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.
After a few years of erratic quality at best, this title is finally producing some half-decent material. Too bad that Disney (the new owner of Marvel) has announced its intention to pull the plug on all non-U.S. original stories. But there's still a few original UK stories to read before doom is pronounced.
Peter Parker is having a tough life. He's broke, the Kingpin is released from jail, the Daily Bugle hates him, and Mary Jane his girlfriend... well, he just ditched her mid-date to go tackle the Beetle's latest attempt to rob a bank. I can imagine that MJ isn't going to be too pleased about the way the evening has just turned.
Can things get worse? Heh, what do you think?
Spidey just manages to get the flying Beetle under control when he spots a brilliant flare of light not too far away in Central Park. He brings the Beetle in to a crash landing in the spot indicated, and discovers Thor, deep in contemplation.
Thor has more bad news, on a whole 'nother level.
Thor's tale of woe is thus: Amora (aka the Enchantress) has acquired "The Stones of Norn", which have magnified her power such that she could enter the chamber of the sleeping Odin (Lord of Asgard, chief among the Norse Gods) and steal his power too. Armed with near-infinite might, Amora then began her battle to conquer the nine realms (i.e. the nine worlds of Norse Myth, including the human world of Midgard).
Thor fought in defence, aided by the Warriors Three, and assisted even by his brother Loki. Normally, Loki (the trickster god) is part of the problem, not part of the solution. But in this case, even Loki recognised when it was time to stop joking, and get real. Thor (reluctantly) was persuaded to leave the god-realm of Asgard, and to come to earth to seek mortal assistance. And... that's where we are up to.
In perfect timing, with the explanations finished, the battle can begin. A portal opens and out pours a small army of mixed Norse beasties... dark elves, evil dwarves, trolls, a fire demon and a frost giant. Now things are gonna get real. I mean, imaginary. I mean... mythical.
Spider-Man persuades the Beetle to help out on the forces of niceness. They also have some assistance from the fact that the various bad guys are all mind controlled by Amora, and so move slightly more slowly than they normally would. I guess the brain-wave ping time from Midgard to Asgard isn't that good. Latency is a bugger in combat.
All in all, the heroes aren't doing too badly in the fight. But they're wasting precious time, so Spider-Man suggests that Thor simply shut down the portal.
That does the job. The trolls, elves, demons, giants, etc. are freed from their mind control as the cross-dimensional mental link transmitted via the portal is abruptly severed. Still, what good can that do. The heroes may have defeated the advance squad, but a vision of Amora appears and assures the erstwhile champions of earth that the full army is fast approaching.
Amora suggests that they surrender quietly, but once again, Spider-Man has an alternative plan. A quick ring-around on the mobile phone, and before long, damn near every major super-hero on the planet is assembled in Central Park for one last, spectacular battle for the future of the nine realms.
To be continued, naturally. I am expecting a battle royal on a grand scale. Don't disappoint me!
It seems a shame that the title is going to be shut down in a few issues, as it's becoming clear that long-time scripter Ferg Handley is really starting to get his act together. Whereas the original stories in this title were laughable and riddled with plot-holes, over the last ten years, there has been a slow but relentless improvement in the overall quality of nearly every aspect of these magazines.
In fact, nowadays the single major notable difference between this magazine and the mainstream Marvel titles is probably the colouring work, which tends to have a different feel. It's hard to pin down, but there is something in the finishing that says "kids magazine" to me.
I think it's the heavy use of color gradients in the panel backgrounds. Specifically, the UK magazines seem to be very heavy-handed with their color-gradients, relying on them as a substitute for proper, detailed background pencils. It's a cost-saving short-cut which marks the book as a slightly inferior product, even when the story, dialog, paper quality and foreground pencils are professional quality. Shame really.
Better late than never, eh?
Over thirteen years, the original UK-created stories in this magazine have steadily improved from "inane", through "facile", then via "formulaic" to "flawed". Pausing for a while at "mediocre", the new reference standard for this magazine seems to be "pretty decent, with moments of quite good, actually".
Three and a half webs.