Written by Karl Kesel
Art by David Baldeon
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: October 7, 2015

There’s a galactic circus in town, and Peter Parker has a ticket (thanks to Aunt May). They’ve been teleported to the show for all of 5 minutes before Parker’s Spider-Sense kicks in and he has to try and tear himself away from the fun to don his Spider-Man suit and investigate. It’s pretty clear at this point that something is wrong; but Parker is only able to send a single message to The Avengers before the com-link goes dead and he finds himself slipping off the wall in a very unSpider-Man sort of way. Meanwhile, the rest of The Avengers are whining about missing the circus, and Spidey’s short message is just the excuse they need to jet off to the show. Once there, The Avengers succumb to the same mysterious power draining as Spidey (except Banner who was just there for the ride), and we learn the ringmaster, Saturnalia is to blame. Oh, and she’s also got the Guardians of the Galaxy drained and captured as well. There’s some classic villain monologuing and super hero banter, until Banner gets pissed and Hulks out. While Saturnalia’s focused on zapping the Hulk’s endless bounty of power, the rest of the team begin to slowly break from her hold. More banter ensues as the teams figure out how to take down the circus without their super powers (along with a delightful moment between Iron Man, Thor, and Cap), and the day ends up saved as they all work together.

Now, the thing to remember is that this is a comic for kids so the simplistic storyline and tame dialogue is to be expected. As is the after-school special summary and moral round-up at the end. There is no confusion as to the lesson here: Teamwork and ingenuity saved the day. Cap even encourages the audience to “make a difference [and] help others” (no super powers needed). The teams then give a few examples like honoring first responders and helping out a neighbor, just to drive the message home. It’s hokey as all get out, sure, but it’s pretty standard for young kids. I appreciate that Kesel kept the characters’ basic personalities in tact as well. Captain America and Star-Lord are over the top and enthusiastic while Black Widow and Rocket are less than impressed, and food and shiny objects easily distract Spider-Man.

As a children’s comic, the artwork is pretty cartoonish; lots of bright colors and big shapes without too much fine detail. There’s a lot going on, but it’s clearly meant to catch the wandering eye of a kid while telling a cohesive story. I particularly appreciated that the character’s facial expressions weren’t neglected as they told nearly as much of the story as the dialogue did.

Super Hero Spectacular isn’t exactly spectacular, but for a children’s comic it’s not half bad. Personally, I prefer comics that don’t go quite so far to drive a lesson home. Even as a kid I often tuned out when my cartoons hit that obvious moral-of-the-story point, and I imagine a lot of kids today do as well. If, however, you’re looking for a fun comic with your kid’s favorite Marvel super heroes in it that is age appropriate, gender non-specific, and takes a moment to highlight the ways kids can do good in their community without using violence, then this may be the comic for you.

The Verdict: 6.5/10


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