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".
Now, there's a bit of a gap in my collection here, and issue #135 jumps in to part 2 of a story arc entitled "Mutant Menace". But don't panic, I'm sure we'll figure it out as we go along.
Oh, here we go. A handy re-cap for us courtesy of the editing team! "Last Issue: Spider-Man and Nightcrawler went toe-to-toe with a Sentinel, and Storm took its head off with a lightning bolt. Now the X-Men are giving Spidey a lift home in their Blackbird [stealth jet]."
We pick up from that point, as the X-Men (which is to say the "away team" of Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler and Rogue) receive a telepathic call from Professor X telling them to get their jet back to the X-Mansion immediately. Specifically, the mansion is under attack from at least 20-odd Sentinels.
But wait! There's more! As the Blackbird comes in to Westchester, about five miles from the mansion, it's taken out of the air by a falling Juggernaut, dropped by Magneto! Now, something screwy must be going on here, since while Magneto might not have any love for the X-Men, he has an affection level of minus several million for Sentinels! Ah well, in any case, the Xavier Trust Fund can scratch another Blackbird from it's asset register. I've said it before and I'll say it again... if you see the X-Men in a plane, odds are 60% it'll crash, 30% it will land safely, and 10% it will end up in outer space.
Back at the mansion, the home team (Kitty Pryde, Jubilee, Iceman, Wolverine and Multiple Man) tackle the Sentinels, having some initial success, until things suddenly collapse. Meanwhile Cyclops, Storm, Rogue and Colossus are facing Juggernaut at the site of the Blackbird crash, as Spider-Man and Nightcrawler hitch a lift to the mansion from a passing redneck.
In all this, Magneto has yet to make his appearance. But we're left with a cliff-hanger ending as two Sentinels each grab one end of Jubilee and start to pull her like a wishbone at Thanksgiving. This is going to hurt!
Hey, this ain't bad stuff at all. In fact, it's getting pretty close to "mainstream" in its approach. With a bit more character development, and some closer tie-ins to whatever continuity was happening at the time, a story like this wouldn't be too far out of place in an X-Men title.
If anything, that's probably my major complaint. I think that out-of-continuity titles do need to bear in mind that they're not actually core comic books. Otherwise, there's a danger that they might come across as a bit "presumptuous". I'm not saying that line has been crossed here. But it's just something to be careful of.
Presumptuous or not, this is a solid enough storytelling. Maybe there's a bit too much fighting and not enough plot progression. On the other hand, it's important to remind myself that there's only 11 pages to work with, compared to 22 or so in a full comic book, so it's not surprising that the story line isn't going to advance quite as much as in a "regular" title.
All in all, let's call this three-and-a-half webs and wait until we see just where this tale finishes.