by Mike Costa (Writer), Kris Anka (Artist), Jordie Bellaire (Colorist)
The Story: Beast, along with the rest of the past X-Men, fight a mysterious time-displaced Dr. Octopus alongside Spider-Ock.
The Review: There are many reasons to be wary when words like ”Annual”, ”Special” and other such words follow the name of a regular ongoing title. While such accompanying words aren’t necessarily a sign of lesser quality, they aren’t always handled by the regular creative team, which may seem like something rather undesired by the fans. The fact that they mostly tell stories that don’t really connect with the main plot of the ongoing in question doesn’t guarantee a bad story, yet those that follows the plots and subplots about their favourite characters may find many reasons to be unsatisfied. Expectations aren’t always high when it comes to those issue, generally.
It’s a good thing that this very issue is actually quite nice, then, as Mike Costa try to tell an ambitious tale featuring the cast from three different books in three mere issues. With the first one being the introduction to this extravaganza of time travel and costumed heroes, the writer makes some pretty smart choices in his presentation and with how he handles several elements.
The first thing he does correctly is the fact that he gets just who he is writing as the voices of each characters feels right. While not all characters gets the same amount of panel time, Costa seems to know how to balance the different characters around, with the young Beast still being the genius readers know, without possessing the confidence he displays in his current iteration. There is also the somewhat clueless and always-learning Iceman, with his lack of experience and his generally attitude toward the feminine gender. The character he really do make shine though is Spider-Ock himself. The arrogance, the high intelligence, the demeaning attitude and the professionalism about his role as Spider-Man is spot on, with Costa managing to balance Slott’s characterization with a sense of fun that not all writers care to put on display.
Some of the concept themselves itself does also possess a good sense of fun like the characters do. While not all scenes possess the greatest pacing around, it is clear that Costa really do try to make this all around the characters, with some of the past X-Men discovering the world of today with their own eyes. There is a certain sense of wonder communicated through these characters that is actually refreshing to see with a comic, as they discover things that are either common knowledge or simply not that special from a present-day perspective. While the ”fish out of the water” perspective when dealing with time travellers isn’t the most original way to proceed, it is nonetheless handled well-enough to have a small impact on the story and how the characters are presented.
What is also well-presented, yet not with enough originality or new ideas is the plot, as it is in fact quite basic. It does set up the mystery nicely and there is enough happening that it ends up being entertaining, yet it uses a method that readers might be familiar with to present the story. Present set up, problem, action scene, mystery then surprise reveal in the last page. It is a formula that a lot of writers use, yet Costa does not do much in order to cover it up or to add some variety and twists to what is happening on the page. It is competent, yet it’s also nothing special.
What could be qualified as more than competent is the art done by Kris Anka, who gives this issue a cartoony vibe without reverting to hyperbolism. There is a certain enhancement of minor visual details and to the action, yet it never goes overboard, which creates a nuanced balance between a dose of realism and the kind of setting the wackier super hero stories can thrive in. The characters expression are big enough, yet it never does the story a disservice in being a bit more cartoonish than usual. The action and the various poses are also done well, with the acrobatics of Beast and Spider-Ock well-rendered along with some of the flashier powers of characters like Cyclops and Iceman. The backgrounds, when they are included in the panels, are for the most part simplistic, yet clear enough to add to the panels and to the script in general. It’s a very fair effort from Anka’s part.
Jordie Bellaire, meanwhile, does a very fair effort on her own, with results that are pretty much on the same page as Anka. The various backgrounds tend to use a pretty similar tone throughout the issue, with a unique color stretched in lighter and deeper tone in the corner of the panels. It’s a simple technique yet it allows the characters to get more attention from the readers as their colorization ends up being more varied. When it comes to the action, the colorization ends up being much more diverse, which helps the concept of chaos and violence get through.
The Conclusion: While the plot may be a bit standard, Mike Costa, Kris Anka and Jordie Bellaire does give us a nice read thanks to the excellent characterization and the subtle touches in the art and colorization. It’s altogether an enjoyable ride.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière