When Jason Aaron introduced the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning in Wolverine and the X-Men back in 2011, the humorous tone and primary focus on the students was a breath fresh of air for the X-Men franchise. Since his successful run on the title ended, the two flagship X-Titles are now focused on Cyclops’ revolutionary X-Men faction, leaving the Jean Grey School and its characters with nothing but a failed Wolverine and the X-Men relaunch and directionless team books with rotating creative teams. Enter Elliott KaIan and his new title, Spider-Man and the X-Men, which has Spider-Man swinging into the world of the X-Men to bring the fun back to the Jean Grey School and save some of its more troublesome students.
Elliott Kalan wastes no time in introducing the main cast of the title, Spider-Man has to deal with, as Hellion puts it, “the bad kids and the weird kids” from all recent generations of X-Men students such as Ernst and No-Girl from the Grant Morrison New X-Men era, Academy X favorites Hellion and Rockslide, and even recent Jason Aaron creations, Eyeboy and Shark-Girl. Deemed the ‘special class,’ their eccentricities and apathy make them the perfect foils for Spider-Man, trying his best to not only steer them on the right path but to uncover a mole that Wolverine warned him about before dying. Readers may be as surprised as Spider-Man is when the students reject him, call him “flatscan,” and even senior X-Men such as Storm and Beast treat him as a unqualified outsider but Kalan’s take on the X-Men isn’t as out of place as it seems. They’ve spent most the past few years fighting the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. instead of super villains and the poor students never got a chance to even play superhero as they were too busy fighting for survival. Their feelings towards Spider-Man, an Avenger, coming into the Jean Grey School to teach mutant students about ethics are not unfounded and are very relevant to conversations that occur in today’s society. It could be a serious theme but Kalan mostly mines it for laughs, decreasing the tension but not making Spider-Man’s inclusion into the X-World any less entertaining.
Clearly out of his element, Spider-Man’s teaching efforts continue to fail as he takes them out on a field trip where the class falls under attack by a prehistoric super villain team up of Sauron and Stegron. You can tell a lot about a title by looking at what its first threat is and if Sauron and Stegron’s plan to turn Staten Island into a new Savage Land is any indication, Spider-Man and the X-Men will be first and foremost, a comedic book. Luckily, Kalan, head writer for The Daily Show, knows how to make the X-Men world comical without crossing the line into parody. His grasp on his each student’s voice is solid and he knows how to make each one funny without watering down their character. Their one-liners may be funny but their feelings about mutants, community, and superhero responsibilities are intriguing and hopefully Kalan continues to not let the laughs get in the way of potential character depth.
Kalan’s comedy would only get so far if it wasn’t for Marco Failla’s brilliant and slick art. Spidey never takes off his mask in this issue but his oversized eyes are all Failla needs to convey his ‘in over his head’ mentality. Failla’s facial expressions and body language for the students are so on point that even the more subtle of Kalan’s jokes land perfectly. Like a good first issue, this book is jam-packed with action as Spidey quickly realizes that a classroom setting won’t work for this particular lesson. Switching gears to the danger room and then to a fight at the Museum of Natural History allows Failla to showcase each student visually while Ian Herring’s bright colors makes them really stand out amongst the backgrounds, shining a spotlight on characters that we haven’t seen in the forefront in far too long.
Spider-Man and the X-Men #1 marks a step in the right direction for the X-Men lineup as Elliott Kalan brings back the focus on the X-Men students in full comedic force. Although it’s not immediately apparent in this first issue, there’s definitely heart mixed in here along with the humor and if Kalan can bring both to the table each month, this book will not only steer its cast in the right direction but revitalize an entire neglected branch of X-Men storytelling as well.
The Verdict: 8.0/10