For much of its middle years, this Panini UK Magazine "Marvel Ultimate Spider-Man" produced short, original Spider-Man story material from UK creators. That came to an end when Disney bought out Marvel in 2011, and The Mouse made the decision to curtail the independence overseas of Marvel UK. So for four years this title was a reprint-only magazine.
However, starting with #282 we have started to see apparently new stories written by Canadian Jim Zub appear sporadically among the reprints.
At least one of these was simul-published in the US and the UK. And where I can find both US and UK publication, I have treated the US as the "original" and the UK as the "reprint". But as far as I know, this 11-page story "The Night of the Scorpion!" has only appeared in this UK magazine, and so I am reviewing it here.
Zub is writing these issues to a formula, and it requires us to open with a splash page where the villain attacks the heroes. This time, the villain is the Scorpion. He is attacking S.H.I.E.L.D. trainees Spider-Man and Iron Fist in a rather unusual environment – dark, damp woods by the side of a lake.
And... now the jump back to before the action started. Super-zen country boy Danny Rand has encouraged nervous city-slicker Peter Parker to leave his high-rise comfort zone and brave the wilds of a night in the woods. They set up their tent by the lakefront, and just as they nod off to sleep... kaboom. Sneak Scorpion Tail Attack!
Peter's ever-alert Spidey-Sense is just enough to save the good guys from immediate demise, and (after a lightning-fast costume change) the fight begins in earnest.
Now is where things get interesting. The Scorpion's high-tech tail has been painstakingly programmed to instantly recognize all of the classic combat moves employed by Spider-Man and Iron Fist. Whatever attack they can come up with, the tail's Artificial Intelligence launches a counter-attack before they can land a single blow.
Oh Noes! What can our heroes do?
As Prince and the Revolution would say... "Let's Go Crazy!"
Spidey and Fistey (hmm... maybe not) create weird attacks out of pure imagination. The Scorpion's tail is completely stumped, and the villain is vanquished via a dunking in the lake, and a low-tech WHAMMO to the head-region.
Nick Fury turns up to clean up the mess. Danny Rand resumes his soliloquizing on the glories of nature. Spidey pushes him into the lake.
I don't envy Jim's job here, in writing these stories. His 11 pages of playground adds up to approximately 55 panels.
That's not a lot, really. In those panels, he has to get a set-up, some human interaction, a decent action sequence, a plot-twist, and a funny ending. All of that while working with heavily constrained characters and pre-set expectations.
This issue succeeds better than previous attempts in meeting those goals. I almost enjoyed reading it.
In the context of what has come before, this is an above-average little tale, and I give it 3.5 Webs.