Friday, July 10, 2015

ADVENTURES OF THE X-MEN #3 - June 1996


Child’s Play
Credits:  Ralph Macchio (writer), Ben Herrera (penciler), Mike Miller (inks), Matt Webb (colors), Michael Higgins (letters)

Summary:  Gambit and Beast travel to an orphanage being protested by the Friends of Humanity.  One of the children, Adam, is a known mutant.  When Adam falls out of a window, he’s rescued by Spider-Man.  Gambit and Beast try to convince Spider-Man to turn Adam over to them, but he refuses.  Spider-Man’s solution is for all of them to visit his friend Dr. Curt Connors and let him examine Adam.  A disguised Mr. Sinister overhears their conversation and reaches out to Connors in his Dr. Essex identity.  Gambit visits the X-Men’s contact at the orphanage while Connors tests the limits of Adam’s pyrokinesis at his lab.  Beast is unnerved by the presence of Essex, who soon reveals himself as Mr. Sinister.  Sinister is able to easily defeat Beast and Spider-Man.  Suspecting Spider-Man is a mutant, he takes him captive with Adam.

Continuity Notes:  
  • This story is continued in Adventures of Spider-Man.  Don’t ask which issue number, since no one bothered to include it in this chapter. (Okay, it's in issue #3. It's probably your only opportunity to ever see Alex Saviuk draw the Nasty Boys.)
  • Philip, the X-Men’s contact at the orphanage, says he’s a member of Xavier’s Underground.  I’m sure Macchio meant the Mutant Underground, a concept from the mainstream universe that had ordinary humans secretly aiding Xavier’s cause.
“Um, Actually…”:  Spider-Man acts as if he’s never heard of the X-Men before, even though they guest starred in two episodes of his animated series.

Review:  Even the “reader-friendly” Adventures books had crossovers?  A crossover that’s not mentioned on the cover, and with no specific issue number given inside the comic for the next chapter?  That’s, as the kids would say in the ‘90s, lame.  I will say that the duo of Herrera and Miller have a nice handle on Spider-Man.  Not every panel is great, and the eyes are slightly too large, but overall he looks appropriately spidery.  The rest of the art is hit or miss; some pages simply look half-finished and those ultra-deformed kids in the opening are sure to turn off many readers.  I’ll also mention that colorist Matt Webb has vastly upgraded the color palette of this title, for the first few pages at least.  For some reason, the issue reverts to the boring pastels often seen in Marvel’s Adventures books as it progresses, even though the opening pages have a darker, more complex palette.

The story follows a broad pattern I’ve already noticed in Macchio’s work.  The plot hinges on a coincidence that’s just barely forgivable (maybe Sinister was outside of the orphanage because he already knew about Adam), the pace is brisk, and the dialogue is a good forty percent exposition.  All of the basics of a story are here, but it’s hard to find a reason to care about anything that happens.  And I’m not accepting the “it’s a kids comic” excuse, either.  DC produced hundreds of all-ages superhero stories for over a decade in their Adventures format, and the quality was consistently outstanding.  The X-Men, and Spider-Man, deserve no less.

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