerang and Hobgoblin inside the building looking out of a destroyed window. I guess that's probably not good.
Our hero doesn't need any more invitation than that, so off he goes poking his nose around inside the Avengers' Mansion. Inside he discovers Ant-Man and the wreckage of the smash-and-grab raid recently executed by Baron Zemo and his new Masters of Evil (armed with a "white-noise" generator). Zemo's gang of dastardly villains includes: Hobgoblin, Whirlwind, Radioactive Man, Melter, Boomerang, and Black Knight.
Zemo escapes in a stolen Avengers Quinjet. As well as getting away with his forces intact, Zemo has also pilfered a pile of Stark Technology, computer records, and four hostages in the shape of Iron Man, Wasp, Captain America and Hawkeye.
So the rescue squad (consisting of Spidey and Ant-Man) get onto flying ants (is that really faster than web-swinging?) and track their foes back to Zemo's secret hideout. How? Well, the ants "just know". Once they arrive, Spidey battles the Masters of Evil single-handedly. He defeats half of them, and resists the white-noise generator by the simple expedient of having inserted some ear plugs.
Meanwhile, Ant-Man has gone down to the basement and freed his captured team-mates. The Avengers generally make light work of the remaining Evil-doers (although Hawkeye is blasted unconscious).
The only exception is Hobgoblin, who decides that discretion is the better part of valour and attempts to flee, except that a quick-thinking Spider-Man grabs Hawkeye's bow commandeers a bow and arrow from his incapacitated team-mate and shoots down Hobgoblin's glider. Yay the heroes. The Avengers invite Spider-Man to join the team, but he declines.
If a slug-fest was all you wanted, then this is pretty much the story for you. There's no human drama here. There's no detective story, no surprises, no tension, no suspense, no moral tale, no not much of anything at all.
The bad guys attack the good guys. The good guys attack the bad guys. They all have brightly coloured costumes and super powers. The good guys have taller, more heroic poses. The bad guys have snarling lips and angry eyes.
I'd also like to note the almost non-existent background pencils. The cost-cutting is pretty blatant here. Only one panel in ten features any background detail. The rest are just air-brushed in shaded colours, or left entirely blank!
This kind of mindless brawling was new and exciting back in 1964, when Avengers (Vol. 1) #6 first introduced them. Reading those classic issues now, nostalgic charm forgives a great deal. Not to mention, Stan Lee was inventing these characters as he went along.
But these modern comics have no such excuse. There's nothing original here, it's just recycled, flattened, processed, and tasteless. Like bubble-gum with all the flavour chewed out of it.
One and a half web.
P.S. Would anybody care to explain to me how Spider-Man has ear-plugs that block out the white noise generator, yet still manages to engage in witty banter with his opponents? And don't tell me he's lip-reading... Hobgoblin is wearing a mask as well!
P.P.S. The cover-claim "Guest Starring The Avengers" is a bit of an over-statement. It might be more accurate to say "Guest Starring Ant-Man, with a Cameo by The Avengers".