Greetings, web-heads! I’m here, having braved the vicious snow STORM to bring you this review of Spidey’s latest exploits with the X-Men. There’s nothing like a good comic to beat the FROSTy days when you’re snowed in. Yup, nothing but snow and ICE, MAN. See what I’m doing there? I’m subtly dropping X-Men names to get you acclimated to the new faces Spidey will be hanging around with. I’m such an ANGEL. Alright, that should do it… look up in the sky, it’s the X-Signal.
X-Men, vol. 3, #7: “To Serve and Protect,” Part One
Writer: Victor Gischler
Pencils and Colors: Chris Bachalo
Ink: Tim Townsend
Cover Art: Terry Dodson and Rachel Dodson
Plot: The X-Men are the local heroes of San Francisco since relocating their base of operations. Their most recent success was in repelling an invading force of vampires, led by the son of Dracula, Xarus. Cyclops was forced to employ more morally ambiguous tactics to ensure success, such as turning Wolverine into a vampire without his knowledge and resurrecting the deceased Lord of Vampires himself, Dracula. The unflinching leader of the X-Men now turns his visor beam to the future to focus on their new mission: improving the world’s perception of the X-Men.
The X-Men are seen all over the city helping to stop street-level crimes: Angel saves a girl who falls from the Golden Gate Bridge, Colossus prevents a bank robbery, and Wolverine defuses a hostage situation. Using an advanced computer program run by the young mutant Cypher, Cyclops is able to track low-level conflicts that go unnoticed by the bigger Marvel teams such as the Avengers. This ‘X-Net’ keeps track of all sorts of activities ranging from local news feeds and police reports to online social media updates and blogs. When reports of a reptilian creature in the sewers of New York City appear, Cyclops sends out a team of X-Men to investigate.
Storm, Wolverine and Gambit take one of the X-Jets to New York, and Emma Frost volunteers to go along for the shopping opportunity. The team enters the sewers when Emma telepathically senses a flash of human thought. Wolverine notes that the scents in the sewer are mixed up, making them hard to sort out. The quartet continues further into the underground trenches before coming to a large chamber filled with corpses and skeletons. The scattered images and emotions Emma had been following get more intense just before the group is rushed by a swarm of savage reptilian humanoids.
Storm ends the fight by zapping the horde with lightning and the creatures scatter quickly down a dark tunnel. Storm sends Wolverine to retrieve one of the aggressors for examination, but he is attacked in the shadows by an unseen opponent who sends him flying backwards. Spider-Man steps out of the shadows, stating that if the X-Men want to get at his ‘little lizard pal,’ they’ll need to go through him.
The Astonishing: I like the X-Men. The idea of them being the heroes of San Francisco is a good story angle and presents a good contrast to the normal fear and suspicion in which the public usually views mutants. Any Spider-Man fan can appreciate the struggle between the hero and public opinion, so it’s good to see the X-Men succeed in that field. It also makes Cyclops look like the champion of mutantkind, and I’m alright with that too since I’m a big supporter of Cyclops as the true leader of the X-Men.
The use of Cypher, whose mutant ability is to understand any language – human, computer, or even body – is a nice use of the character. Hopefully, the ‘X-Net’ program that tracks criminal activities for the X-Men will be of use in future stories and not forgotten after this arc. When the computer relays the message that there’s a reptilian creature in the sewers of New York, it should be pretty obvious to any Spidey fan that the bad guy will be the Lizard. A Spider-Man and X-Men team-up is a win-win in my book, and when Spidey gets to trounce Wolverine at the end of the story, it becomes a win-win-win.
The detail in the art improves in the second half when the team enters the sewers. The pipes and walls of the sewer appear to have garnered the most attention to detail in this issue, which is good because it really helps set the scene. This may have come at the expense of the detail in the characters at times, however. The full page panel of the X-Men progressing down ladders and through tunnels was pretty artistic and visually interesting. The coloring by Bachalo is nice, especially the shade of green in the sewers. The cover art by Terry and Rachel Dodson is also a bonus, to be appreciated even more when compared to some of Bachalo’s art on the inside of the book.
The Uncanny: The most difficult thing about keeping up with the X-Men is the fact that they have three main titles running right now: Uncanny, Legacy and now this one. The problem is that they reuse characters (Wolverine is no stranger to this problem) and mix up plotlines so it’s hard to place these stories with regard to the rest of what is happening to the X-Squad. For instance, Gambit is currently in Legacy, battling his dark side, and Emma Frost is trying to dispose of Sebastian Shaw in the Uncanny title. How are they also in New York investigating this problem?
Problems with the timeline aside, since we’ll assume this story fits in with the rest of the canon somewhere, Gischler doesn’t quite nail some of the characters he’s using. Emma is probably the best example of this. I know she is interested in quality style, clothes and shopping, but Gischler seems to go out of his way to make it seem as though her mutant power is simply to recognize famous clothing brands. I’m not sure why he didn’t make more of an effort to showcase her secondary mutation which allows her to form a diamond-hard shell over her skin when the team was attacked by the reptilian creatures.
Emma’s typical lingerie-clad appearance is in full force here, but when Gischler just has her wearing it while serving beer during one panel, it just makes it seem like a fan boy fetish. The mention of Storm’s claustrophobia in the sewers was nice, but the lack of a Cajun-accent on Gambit, or even a Russian one on Colossus, was jarring. I don’t think Spider-Man would have taken so long in making himself known to the X-Men, especially while they were fighting the reptile-men, but I guess we can assume he didn’t arrive on the scene until after the battle. I also initially questioned how Wolverine wouldn’t have smelled someone he teams up with on two different Avengers teams, but that can be explained by Wolverine’s statement that the scents were mixed up.
Bachalo’s art is all over the place. I had to check the credits to make sure it wasn’t illustrated by different artists. Some sections are nicely detailed and tight, like the snapshots of the X-Men serving the public in the beginning, but other sections are looser, and character’s faces in particular look too wide. I’m not sure what the point of Wolverine wearing the harness with lights on it in the sewer was when either Storm or Gambit could have provided light with their powers. Townsend’s inks probably could have helped the art by being a bit more refined in some areas, but the detail he included in other areas, like the aforementioned sewers, probably received more of his attention.
Spider-Man and his Amazing X-Friends: Spidey didn’t appear until the last panel of this issue, so there wasn’t much time for him to interact with the X-Men. But Spider-man tossing Wolverine on his Wolvie-behind was a great way to end the story and bring Spider-Man into the next issue.
Rating: 3/5 Xavier Institute for Higher Learning credits