What Alex Ross did with DC in his Kingdom Come series, he is doing for Marvel in Earth X. It is his vision of the Marvel Universe some years in the future.
A chemical called Vibranium causes the dormant mutant gene in every human, save a very small few, to be brought to the surface giving everyone the power of heroes. Earth X is the story of the Marvel Universe, years into the future after this has happened.
This issue was an introduction to Alex Ross' characters for Earth X, with a description and a sketch for about a dozen or so of them. The sketches are all in pencil but are all finished drawings, as opposed to some other Marvel sketch-books that look more like published doodle pads. Each description is an in-depth dissection of the players with more than just a mere passing glance. I won't go into detail with all of the characters described but I will mention the ones that belong in the Spider-Man category.
Venom: Venom, the alien symbiote, leaves its host Eddie Brock an old, dying man and thinking that it is committing the ultimate revenge on Spider-Man, bonds with Peter and Mary Jane's daughter, May. Her Spider powers are too great for Venom to be able to control her and she takes control of it. Despite her parents wishes she picks off where her father left off.
The Spiders Man: Not having anything that I can see related to the Spider-Man Universe besides his name, The Spiders Man was once a derelict before vibranium turned everyone into mutants. Now he has the ability to control people's fears, making them see things that are not there. Because most people fear creepy-crawly things he appears as a hooded figure covered with spiders and other bugs. Once ignored by the people of the world, now people do everything they can do to avoid looking on him.
The Green Goblin: Vibranium turned Norman Osborne into the very thing that he use to disguise himself as, the Green Goblin. In this future, Norman Osborne acts more like the Kingpin of the past, controlling and manipulating things from a safe distance using his wealth and power to his advantage. He has now become the "figurehead of what is left of America".
Spider-Man: Spider-Man, after retiring, has become old and a little on the portly side. With everything going wrong for him, his daughter becoming Venom, Green Goblin becoming the symbol of America, the Daily Bugle closing, and the deaths of his long time friend, Johnny Storm, the Human Torch and his dear wife, Mary Jane, Spider-Man has finally surrendered. "In a world where he no longer has great power... he no longer feels great responsibility."
I thought this was a nice addition and introduction to the Earth X series. It shed light onto most of the main characters in the series so that on picking up the first issue of Earth X, the reader wouldn't be completely in the dark on what is going on. The drawings were great as well as the descriptions for each character, not just revealing the powers of everyone but giving a little history for each in turn.
As a free insert in the Wizard magazine I felt this was a great issue. I actually had to sit down and read this book as opposed to most Wizard giveaways, that contain 10 pages of rough pencil sketches and a paragraph or two of introduction. It reveals loads of background information on the main characters for Earth X without giving away too much of the overall story. The sketches were beautifully drawn and they were finished pieces unlike most other sketchbooks and the character profiles were great and informative.
I originally gave this a 4 web rating, but then after opening up the Earth X Sketchbook issue, I saw that most of the character sketches and descriptions were taken right from that other book. This is just an edited edition of another comic, which brings the rating down to only 2.5 webs. Bad, because its composed of parts of another book, good, because it was free.