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.
Jonah Jameson is in a good mood. Somebody has been committing late night high-altitude burglaries, and JJJ plans to pin the blame on Spidey. Unfortunately, Peter has photos proving that Spider-Man was elsewhere at the time, which is a major buzz-kill. So with Jonah's good mood evaporating, Peter decides to go and visit his old friend Harry Osborn. He's always good for a laugh.
Well, except for today. The only laugh Harry is good for at the moment is the really disturbing psychotic kind of cackle. Harry's latest addition to his apartment is a "Spider-Man Hate Room" full of of all sorts of nasty stuff. Peter naturally tries to stand up for his alter ego, which leads to an unpleasant scene with Harry.
When life as Peter Parker isn't working well, our hero tends to seek solace as his web-slinger alter ego, and that's exactly what he does now. A little bit of research turns up a rare and valuable exhibit at an art gallery that suits the modus operandi of our anonymous roof-top thief, and a few hours stake-out later hits pay-dirt. As you probably expected from the cover of this magazine, the man to blame is the Vulture.
Spidey launches his attack, but the Vulture decides to play to the gallery. Mr. Toomes the high-tech flying super-villain pretends to be a simple old defenseless old weirdo in a high-tech flying suit. Yep... just another innocent man, jetting around in a pair of Vulture wings, not harming anybody. And yet he was the victim of an unprovoked attack from that mean old Spider-Man! Seriously, this is the line he takes. And all the crowd hanging around decides to yell and throw stuff at Spider-Man. Right. Because the Vulture is a known criminal, and Spider-Man happens to be wanted for questioning. And because New York crowds are famous for stepping in and helping innocent victims.
I know this is the whole point of the "wanted for questioning about involvement in the death of Norman Osborn" plot line. Set Spider-Man up to be unpopular. But frankly, this is laughable stuff. Look up the definition of "contrived and unconvincing" in the dictionary and what will you see? Nothing at all, because the dictionary only defines words, not phrases. But whatever. This is contrived and unconvincing stuff right here.
The crowd forces Spider-Man to back off from attacking the Vulture. Instead he simply goes into sneak mode and follows Toomes back to the villain's lair. I don't know why he doesn't use a Spider-Tracer. I guess he just forgot he had them. Or he ran out. So anyhow he does it the old-school way and eventually tracks the bad guy back to his hiding place which is, naturally, full of all the spoils of his crimes.
Confronted by Spider-Man in front of the evidence, the Vulture gleefully admits to having performed all the thefts. Not only that, the Vulture explains that his plan was to get attacked in public by Spider-Man, in order to (a) ruin Spidey's reputation and put him in more legal trouble, and (b) claim damages in a court of law. Umm... good luck with that one, Toomes. You'll be waiting in a long line!
Regardless, Spidey is in a tricky spot here. Beating up the Vulture won't necessarily achieve anything. So he goes for something a bit more subtle. Claiming to have recorded the whole confession on his "web-corder", Spidey swings back to Times Square with the Vulture in hot pursuit, anxious to get his hands on the incriminating recording. A little well-targeted taunting achieves the desired results... the Vulture launches an attack on Spider-Man in front of the New York populace. Spider-Man acts "in self defense" and subdues the Vulture to the approval of the assembled crowd.
However, the next morning's Daily Bugle has disturbing news. The Vulture is out on bail, with a top-notch lawyer, all paid for by Harry Osborn. You connect the dots...
Full marks here to write Ferg Handley for sticking to the premise of the long-running plot line. Spider-Man is wanted by the law, and Harry and various villains intend to use that to put him on the back foot. Unfortunately, the execution is not entirely convincing. More background work is going to be required to have me believe that the New York suddenly switches allegiance in regard to their most iconic super-hero.
A decent story concept, well scripted and illustrated, but not well enough supported by the ongoing context of the inter-issue narrative. Which in plain-speaking means "nice try, but I ain't buying it". Still, it probably deserves three webs.