* Prices may differ from that shown
I love comic books for children. I think they are a wonderful way to engage boys with reading. They appeal to visually oriented children, who need something more than just description still, but feel ever so much more grown up than picture books. Comics engage a child on so many levels, and they also make reading easy. If you can't decode a word, it is usually easy to guess using the pictures as clues, and in most cases you can get a grasp of the story without reading, just by following the frames. This makes comics perfect for children who want to read, but have not fully mastered it - and with enough practice - they will achieve mastery.
My children love comics too, and my youngest especially likes Spiderman. At age 4 he also finds bodily functions highly amusing, and even my 7 year old still finds the idea of someone pooping their pants high comedy. So a Spiderman comic in which are hero gets laid low by diarrhoea, and one of the bad guys gets doused in human waste really should have been an all time favourite read over and over until I could recite in my sleep. This comic should have been brilliant. Sadly, it was not. Please be aware this review may contain some partial spoilers. As this book is intended for young children ( I would guess ages 3 -8) , I feel parents will want to know if it will interest their children. There is nothing to upset a child in this book - but sadly there is not a great deal to interest them either.
This does have some good points. This is part of Marvels new comic reader range, written for young children. The vocabulary is a bit less advanced than most comics and the the text is easy enough to follow, although it is all capitol letters and a bit on the small side.The illustrations are bright and colourful, printed on a good thick glossy paper. They are typical comic book illustrations rather than works of art, but they are good, and Spiderman is especially well drawn. The story line is intended to appeal to children, and the inclusion of so much poo was surely a master stroke where young children are concerned. The binding is cheap, this is just 16 pieces of A4 size paper folded in the middle and held together with two staples, but I can live with that if it keeps prices down - and the price of this book is quite fair. At £2.99 new, delivery included, this book puts comics back in the reach of children. There are so many books I look at that are £20, £30 even up to £100. There is little chance of buying a child a collection at these prices, but Marvel readers have made comics affordable to a new generation of fans.
Unfortunately all the good points of this book get lost due to poor story development. This book is 32 pages with three main stories and two single page Marvel Mash Ups. The Mash Ups are far and away the best part, but even they require explanation. You can not get any idea at all what is going on just by looking at the pictures, and even if they can rad - or have this read to them - many children will not catch on to what is being referred to in this book without help. My sons did not get the references to laxative, "clench Petey, clench" or even the fact that Spidey had to change clothes. To an adult - it is obvious. Spidey has eaten a dodgy burrito and ***** himself. With his only spare clothes already on, the next bout of tummy trouble hits and Spidey apologises to 5th Avenue as he realises the street cleaners will be around the next day. Look out below! Once I explained everything, both boys had a good laugh - but you really shouldn't have to explain a comic. This was a 1 page Mash up, but without a doubt the best part of this book.
A second one page Mash Up explains why Mr Jameson hates and Spiderman was enjoyed by both boys. You would never get an idea of the story from the pictures, but the oldest could read and understand it without problems and my 4 year old did catch on perfectly when I read it to him.
Of the three main stories, the first is the worst. it simply tries to do too much at once, and the result is cluttered and confusing as Spidey explains how he gained super powers with a partially rhyming ode to an itsy bitsy radioactive spider while engaging in a battle with the Shocker and reminiscing about his Uncle Ben. Meanwhile he is in a terrible hurry to wrap it all up and order a cake for aunt May. The second story features an android Peter Parker, and the high point of this tale is Spiderman imagining his android replacement making out with Mary Jane, his teacher and and a hoover while battling the hydra and chatting with Nick Fury. The final story is just a fight in which Kraven and the Sandman gang up on Spidey. There is no real story, but plenty of smash em and bash em fisticuffs. This is the one section you could manage without reading as it is just a few insults thrown while fighting - but reading is necessary to catch on to the punch line for this story which involves a sewage truck. Just reading won't be enough though. The truck just says Waste Management- and once again I had to explain before the children saw why this was funny.
Both boys did really like the two one page Mash Ups, even if one required explanation, and those two pages have saved this from a single star rating. My oldest son read this once and then listened to it again as I read it to his brother. My youngest listened to this once, had a few good laughs, but has never wanted to hear it again. It has sat untouched on the shelf for months now. I'm sure it will be read again at some point - when they have forgotten enough, but it just completely failed to engage either child. As such I feel a 2 star rating is very generous. We did like the two Avengers books we bought in this series though, and I do really like the basic idea of the series - so I might consider trying another Spiderman one as well. Hopefully this book is a staring point and things will improve with the next ones, but as far as I am concerned Spidey flopped on this one.