This series is a lot of fun.
When I reviewed issue #2, I spent most of the time raving about Mario Alberti's lush and dynamic artwork, and that's still a huge selling point of issue #3. I said it last time, and I'll say it again: I'd probably buy this series just for the art -- it's that good -- even if the story was complete nonsense.
But thankfully, the story's not nonsense. I mean, it is nonsense in the way that super-referential comic book pseudo-continuity porn can seem like nonsense to the uninitiated, but for anyone who has been reading comics for a while -- or anyone who has an awareness of the overall history of the X-Men and Spider-Man franchises -- Christos Gage has crafted a story that plays around with what you know, and adds a twist to it.
Let me explain.
"X-Men/Spider-Man" isn't one of those series that goes back and tries to tie up a whole lot of loose ends. It's not a series that explains some inherently contradictory piece of continuity (although it may well end up doing that, but it's clearly not the primary focus). It's not a series that revamps and revises the relationships between these characters. It's a comic that treats continuity as a slice of narrative history, and then jumps (issue by issue) through the various meetings between the X-Men and Spider-Man to tell about some of the things that happened from a slightly different perspective. It's more "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead" than it is "Wolverine: Origin."
And, because this series treats all the other stories as if they actually happened, issue #3 takes place during what would have been, in our time, the 1990s. So the X-Men are more "badass," and Cyclops has lots more pouches than before, and Spider-Man is actually a clone.
Gage even explains the eternally-baffling "Clone Saga" storyline in a way that makes sense here. That alone should be worth something.
And there's plenty of fun to be had in seeing this particular X-Men team cross paths with the clone-who-doesn't-know-he's-a-clone, and it all takes place inside an overarching, multi-decade Mr. Sinister plot that involves, you guessed it, clones!
Describing it this way makes it sound ridiculous, sure, but it embraces its ridiculousness and blankets it in the luxuriant artistic stylings of Mario Alberti. And for all of the inherent absurdity of the Jim Lee-era X-Men trying their best to be tough and cool, and the clone of Spider-Man not really getting what he's supposed to be getting, Gage doesn't resort to cynical mockery. This is a loving tribute to these characters, maybe not as majestic as "All-Star Superman," but in the same vein. And if anyone is going to be spoken of in the same sentence as Frank Quitely, it should probably be Mario Alberti.