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).
This UK magazine series started in 1995 running "reprints plus filler". Then in 1999 the formula changed to feature 11 pages of original story content written by UK creators. The title ran nearly exclusively original stories in that new format until 2011, when it reverted to a reprint series after Disney acquired Marvel and pulled the plug on UK-created content.
At Spider-Fan, we reviewed many of those original stories as they came out, until we lost our UK supply chain. 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.
Spider-Man is crawling around Manhattan when he spots a Demon, apparantly left over from the Mephisto invasion back in Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #123. Spider-Man gives chase as the demon races over to Doctor Strange's sanctum sanctorum in Greenwich Village.
Conveniently ignoring all of the supposedly powerful protective spells encasing the Doc's domain, the demon (followed closely by Spider-Man) crashes through Strange's beautiful circular window (on a side note, I really believe that must be the most frequently broken window in all of Marveldom).
Fortunately, Dr. Strange is on-the-ball today, and he quickly summons a portal and sends the demon back home to... demon-land. In theory, that would be the end of the matter, but this time there's a twist. Before the portal closes, Ghost Rider appears as a vision through the inter-dimensional rift. Ghost Rider sacrificed himself back in that same issue Spectacular Spider-Man (UK Magazine) #123 by leaping through into Mephisto's realm.
Now Ghost Rider (or at least the vision thereof) has some bad news. Mephisto is gathering his forces to turn the entire world into a burning ball, by transforming all earth, wind and water into nothing but fire!
Spider-Man offers to help, but Dr. Strange reckons he needs the big boys for this one, and so he sends his astral form off on a quick mission to summon the assistance of Namor (water), Silver Surfer (air) and Hulk (earth) in defending the elements. With his team assembled, Doc, Spidey, Namor, Surfer and Hulk are teleported firstly to the Antarctic, from whence Dr. Strange final opens the portal which will transport them all to Mephisto's hellish domain.
Arriving inside that dread, burning dimension, the heroes encounter a weary and near-defeated Johnny Blaze, aka Ghost Rider. Their reunion celebrations are short-lived, as a demonic horde quickly arrives to give battle. The good guys put up a good show, until Mephisto himself arrives to turn the tide. One by one, even the most mighty of the heroes are overwhelmed - Namor, then the Silver Surfer, and even the Hulk. Spider-Man is left until last, but even he eventually falls.
But this, of course, was just a distraction. Despite their defeat, the Defenders have given Doctor Strange enough time to prepare his trap for Mephisto... a tiny crystal of Antarctic ice which grows inexorably until even Mephisto is forced to abandon the fight against the world of humans and instead turn all of his attentions to defending his own realm from an icy chill!
Technically this may be a stalemate, but it's as good as a victory in defending the earth from the pending threat — and in convincing Mephisto to think twice before launching any such attacks in future.
The moral of the tale rings through loud and clear: Humanity may have its enemies, but it also has a powerful team of Defenders!
I'm not particularly a fan of these "cosmic-level diabolic struggle" sorts of stories, but this one is fresh and original enough to be entertaining. In fact, I'd go so far as calling it a nice little story. The link to previous continuity is a notable touch.
Writer Jim Alexander does a nice job on both plot and dialog, while the artist team of Jon Haward and Lee Townsend produce richly-colored pages which carry the story along just fine.
Sure it's hardly a modern classic. But it's more than good enough to do the job.
Three and a half webs.