Spidey travels through time and space...
...in the Battle against lLLITERACY!
Writer: Louise Simonson
Penciler: Jon Bogdavone
Inker: Hilary Barta
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Evelyn Stein
The cover features the familiar webslinger, some kids, and a handful of dinosaurs (which are almost certainly illiterate), posed against a giant book.
The sauropod munches menacingly on some hay.
The inner front cover features Spider-man holding an oversized letter on literacy from the first lady, Barbara Bush. It's 1990 in "a major American city," but the web-slinger and his temporary sidekicks will travel to places and times far more exotic before we reach the other cover.
Our story begins with three kids. Two boys, one black and clad in fatigues, the other lily-white and dressed like a 1980s preppie, play basketball on the street in front of the local library. Seriously, the white kid is dressed like he doesn't realize Miami Vice has been cancelled, and he's shooting hoops. Anyway, their skater girl friend Cara, who appears to be Hispanic, arrives; they whine about how boring things are. Then Spider-man arrives and announces that he's in trouble.
Spidey had been swinging in front of a tourism poster advertising the unnamed city in which he now finds himself, when a villain called the "Troglodyte" blasted him with a mysterious stolen weapon that goes zot! and shoots a pink bubbly ray. Somehow, the ray brought Spidey to this city. The Trog himself also made the trip. "He looks like a Neanderthal," the white boy helpfully notes, as they seek shelter in the local library and are fired upon. This comic is filled with people saying pointless things while under duress. In any case, the group suddenly finds themselves in the wilds and under attack by a tyrannosaurus rex. "Grab those books, guys," Spidey orders, referring to several volumes that have made the trip with them, "and head for that hilltop! It's a good vantage point from which to spot the Trog!" I would have thought that being attacked by a carnivorous dinosaur would be a bigger priority, but no matter; a quick spray of Peter Parker's homemade webbing and the reptile is incapacitated. As for the books, Spidey helpfully notes that if they "never get home," the books "will help keep reading alive."
Comforting thought, I'm sure.
The group next encounter several pteranodons and Professor Challenger's party; but they find little time for conversation before the Trog strikes once more and sends everyone to turn-of-the-century England, where the crowd mistakes Spidey for an invading Martian. That mistake gets corrected when H.G. Wells' invaders strike, and our group get caught up in The War of the Worlds.
And so it continues. The Trog's rays send Spidey, the kids, and the Trog himself into Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book, where they encounter (thankfully) very non-Disney versions of Baloo, Shere Khan, and the others. Then they make their way to S.E. Hinton's That was Then, This is Now, where they get caught up in a rumble. Finally, they teleport into Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, where they joust with medieval nights. They eventually realize (a little more slowly than one might expect, but they do remain remarkably calm throughout) that the ray has been zot!-ing them into the various books they acquired at the library. Spider-man captures the Trog and they aim the ray at one kid's library card, which they figure will allow them to return home.
And just like Dorothy, they find themselves back where they started. "Look," exclaims an informative cop. "There's Spider-man! With those missing kids! And he's captured the Troglodyte!" More exposition follows, as the ray's inventor reclaims it. The kids meanwhile have been profoundly affected by such things as attacking dinosaurs, Martians, greasers, and knights. Yes, they wish they could find out what happens to the characters they've encountered. The professor proves to be a big fan of imaginative literature, and she and explains that the kids can learn what happens if they read the books into which they'd been teleported! We also learn why the Trog stole. Seems the poor fellow can't read, and so the only way he could enjoy books was to transport into them.
The comic ends with word puzzles, promotionals for the Literacy Hotline and RIF, and capsule descriptions of the novels that appear in the comic.
Adventures in Readings Starring the Amazing Spider-Man is not very well drawn: Baloo changes size between panels, and the kids are only recognizable at times by their costumes and ethnicity. The story makes a point about good storytelling, but not by example; for sheer silliness, this superhero adventure ranks alongside the infamous 1970s Hostess Fruit Pie ads. Nevertheless, this remains one of the great oddball Spider-man collectibles-- and, if we ignore the pink ray as metaphor, it seems we should see a very interesting society developing if issue #2 ever comes out, given the presence of a device that can transport people across multiple realities.