“My daughter deserves a normal life. You can’t give that to her. I can.”
In a world where Civil War (the Marvel one) never happened, The X-Men try to convince Peter and Mary Jane to let Annie attend Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, but Magneto may have other plans!
WRITER: Gerry Conway
ARTIST: Ryan Stegman
COLORIST: Jesus Aburtov
LETTERER: VC’s Joe Caramagna
ASSISTANT EDITOR: Allison Stock
EDITOR: Darren Shan
SPIDER-MAN created by STAN LEE & STEVE DITKO
STORY: Banshee, with knowledge of a traitor amidst the X-Men, gets seemingly smashed to death by Magneto in Brooklyn. Meanwhile in Soho, Peter walks into his surprise birthday party, only to have it crashed by Professor X, who extends an offer to the entire family to come visit his school the next day. The Parkers accept, swinging by in costume. A somewhat dour Jubilee takes Annie on a tour whilst the Professor extends an invitation to her parents for Annie to attend full time. Peter wants to know more, but Mary Jane adamantly refuses. Meanwhile, Annie has another bout of Spider-Vision. Mary Jane steps out of the meeting to think, running into Cyclops who brings MJ up to speed on some back story. Magneto then starts his invasion, blasting Beast in the chest, also seemingly killing him. As the adults get knocked out, Magneto absconds with Annie and Shine to Cerebro, where Jubilee stands revealed as the traitor!
THOUGHTS: Stegman’s back!!!! Although he was only gone for one issue, his art was sorely missed. His packed, yet stark cover reminds me of the 90’s Jim Lee X-Men trading card series. There was a gold foil hologram card that featured the X-Men’s Blue Team that even had Cyclops and Wolverine in those positions. I have to wonder if that was an artistic influence! It’s easy for me to make that connection as they are sporting the uniforms from that era, too!
The issue opens strong, with Banshee on the run from shadowy pursuers, even though it doesn’t take much to guess it’s Magneto. Knowing that doesn’t make it any less ominous, though. The perspective used makes him look very domineering. Aburtov provides a dark purple sky, calling to mind the colors of Spider-Gwen’s Earth-65, but there are no Rock n’ Roll webslingers here, only death. It’s hard not to hear the voices of some of the actors from the live action X-Men movies as you read the dialogue, particularly Ian McKellen. (Go ahead, try not to hear him now!) Magneto may have his classic design, but Stegman definitely imbues a more froggy look to Toad that I kind of dug. We get the first inkling that there is a traitor amidst the X-Folks, but more on that later…
If you’ve read Parallel Lives, it should come as no revelation how well Conway handles the Peter and MJ dynamic. In this issue, MJ throws Pete a surprise party and their hearts are on their sleeves. Their relationship is so well written, heightened by the fact they have a motto, “Family first”. I’d think Stan Lee would approve. MJ brings up their aunts, giving the impression that they have passed. The way Stegman has Peter glance over at Annie and tell MJ that their aunts are with them always is pure gold. As I’ve said in earlier reviews, it’s moments like this that bring the humanity and relatability back to Spidey. The average person is far more likely to get older, get married, lose parents, and have kids of their own than head a multi-national corporation. The surprise party is another example of the classic Peter Parker coming home to us.
Whoever buys the two page spread of our introduction to the RYV version of Westchester is lucky indeed. Stegman’s pencils are gorgeous, dynamic, and so detailed. Not only are the layouts great, but the little details and influences, too. I love the more Vulcan-like point of Professor X’s eyebrows, or Jean’s hand on MJ, trying to reassure her with a touch.
Wolverine greeting Spidey with a “Bub” is great and it totally caught me by surprise that he was married to Jean, and even moreso that they have a daughter! I was also caught off-guard by Jubilee’s bleak attitude. It felt a little out of character, especially for someone with a name like hers. That’s the thing about alternate Earths, though. Things can be just a little off center from the norm and an author can get away with it.
The events of the Civil War that didn’t happen are a great example of that. How would not tearing apart the Marvel U result in Scott losing Jean to Logan? I wasn’t reading any X-Titles at the time, so I’m not sure if there was a basis for the conflict already. I really appreciated Conway showing off some of the continuity differences this issue. It may have been expository, but I felt like I got a lot of bang for my buck as we got answers on how this world is unique. Xavier comes off as very benevolent, but Cyclops paints a picture that isn’t so sure. It almost makes me want to read an X book set in this universe, or at least a mini.
Conway effortlessly captures the opposing view points of Peter and MJ, giving them each a chance to shine and show where they are coming from. Peter still wants to play protector, be it to MJ or Annie. Mary Jane wants that too but in a totally different, no less valid way. For someone embracing her costume and letting her daughter get in on the action, it’s very important to her that her daughter have as much normalcy as possible. Mary Jane’s emotions run deep, her eyes welling up with tears, a far cry from other modern interpretations. I love seeing her as a developed character, allowed to grow and mature, showing how unshallow she really is. Both of their past histories influence their position, making them feel like real people, something you can’t achieve without time and continuity.
When the traitor, Jubilee, stands revealed, I had to slap myself upside the head, metaphorically at least! Conway set it up, I just didn’t put two and two together. Let’s just say that I was so enchanted by the art that my brain wasn’t thinking critically the first time through. Now Jubilee’s dour perspective is a little more in focus. Did the non-Civil War color her perspective on Professor X’s dream, too? Is Cyclops a silent part of the conspiracy as well? I guess we’ll find out next time!
Conway and Stegman are the perfect team for this book. Here we are at the sixth issue of this title and I can’t sing their praises enough. The characterizations are familiar, yet fresh. The art is some of the best on a Spider title. In fact, this may be Stegman’s best issue to date. This is, for my money, the best Peter Parker title currently being published.
MY GRADE: A+
JAVI’S HUH?: Is Beast really dead? His fur is smoking, but maybe, just maybe, they didn’t blow a hole straight through him.