Filled with “us against them” mentality and Spider-Man attempting to course correct that thought process, “Spider-Man and the X-Men” #1 puts Spidey on the campus of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning. Unfortunately, his arrival gets off on the wrong foot as writer Elliott Kalan puts the entire staff and student body on the defensive regarding their first non-mutant faculty member.
Kalan keeps Spidey on edge throughout, making Spider-Man the point of view character for the reader as ol’ webhead tries to figure out what he’s doing there and why, both of which come as the result of a request from Spidey’s frequent (and often begrudging) ally, Wolverine. An edgy Spidey, as most comic book readers know, is a chatty Spidey. The danger with writing quippy Spider-Man is that “overly-written” Spider-Man is just a line of dialog (or in this case, monologue) away as “The Daily Show” writer Kalan sets up a few too many word balloons and caption boxes for letterer Clayton Cowles to wrangle.
Cowles does a great job of fitting everything in and making all of the text look great (including the extra s-sounds with Stegron’s appearance) without overly obscuring the art from Marco Failla, but it takes some visible effort on the letterer’s part to bob and weave through the story. Failla draws a big-eyed, wiry Spider-Man that carries some influences of Todd McFarlane and Erik Larsen, but the artist adds enough of his own style to the drawings to avoid aping his inspiration. The students of the Jean Grey School all receive proper attention from Failla, with each character showcasing distinct anatomy, expression and movement. Failla has the pleasure of drawing up some of the X-Men, including Beast, Iceman and Storm, as well as a trio of Marvel Universe bad guys, including Stegron.
The dinosaur-man is less dinosaury and more 1990s-interpretation-through-modern-filter than expected, complete with ridiculously long waggling tongue. Maybe as Failla spends more time with the character he’ll find a way to make Stegron look less like a stereotype and more like a serious threat. Failla does a nice job with Stegron’s ally, giving readers a classic rendition of a longtime X-Foe. The artist definitely showcases characters over settings throughout “Spider-Man and the X-Men” #1 as backgrounds are frequently crafted from simple shapes or dynamic color choices from colorist Ian Herring.
With a noteworthy team-up void present in the Marvel Universe, “Spider-Man and the X-Men” #1 gives readers a match-up of franchises, but doesn’t quite bring the best of both worlds. The comic book itself is mostly fun and tries to be spritely, with a few visual gags and a matching number of chuckle-worthy lines from the characters, but it gets hung up being angsty and stark. Spider-Man is depicted as being out of his element here, but the story could shift in any direction from this point forward.