SPIDER-MAN AND THE X-MEN
Written by Elliott Kalan
Art by Marco Failla
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: April 29, 2015
This review might very well turn into a love letter to Elliott Kalan because in a year where the X-Men franchise has been so directionless that it’s raised conspiracy theories of how Marvel feels about mutants, Spider-Man and the X-Men has been a nonstop joyride, providing a refreshing take on the life of an X-Men student and combining that with the classic themes of Spider-Man. With Spider-Man and the X-Men #6, Kalan’s foray into X-Men comes to an early end but luckily for Spider-Man, the seven X-Men students he took under his wing, and fans, Kalan manages to give the book a proper sendoff.
Since the opening pages of the debut issue, it was clear that Kalan was coming into this book with a lot of love for the franchise. Littered with continuity easter eggs, inside jokes, and ongoing gags, the book’s lighthearted tone has been infectious and it became as much of a joy to read as it probably was for Kalan to write. More importantly, between the witty banter and off the wall storytelling, Kalan focused on some of the more troubled of the X-Men’s students, one’s who desperately needed dusting off and development. Thrown into the spotlight alongside Spidey, Kalan found the perfect balance between the motley group of angst-ridden teens and the classic hero as they were pitted against a wide range of A-List villains throughout the series. Their first field trip turned into such a roller coaster adventure that Spider-Man never had a chance to unmask once in the entire the series but that didn’t prevent him from rising out heroic wisdom to the likes of Hellion, Rockslide, Shark-Girl, Glob Herman, No-Girl, Eye-Boy, and Ernst. By the time they tackle their final villain in this issue, not only do the seven students feel like an actual team of friends but their relationship with Spider-Man feels genuine and touching. Kalan’s Spider-Man is caring and attentive, as well as laugh out loud funny, and each student was introduced as a stereotype only for Kalan gradually unravel their inner quirks and shortcomings as the series progressed. What we’re left with is a satisfying end with no characters nor subplots being left behind.
After suspecting a different student each issue, Spider-Man also finally discovers which one the mole is. At times, the series has felt frantic with villain schemes being introduced and thwarted in single issues. Kalan’s classic comic storytelling has made each story jam-packed and readers used to the decompressed nature of modern comics may have been left with their heads spinning. After all, there’s more plot in these six issues than twenty issues of some other Marvel titles out there. That being said, the mole plot is resolved with room to breathe. It’s a great moment for two characters who have been background wallpaper for over a decade. The fact that such obscure characters can have moments existing in harmony alongside someone such as Spider-Man shows how much Kalan cared for each of them and why he’s such a astounding writer for an X-Book.
Marco Failla has been the perfect artist for this book since the beginning. Elliott Kalan’s humor would only get so far without Failla’s brilliant facial expressions and body language. Just as Kalan was given an opportunity to explore new sides of these characters, Failla was able to stick some of the newer ones with fresh design elements. He aced the challenge and when I think of the likes of Shark-Girl and Eye-Boy, it’s his interpretations that will come to mind. Ian Herring’s colors are bright and electric, making the action soar with energy and letting the characters really pop when they have their heroic moments. Diogo Saito does some fill-in pages near the end, giving the book a more mature feel, fittingly so as the students take time to answer questions from their superiors and reflect on all that they learned.
Thankfully for my anger issues, Spider-Man and the X-Men was not canceled due to sales but because the very talented Elliot Kalan could only commit to six issues. He did a lot in his short run, though. Not only did he flesh out seven minor X-Men characters but he proved that a book about X-Men students can still work and it could be the best X-Men book on the shelves. We can only hope that the X-Men come out of Secret Wars in one piece so that Kalan’s wit and his love for the characters can return to franchise soon.
The Verdict: 10/10