Seeing Spider-Man team up with the X-Men is an immediate fan-pleaser, but bar the odd scene in event books and the occasional Wolverine appearance, it hasn’t happened much recently at all. Enter Christos Gage, with his proven track record for fan-pleasing concepts, to jam the two properties together in spite of the fact that there’s very little reason to do so, besides “it should be cool”.
Gage takes an unusual approach, initially going back to the start of Marvel history to tell a story about the original X-Men meeting a neophyte Spider-Man. Both the plot and characterization are sucked out of that era, and Gage does a very convincing impression without getting sidelined for the recent trend of knowing, ironic silver age pastiche. That’s not to say it’s dead serious, but even when depicting the in-fighting in Spider-Man’s classic supporting cast, Gage resists the temptation to reference what readers know is coming.
Future issues, however, will fast-forward the story into future decades, and I take particular glee in noting that issue 3 will be the “90s” issue and feature a genuine appearance by Ben “Spider-Clone” Reilly. The ongoing plot involving Sinister and Kraven will presumably unfold over the longer timespan, bringing Spider-Man and the X-Men together for only cursory meetings, and that makes perfect sense for superheroics.
While the plot is serviceable and the characterization enjoyable, the most enjoyable aspect of the book is the art by Mario Alberti, which fuses European expressionism with American superheroics, giving detailed and bright worlds populated by quirky, individual figures. It’s tempting to say that the series is going to be worth it for the art alone, but to do so is a disservice to Gage’s well-considered story.
It seems obvious that this series is aimed at fans of both Spider-Man and the X-Men, but beyond that there’s plenty for comic fans to enjoy. If, however, you do fall into the former category, it looks like it’s going to be a must-read. It might not feel like it’s ultimately going to matter in the wider context of the parent titles, but when reading a comic is this fun, it doesn’t have to.