This long-running UK Magazine started out by running reprints, but these days it offers a brand new "out of continuity" Spider-Man story every three weekly issue.
The Spider-Man story occupies eleven or twelve pages of the 32 page magazine, and are aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. The plots for these stories feature classic Marvel characters and villains, and often echo plots from the mainstream comics, but in their own special style.
The remaining pages of each issue are filled with puzzles, posters and factoids centered around the issues guest star(s), be they heroes or villains. On the cover of this issue, I see Spidey, Hobgoblin, and some kid with a Spidey T-Shirt and home-made Spidey mask. Hmm... I wonder what lies in store?
Right, story begins. The kid is "The Amazing Spider-Boy", real name "Ben Simmons" and he lives in an apartment in NYC and he's a huge Spidey fan - he once even took a photo of Spidey as the webhead swung past his window. The other kids tease him for being a SpiderFan. Insane, huh? But yeah, that happens, and it's real hurtful. Sometimes when the other kids tease me, I just feel so sad, but mom says that if I really want to be a hero, I need to... *ehem* enough about me. Let's move on.
Friday afternoon after school, Ben sees Hobgoblin fly past with Spidey in pursuit. The two super-dudes crash into a nearby warehouse (with a conveniently open gate) and without a moments hesitation Ben dons his bandanna and his toy webshooters and joins the fun. Hobby has lost his mask (I suspect that will be important shortly) and is lobbing pumpkin bombs. Spidey is doing well until he suffers a web-shooter malfunction and gets an explosive pumpkin in an awkward spot. Ouchies.
The real Spider-Man is temporarily under a pile of rubble, and Hobgoblin moves in for the kill, when... TA-DA-DA-DAAAAAAAA! Spider-Boy jumps in and squirts toy webshooter gunk right in Hobgoblin's face. So much for "safe for kids", eh? The stuff must sting like buggery, 'cos Hobby goes into an uncontrolled loop the loop and takes a major fall. Score one for the little kid!
Naturally, Spidey discourages Ben from leaping into a full-time super-hero career. He's not likely to get so lucky a second time. Ben sadly leaves the warehouse, despondent that even after saving his hero, all he gets is a "thanks but don't do it again." Sad finish. But it's not the finish. We've one more sting in the tail.
The "camera" fades to Ben's notebook. He has been reading this story to his class all along. Ben's teacher is unimpressed, his homework was to write a true story, but this one is clearly fake, isn't it? Ben's class joins in with jeers, leaving Ben to traipse sadly back to his desk, alone in the crowd with nobody to believe his tale.
...except possibly his science teacher... Mr. P. Parker. P for Peter that is. Well, Mr. Parker sees what's going on and decides to step in to lend a hand, Spider-Man style. Yep, the web-head himself turns up at school to see how his old pal Spider-Boy is doing, and offer him a memento of the battle in the form of a broken web-shooter.
As you might imagine, Ben's confidence and popularity take quite a boost.
As I got to the end of the eleven page story, I really couldn't believe that regular writer Ferg Handley finally pulled an original plot out of his years of jaded ripped-off reworkings. I headed back to the credits to check, and... aha... this story was actually plotted by Seb Patrick. Still, Ferg wrote the script, and he did a good job writing up the plot he was given. Nice teamwork, with a great result.
[Update] I originally missed the last two pages of this story when I reviewed it the first time. Here's my original conclusion:
The story fades with a wonderful ambiguity. Did Ben really have a wonderful adventure that nobody will ever believe? Or is he fooling himself and filling his lonely childhood with fantastic imaginings? The truth will never be known, but either way makes a great story.
Of course, there was no ambiguity at all. Just me managing to turn two pages at the same time and completely bypass the finale. In fact the truth was known, and it involves a happy ending. But hey, it works both ways.
Note that Seb Patrick isn't a professional writer, he's just a fan of the magazine. Apparently the writing team made a one-off invitation for kids to pitch some ideas for Ferg to script for this issue. As it turned out, the only suggestions came from adults, including the plot that was actually used. In any case, it sure turned out well.
I'm gonna give this one the full five webs. Is it really a classic masterpiece? Well, it's pretty close - and it's important to remember that web ratings are given "in context". Following after the years of mediocre dross we've seen out of this title, it's just great to read a story that I actually enjoyed, and even more surprisingly for this title, left me in a contemplative mood after I had finished.
Usual filler. Puzzles, fact files, coloring, posters, cut-out games, fan art, and two pages of in-house advertising round out what is a decent value for money magazine, especially when the stories are this good!