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".
In current issues, Norman Osborn is dead... at least for now. Nobody (except Spider-Man) knows that he died as the Green Goblin, and his son Harry believes Spider-Man to be responsible for the murder of an innocent man.
Last issue's closing noted promised "The Vulture" this issue, but there appears to have been a last-minute scheduling change, since it's actually Kraven the Hunter who arrives.
This version of Kravinoff tends towards the show-off publicity hound rather than towards the "nobleman seeking redemption" of the recent mainstream titles. Not only that, but his goal is to have his "enemy rot in prison forever!" rather than to actually kill Spider-Man. In this Kraven is probably optimistic, since Marvel jails seem particularly good at letting super-powered maniacs free after only a couple of years incarceration. But that's a whole nother story.
Let's get back to our hero. After a few panels of rare quality time with Mary Jane, Peter eventually moves into Spider-Man mode where he finds himself hunted by both Kraven and Bullseye at once. Kraven is seeking fame and glory, while Bullseye is all about the cash - he reckons that the Kingpin will pay well for a gift-wrapped Spider-Man. Each alone is a dangerous foe, but fortunately (as usual) the combination is made somewhat easier by the fact that the two bad guys fail to co-operate at all.
In fact, with a little verbal taunting from Spider-Man, it isn't long before the villains end up fighting each other. The web-slinger redirects Bullseye's attack into Kraven, and then riles up Bullseye so much that he can't even think straight, before Spidey heads in for an easy knockout to complete the set. His run of good luck continues, as the cops on the scene turn out to be Spider-Man supporters, despite the ongoing inquiry into the web-head's involvement in the mysterious death of businessman Norman Osborn.
This is a solid enough story. I'll admit, I struggle to find any deep interest in these simplified rehashes of twenty-year old mainstream continuity. I've read similar or identical plot-lines half a dozen times or more, and there's nothing fresh or new in this telling.
However, as a young fan in the UK without the budget or inclination to get into the overwhelming mainstream Spidey titles, this cheaper newsagent magazine probably seems close enough to the real thing. Obviously there's a market for this title, since it's clocked up over two hundred issues and shows no sign of stopping now.
Artist Andie Tong seems to be settling into the role, and writer Ferg Handley has produced a tale without any real weaknesses. Even so, it's all rather vanilla, and I can't go higher than three webs.