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. This is Spidey's primary UK non-reprint magazine. He also appears in the pre-school Spider-Man & Friends (UK Magazine), along with occasional guest appearances in Marvel Heroes (UK Magazine).
The Spider-Man story occupies eleven or twelve pages of this 32 page publication, and is aimed at a pre-teen/early-teen market. The plots for these stories feature classic Marvel characters and villains. While they often echo plots from the mainstream comics, they do so in their own special style.
Last month's story was a fairly light-hearted exercise, and this time around there's still a hint of amusement in the air with a tale entitled "Monster Mash".
Our tale opens with Peter Parker attending an E.S.U. (that's Peter college, Empire State University for those new to the scene) lecture by noted scientist Hugo Lazarek. Hugo is a leading bio-chemist studying stem cells. Dr. Lazarek has a nifty new process under investigation, but he's keeping it under wraps for now.
Outside the lecture, Peter stumbles into Dr. Curt Connors. Do I need to remind you that he is a.k.a. The Lizard? Curt seems very distracted, and Peter decides to follow him home, as Spider-Man. Connors burns the midnight oil in his suburban house, but around midnight he gets into his car and sneaks back to campus, where he (Connors that is) breaks in to Lazarek's lab. Seems he's pretty keen to find a cure for his condition, and Hugo isn't sharing fast enough.
Well, surprises continue as Connors surprises Morbius - the Living Vampire, as you will know if you paid even the slightest attention any time in the past forty years. Seems that Morbius had the same idea as Dr. Connors. Remember that Morbius is also a bio-chemist, and is also ever searching for a reversal to his own unfortunate transformation. So it seems that Morbius arrived at the lab contemporaneously, and has just knocked Professor Lazarek unconscious. We're chaining coincidence on coincidence here, but we're still pretty much within regular comic book levels here.
As normally occurs in such situations, Connors becomes the Lizard and attacks. He struggles with Morbius, and the sample that could have saved both of them is destroyed. But wait. There's one other option. Morbius believes that Spider-Man's irradiated blood might also do the trick for him. It has been proven in the past to put his condition into remission. So Morbius turns his attentions to Spider-Man and another battle begins.
Now, here's where things get complicated. Spider-Man hates fighting Morbius because "one bit and he'll turn into Spider-Vamp". And Morbius grabs a campus cop and threatens to bit him and turn him into a vampire. However, in general Morbius' bite does not cause his victims to become vampires at all. It has happened on a few rare occasions. No explanation has been given for why this effect is so random.
Anyhow, where were we? Oh yes, Morbius has a security guard captive and is demanding Spider-Man's compliance. But The Lizard sneaks up on Morbius, allowing Spidey to rescue the innocent bystander, and a three-way scrap takes place for a page or so until Morbius suddenly leaves the scene leaving Lizard to tangle with his old web-slinging foe.
And tangle he does, as Spidey leads old scaly-skin through the E.S.U. laboratories until the web-head finds what he was looking for... a cylinder of dry ice. Actually, dry ice comes in blocks, not in pressurized canisters. But hey, this ain't no science class so we'll let that one slide. Whatever the stuff happened to be, Spider-Man sprays the Lizard with it and sends him dormant until he reverts to good ol' Dr. Connors. Presumably with some nasty freezer burns to show for the experience. Spidey swings off after giving Connors a talking to for undertaking such a stunt.
The next day, Peter Parker visits the bruised but otherwise unharmed Professor Lazarek in his somewhat messed-up laboratory. He learns that Morbius actually escaped with a second sample. However, the current formulation has a fatal flaw, which causes a horrifically painful effect to those who ingest it. Somewhere far away, Morbius is in his candle-lit chamber - suffering terrible agonies.
For such a classic trio of characters, this is a surprisingly fresh story. I'm not quite sure why, but despite the standard old ideas being dragged out of the cupboard to perform once again, the tale that writer Ferg Handley assembles from it all has a definite sense of originality.
This tale was much better than I expected. No really new elements here, but the dialog and art is perfectly serviceable, and the creative team manages to wring yet another Spidey/Lizard/Morbius story out of the time-worn set-up. Three and a half webs.