Did someone say science fair-off? Two of my favorite characters in Marvel dish it out on the main stage in a battle of wits and science “stuff”. In one corner, Dr. Hank McCoy and in the other, Professor Spider-Man; now let the main event begin at the annual Jean Grey School Science Fair event! Ok ok, so there is no science fair but there is a gladiatorial battle as the students and professors battle Deathbird’s symbiotes. Also, we have space travel, the Peak, the S.W.O.R.D. agency, the number twenty-nine villain in Marvel history, Glob is a hero, and the mole is revealed…finally!
The first two pages begin with the X-Men and Spider-Man battling against Deathbird’s symbiotes. The humor of both Beast and Spider-Man is well done as they are trying to figure out their hybrid enemies. This collaboration between Spidey’s enemies and the X-Men are quite fascinating and Kalan is known for this as he has the heroes clash in dynamic and character, so why not the enemies. As the X-Men and Spidey have become overrun, Firestar enters and helps to fight back the sympbiotes. Firestar is exhausted and out of steam as Spidey reveals that the symbiote does not like sound and fire. Storm is confused as to how Deathbird escaped the Peak Space Station. This is yet another area of the X-Men history that the reader will need to know, but luckily for you I will provide you with that history for reference in this review:
The Peak is to protect the Earth from extraterrestrial threats, the Peak first appeared in Astonishing X-Men Vol 3 #6. It is under the protection of S.W.O.R.D. which stands for the Sentient World Observation and Response, which used to work with S.H.I.E.L.D but that is no longer the case. S.W.O.R.D. is a counter terrorism and intelligence agency involved in extraterrestrial threats to world security which explains its orbit around Earth. Now back to the review!
As Spider-Man is discussing the history between himself and the symbiote, Rachel Summer breaks into the conversation stating that she still believes that Spider-Man is hiding something as he knows too much about the symbiote, but she cannot remember (please see review 4). Luckily for Spider-Man, Beast intervenes and wants Rachel to calm down so they can rescue Beast’s girlfriend, which is thru the Bamfgate. As Beast and Spider-Man go through the portal, the young X-Men rush through as Storm is trying to stop them. These young X-Men are under the guidance and leadership of Spider-Man, so what does one expect? A plan, a committee discussion, or just rush forward not knowing what is on the other side? Well you guessed it reader and I like to call it the Spider-Man way, yea just go through and it will work out. As Beast and Spider-Man arrive through the gate they notice that the S.W.O.R.D. headquarters is in ruins and is overrun with the symbiote. “…Being attacked by aliens is basically S.W.O.R.D.’s mission statement” says Beast. As the symbiote hoard begins its attack, Spider-Man does not want them to use the gate. Rockslide assumes this means destruction and so he takes care of the portal by destroying it. Spidey is not pleased but what do you expect from his team of young X-Men as they are hasty and young-minded teenagers. Spider-Man says, “Rockslide, now we’re are stuck here with no backup! Which we need since none of us have flame or sonic powers.” This is very similar to past issues as they are always without that “something” they need. The next few pages show the symbiote designed as bugs, Beast is fighting his girlfriend, and Kalan keeps up with the whimsical humor between Beast and Spidey as they deal with their problems.
As the young X-Men keep up with Spidey, they run into the nest of Deathbird and the symbiote Imperium. Spidey speaks to Deathbird about the power of her consciousness overriding the insanity of the symbiote. There is no chance in this tactic and Spider-Man request the help of Hellion with one of the symbiote skins. Spidey is planning to attach the symbiote to himself in order to utilize its powers. He also has No-Girl watch his mental “back” in order to keep his sanity and to not lose himself. The quirky humor of Spider-Man is non-stop as he states, “…I swear if you turn on me ‘cause you’re secretly working for Deathbird, I have to flunk you.” Spider-Man is now in the black suit and who does not like seeing Spidey in black suit; it is such a nice color and a personal favorite of mine. As he fights Deathbird, No-Girl is fighting in Spider-Man’s subconscious. These next few panels within this book are powerful in the portrayal of what it is like to fight in the dark and desolate mind of the symbiote parasite. No-Girl states, “Mr. Spider-Man, it’s like fighting an ocean!” As Spider-Man is losing against Deathbird, his consciousness is slipping and so is No-Girl. Deathbird is able to regain her consciousness by thinking of her baby with the help of Spider-Man. As Hellion captures the symbiote from Deathbird, Spider-Man has lost his consciousness and becomes Venom. Venom begins to attack the X-Men, but Beast uses a sonic focus beam to release Spidey from the symbiote. Soon after the team has saved the Peak but there is no chance of returning home until repairs are complete. Glob decides to help out the team by becoming the heat shield to enter the Earth’s atmosphere. The next few pages are a great combination of art and humorous writing from Kalan and Failla. As the team reaches Earth, Glob is detached from the ship and slams into the ground. He is not dead and Spidey is relieved as almost every one of his students has been in an ill-fated scenario since the first issue.
The final few pages’ showcase Glob’s recovery and Spidey’s interview with No-Girl about her being the mole since she erased the memory of Rachel Summer, but that is not the case as Ernest comes forward with the Sinister (Nathaniel Essex) proclaiming her deceitfulness to Spider-Man. I cannot believe that a villain like Sinister (created by Chris Claremont) is on the final page of his book and standing right next to Spider-Man! I believe he chose Ernest since she cannot be probed mentally. So what is next for the X-Men and Spider-Man? Will Spider-Man keep his students alive in the final issue? Does he flunk Ernest? More importantly, who won the science fair…
It has been a fun ride in reading these past four issues. Each one of them has been better than the last and with the return of Failla, the art is back on par to what I have expected. The writing of Kalan is getting better every issue and his humorous writing is shining nicely through Spider-Man. I also liked how Hank McCoy had character as well. It has a quick speed to it and even a quicker resolve within its twenty pages. As much as I like this issue, I have some concerns on the pace. It sped through once again and felt rushed. I do not have any concerns with character development and there is much to read outside the boxes when it comes to the X-Men lore. I am Spidey fan and had to stop and read about some of the events from previous material in order to be up to speed with X-Men history, locations, villains, Deathbird’s baby, and Beast’s girlfriend. That is not a huge concern, but a concern if are not familiar with the X-Men lore. I also would have liked to see what happened to No-Girl as she was swallowed up in the subconscious of Spider-Man as he became Venom.
This was a great issue that involved more of the X-Men lore (which I enjoy researching), space travel, Spidey’s sense of quip humor, the symbiote, and a final page of the Sinister. I am enjoying this work from Elliott Kalan and look forward to the final issue.