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. In the past four years, I've been able to review every issue starting with #152. Now thanks to the miracle of eBay, I've acquired most of the issues from #132 up to #151... so let's get on with the job of filling in the gaps in our Looking Back section... "British History".
So what do we have this month? Well, technically, this "most-of-a-month". This magazine is published every three weeks. But "fortnightly-and-a-half-ly" is just to hard to type, so you're just going to have to excuse me for a little rounding error.
Where were we? Right. This "month", a tale entitled "Strange Days!" which is Strange by name and Strange by nature.
We open with the major battle depicted on the cover of this issue. Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, plus the Avengers and at least half of the Fantastic four are tackling an Elder Demon named Shuma-Gorath, Lord of Chaos. The heroes win the day, but Doctor Strange himself is only saved by the last-second intervention of Spider-Man, and this sets our Main Mystical Man to pondering. He notes that in recent times, Spider-Man has been victorious in several mystic encounters, including defeating many other big-name mystical villains such as Mephisto, Dr. Doom, Loki and Dormammu.
Strange is inclined to believe that this is more than just good fortune and overzealous scripting. In fact, he wonders if Spider-Man may one day have a vital role to play in saving the world. (Again). If you ask me, that's a pretty good bet, given the way things tend to go. The Doctor agrees with me, and gives Spider-Man an amulet which can be used only once, but which will banish an enemy to the Dark Dimension. Very handy!
Well, Spidey carries the amulet around as instructed. But over the next few days, he suffers a run of bad luck. It seems to him that pretty much anything that can go wrong, goes wrong. Naturally, our hero starts to suspect that the "chaos magic" origins of the amulet are responsible for his ongoing misfortunes.
Matters come to a head when Spider-Man counters both Sandman and Electro. The ensuing battle doesn't go well for our champion, and he faces certain doom... unless... he uses the amulet. As promised, both villains are banished to the Dark Dimension. Naturally, Doctor Strange comes-a-running to see what terrible cosmic foe might have caused Spider-Man to use such a dread device. He's far from impressed to see that the web-head has wasted such a potent talisman just to defeat a couple of run-of-the-mill super-villains.
Not only that, the peeved Sorcerer Supreme tells Spider-Man that the amulet was not at all responsible for his misfortune. Spider-Man is just naturally unlucky! Yep. Ain't that the truth. By the way, Doctor Octopus just escaped from prison. Go get him, Spidey!
This story feels slightly unusual in shape. The major battle is right up front, and then it just potters along for most of the issue, until the secondary conflict near the end of the tale.
There's nothing unreasonable about this. In fact, it's a very effective approach. Perhaps it's just unexpected since so many of the surrounding issues tend to smash their way through battle after battle with very little thought to story "shape" at all.
Refreshingly different. Three webs for the story, plus a bonus half web for Peter Parker contemplating banishing Jonah Jameson to the Dark Dimension. That makes three and a half.