With all respect to Christos Gage, the draw of this series’ predecessor, the “Spider-Man/X-Men” miniseries, was without a doubt, the artwork of Mario Alberti, which managed to be stunningly detailed and kinetic, simple yet subtle. With the team re-uniting for this miniseries, which adopts a similar concept of telling stories from several eras, there was never any doubt that it was going to be worth a look.
It’s a nice surprise, then, to see that Gage has clearly decided to up his game to try and outdo Alberti’s artwork. This kind of creative rivalry definitely means good things for the readers, as Gage’s writing — previously a functional component of the partnership — threatens to steal the spotlight.
The story starts in the 60s, showing an early meeting of Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four while the latter are on assignment protecting none other than Dr. Doom; After all, he has diplomatic immunity. Of course, things all go pear-shaped when Namor shows up with an Atlantean army. And if that sounds like there’s a lot going on, well, the issue itself is even more complicated, but in a good way.
Since the series will be visiting characters at several points in their history, Gage has apparently chosen to deliberately ape the style of that era. Admittedly, we won’t know until next issue, but it’s not difficult to see what he’s trying. Thought balloons feature prominently, the character drama has that light, 60s touch, and the plot itself wouldn’t be out of place in any Stan Lee book. Gage’s version of Doom is an absolute riot, while he gives Spider-Man the kind of snappy dialogue that makes every page fun to read.
Of course, silver-age pastiche is practically a genre in itself, so it’ll be interesting to see whether Gage tackles the other eras with such a definitive and instantly recognizable interpretation. If nothing else, the mixture of humor and minor continuity nods should be enough to keep the hardened Marvel fans grinning throughout. I’m not a huge fan of retro-insert stories, but if they’re going to be done, this is the way to do them.
In any case, regardless of the quality of the writing, Mario Alberti’s art is reason enough to pick up this series. It’s a little bit Ditko, a little bit Kirby, and therefore perfect for this combination of characters. It’ll be interesting to see whether Alberti’s style reflects the various eras along with Gage’s writing, but even if it doesn’t, it’s beautiful enough that it won’t matter. It’s hard to ask for superhero comics better than something like this one: perfectly drawn, brilliantly-written and aimed directly at its target audience. It’s as close to flawless as you can reasonably want out of a miniseries.