Untold Tales of Spider-Man #21

Background

Here it is! The previously untold FIRST meeting between Spidey and the original X-Men! Toss in a maniacal villain with a few dozen blue henchmen, and the stage is set for some serious action, sixties style!

Story 'Enter: The X-Men'

We are introduced to the Mutant Villain called Menace, as we see him in various locations around the state of New York, one after the other, robbing banks and museums with the aid of his "Mutantmen"- blue men that all look curiously like Spock or Namor.

It's now a couple of days after Menace's crime spree, and Peter is at home caring for Aunt May, who is still recovering from her recent heart attack. Anna Watson shows up to keep an eye on May, shooing Peter out to get some fresh air. He travels to the Daily Bugle and meets up with Liz Allan.They decide to get something to eat, and Betty Brant is watching from the shadows. Of course, she only manages to see the two of them together, not the actual situation (as usual) and leaps to the conclusion that she has lost Peter to Liz (again, as usual)! Liz suggests a "beatnik" coffee house as something different.

As Peter and Liz are seating themselves, a band of four young men and a young woman enter the cafe. It is instantly obvious that these innocent looking teens are actually the Uncanny X-Men! Hank McCoy ( The Beast, before he sprouted blue fur) notices the headline on the paper, which is a story about the Menace's series of robberies, playing heavily on the fact that Menace is a self proclaimed mutant.

Just at that moment, in a nearby building, Menace strikes! However, a man escapes to the cafe, and spreads the word about the attack. The X-men and Peter all rush for the door, leaving poor Liz to ponder Peter's lack of social grace! (I love it when this happens!)

After changing into costume, the X-Men appear and take the fight right to the blue Mutantmen. Spidey joins the fray, and they meet face to face for the first time. Quickly agreeing to work together, they race to apprehend Menace. Menace sicks more of his Mutantmen on the X-Men, and Spidey follows Menace secretly to the upstairs safe. Spidey hides in the air-con duct while Menace changes character completely (away from sight, he speaks just like an average Joe, not like you'd expect a super-villain to speak) and attempts to open the safe, communicating on a radio wrist band to "Team Beta". Spidey knows something is up, and he quickly attacks!

Juat as an aside, this part with Menace dropping the act of a super-villain in private was really enjoyable. We learn that Menace is a fake at the same time as Spidey, and it's really quite funny and well written. I love the part where Spidey surprises Menace and Menace says: "Huh? I-I mean-- Eh?!". This to me epitomizes the difference between comics and real life, and is a great send-up of the old Stan Lee dialogue that was so popular back in the sixties!

Meanwhile, Liz has called Flash Thompson to pick her up and take her home to Queens. We find out that Flash has a Spider-Man costume, and has been impersonating Spidey to protect Spidey's image. The public still thinks Spidey is a coward since he had to leave the fight with Green Goblin, and Flash can't stand it.

Spider-man is still fighting Menace, dodging power blasts from Menace's hands, when Menace's communicator cuts in with someone demanding to know what the delay is. This affords Spidey with the opportunity to land a powerful punch, stunning Menace. Spidey exposes Menace's electrical harness, and takes him down, realising that Menace is nothing but an imposter in a suit. Once Spidey has disabled Menace's suit, the "Mutantmen" all deactivate. It turns out they were robots.

Peter leaves the scene, after making sure the X-Men have things under control. He ponders his ability to continue on as Spider-Man with Aunt May still so sick.

General Comments

Busiek has made a good fist of re-engineering the first meeting between these flagship characters of the Marvel Universe. The story is contrived enough to have actually been written in the silver age, and the villain is utterly enjoyable as well. Olliffe has got the look of the X-Men down perfectly, complete with baggy costumes and everything. He draws Iceman exactly as he used to appear, which is more like a snow man than a man made from ice.

Overall Rating

I'm a sucker for cheeseball stories when they are supposed to be like this, and had a great time with the whole thing! I'll give it a solid four webs.