A couple of months ago, a few websites listed the Amazing Fantasy Omnibus for sale at £7.99, or thereabouts. There was a possibility that this was a mistake but this being an object of desire for me I ordered a copy. A few days later, a copy of the X-Men and Spider-Man graphic novel arrived. Rob did a bit of web-fu, and, despite the listings and the images used, found that the ISBN number referred to the X-Men and Spider-Man book. I contacted the Book Depository who refunded my money and told me I could keep the book which was a shame because I really, really want a copy of the Amazing Fantasy Omnibus.
X-Men and Spider-Man follows the characters encounters with each other through four different eras as if they are kids who were once in the same year at school but hung around in different gangs. The stories centre on an early encounter with Kraven the Hunter who is hired by Sinister to gather DNA samples from the young X-Men and the repercussions of this that ripple down the years. It’s an opportunity to revisit classic periods for each set of characters from Peter Parker’s collage days right up the present where Mutant-kind is an endangered species.
This is where the book falters. At the beginning, where the characters spend time together during a period I am more familiar with, (the sixties, although no longer represented as the sixties), I find myself reminded of the preoccupation with Marvel’s past it’s contributors often seem to have. Once the chapters enter eras I am less knowledgeable of, such as Spider-Man’s black costume, Wolverine without a metal skeleton and so on, it reminds me of how lacking in charm corporate wide character decisions often are and how depressing it is to see them being compared fondly to the more honest Silver Age. Further more, Sinister seems to be a perverted and seedy adversary who darkens the whole story and whose influence I don’t want to see extending backwards to Marvel comics I like.
The collection is back-ended by an early X-Men and Spider-Man encounter by Roy Thomas and Werner Roth from the actual sixties. Padding out their collections with reprints from this period is something Marvel is doing increasingly these days. It must be annoying to younger readers who wanted just the more modern comics in one volume to find themselves paying more than necessary for work they might consider superfluous. What must be even more annoying, and demonstrates a lack of editorial consideration, is this being a mid story episode, in the event that the reader enjoys it, there’s no direction as to where to go to learn the story’s outcome.
Christos Cage writes some strong character dynamics, Mario Alberi’s art is elegant and classical, although the colouring could do with brightening in places, and it is nice to see X-Men # 35 again. So, not bad for a freebie, I suppose.