In 1996, Marvel and DC supposedly decided to put an end to all the questions surrounding their characters, such as "Who would win in a fight, Hulk or Superman?" or "Who's faster, Quicksilver or the Flash?" with a mini-series detailing a clashing of their universes and generally ignoring all the cross- overs that had happened in the years before (though a few were remembered). Fans were asked to vote for five of the battles which would indeed influence the tide of the entire thing, and then "Marvel Comics Versus DC Comics" got off the ground.
The first issue of the mini-series with Spider-Man (Ben Reilly) swinging over a peaceful Manhattan, glad that he donned the webs once again. Of course, once he says this, his Spider-Sense goes off and he sees what appears to be a cardboard box and a hobo sitting in an alley. Spider-Man at first gives it little thought, but then realizes that the cardboard box is glowing and it shouldn't be doing that. A shaft of light from the box hits Spidey, and he disappears into supposed nothingness. Unfortunately, this was some sort of catalyst, and the box begins to glow even brighter, attracting a young man to the alley where the hobo tells him that it's too soon, but at least the young man is there. The young man, of course, is confused, and runs off.
Meanwhile, Spidey did not disappear into nothingness, but was simply transported to Gotham City atop a skyscraper with the Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker. The Joker recognizes Spider-Man, despite the costume change, while Spider-Man (not being the Spider-Man in "Spider-Man/Batman") has no idea what's going on. After the two chat for a bit, the Joker hands Spider-Man his calling card and leaps off of the roof with a parachute. As Spider-Man wonders what's going on, we cut to three X-Men (Storm, Gambit, and Wolverine) fighting the Unstoppable Juggernaut. However, the fight promptly ends when the Juggernaut disappears much as Spider-Man did. He ends up in Metropolis, where Superman promptly arrives and decks him.
Back in the alley with the glowing cardboard box and the hobo, the box is glowing even more and giving off more shafts of light. The hobo stands there helplessly as the box goes nuclear. The shafts hit Captain America, Wonder Woman, the Hulk, Superboy, and Lobo. In Westchester, the X-Men are trying to figure out what happened to the Juggernaut when the shafts hit Wolverine, Gambit, and Storm. Beast is unable to make heads or tails of it, while Professor X simply sighs and says, "What we should be asking is, who's next?" The answers are Green Lantern, Elektra, the Flash, Thor, Aquaman, the Silver Surfer, Captain Marvel (the Shazam one), the Sub-Mariner, Quicksilver, and Catwoman.
The story shifts to Batman confronting Bullseye in the Batcave. Bullseye is holding Robin at knifepoint, and both Batman and Bullseye want to know what the villain is doing there. Robin escapes from Bullseye and Batman makes short work of the villain. Then Robin is hit by a shaft of light and ends up in Jubilee's bedroom. Meanwhile, in Metropolis, the editor of the Daily Planet is shouting at his staff, including Lois Lane and Clark Kent (Superman). The Daily Planet has undergone some changes, such as acquiring Four Freedoms Plaza as a neighbor and J. Jonah Jameson as the editor. Jonah stamps off to verbally assault more of his employees while Clark Kent tries to write a story about what's been going on. The words of his article are accompanied by various costumed personalities from each universe fighting and teaming-up, ending with Spider-Man battling the Man-Bat.
Clark ponders for a bit, then is called from his writing by Lois who introduces to him the Daily Planet's new photographer, Ben Reilly who says that his professional name is Peter Parker. Peter and Clark wonder if perhaps they could figure out what's going on. Clark deems the situation too much for mere mortals, and we cut to the Sceptre and the Living Tribunal who have no clue what's going on, either. The book closes with the image of two beings, one red and one blue, looking at each other and pointing...
I was very excited when this mini-series began, and the first book did little to discourage that feeling of excitement. The art and writing are both superb, and no one is acting out of character, save Jonah, but I'll get to that later. The writer obviously wanted the classic Spider-Man to be in this, and the only way we can really distinguish between Ben and Peter in this is the costume and Ben's remark at the Daily Planet.
The only thing that really stuck out at me is the fact that Jonah seems to have ditched the Bugle in favor of the Daily Planet. I'm guessing he was transported without the Bugle and simply sought out a paper to commandeer. A small problem I have is Superman not recognizing Spider-Man, but neither company is sure their team-ups happened, so I'll let that slide. I have a theory about that, actually, but I won't bore you with it here.
All in all, this was a very strong book that nicely sets the stage for what's to come, with only a few minor flaws that are easily overlooked.
Not perfect, but darn close to it. The art and writing both get four webs, and add an extra half-web for trying to make Ben Reilly Peter Parker for this mini- series.
Next: More set-up and a few fights.