Saturday, March 14, 2009

X-Men and Spider-Man

X-Men & Spider-Man #1-4
Writer: Christos Gage
Artist: Mario Alberti
Letterer: Jared K Fletcher
Editor: Stephen Wacker

It's hard not to be a little ambivalent about a book like X-Men & Spider-Man. On the one hand, the last thing the X-Men and Spider-Man need is yet more random miniseries. On the other hand, this is an enjoyable if inconsequential series, which is almost worth the money for the art alone.

Well, the art on the first three issues, anyway. Issue four looks a bit rushed by comparison - though it's still superior to a lot of books. The artist here is Mario Alberti, who has years of European comics under his belt, and who manages to combine European elegance with American storytelling to great effect. He's done some covers for DC before, but as far as I know this is his first sequential work for an American publisher, and hopefully we'll see more of him.

As for the story - well, the high concept here is that each issue shows Spider-Man teaming up with the X-Men at a different point in continuity. So issue #1 is the teenage heroes of the late sixties; issue #2 is the Morlock Massacre period of the mid-eighties; issue #3 is the spider-clone era of the nineties; and issue #4 is... well, somewhere just before Messiah Complex. And running through all these stories is a subplot about a long-running scheme by Mr Sinister.

(Which might explain why the book skips over the 1970s - it avoids doing two stories where Sinister can't meet the heroes because he hasn't been created yet. Or, perhaps, Gage just reasoned that so far as the X-Men were concerned, the seventies and eighties are all Claremont, and all one era.)

It's a clever device, in that it gets round the old problem of "If this is so important, why has nobody mentioned it until now?" that plagues continuity inserts. Here, at least, there's a clear answer to that question: "Because the heroes haven't realised its significance yet."

But the final issue underwhelms: Sinister's big plan turns out to be a clone of Kraven the Hunter, with the ungainly name of Xraven. I suppose it's meant to be pronounced "Eksraven", but that's still pretty damned ugly. This doesn't really work as a pay-off for issues (and notionally years) of build-up. Throw in the weakest art of the series, and it's all rather disappointing.

Still, wonderful art on the earlier issues. There must be more to do with Alberti.

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