Two issues in, and the “X-Men/Spider-Man” mini-series has fallen into a comfortable rhythm. Here’s the formula: Spider-Man meets up with an incarnation of the X-Men, they fight some bad guys, then Mr. Sinister shows up at the end and says something ominous (mostly to himself).
Doesn’t really sound like a four-star-worthy comic does it?
But, indeed it is. Because though that formula is an inherent part of the story, and Christos Gage does a nice job telling that formulaic story, this comic is all about one thing: the stunning artwork of Mario Alberti.
I’ve used the phrase “best-looking comic of the week” or “best-looking comic of the season” in reviews before, if I recall correctly, but I don’t think any of them were as good as what we get in “X-Men/Spider-Man” #2. Alberti’s work — which you may recognize from some “Aquaman” and “Countdown to Mystery” covers — is absolutely gorgeous. Imagine Simone Bianchi with much stronger storytelling. Imagine Ladronn with a Kaluta influence instead of a Kirby one. Imagine wonderfully detailed, subtly-colored, dynamic artwork on every page. That’s what you’ll see from Alberti in this comic.
In the first issue of the series, he got a chance to draw the late 1960s Spider-Man, complete with Romita-foxy Gwen Stacy. He did a wonderful job evoking a mod, 1960s feel to showcase an early meeting between Peter Parker, the original X-Men, and Kraven the Hunter. In this issue, Alberti has to draw one of the ugliest phases of X-Men history: the “Mutant Massacre” era, with the Marauders and all. Yet Alberti makes it all look wonderful, and does the best work with Spider-Man’s black costume since Charles Vess.
If this comic was nothing more than Alberti pin-ups, I’d probably still enthusiastically recommend it, but the story (as purposely formulaic as it is) is pretty good too. Each issue jumps to a different moment in the lives of these characters, and Mr. Sinister — working behind the scenes (since the 1960s, by the looks of things, although it’s obviously not meant to be 40 years ago in comic book continuity) — is the thread that weaves each issue together. Gage does a nice job with the characterizations here. He doesn’t give himself much to work with, as it’s mostly just a big fight scene, but since the plot allows Alberti a chance to show his stuff, it’s difficult to fault the comic for having too much action.
At $3.99, with it featuring a story that doesn’t tie in to any of the Marvel event books, you might have skipped this series. I recommend that you take a look at it yourself and see what you’re missing.