Thursday, February 2, 2017
The premise of Marvel's three-issue limited series Spider-Man and X-Factor: Shadowgames is that "Colt, Rocky, and Tum Tum Are Back In An All-New Adventure." Wait, that's the ad for 3 Ninjas Kick Back. The comic whose title I will conveniently shorten to SMXF:S (it rolls off the tongue!) is about ol' web-head teaming up with one of the blander incarnations of second-rate X-Men to fight one of the most boring super-villain teams on Earth-616: Shadowforce! Trust me when I say you are not missing anything here, but for the sake of completion, I'll tell you what happens in it anyway.
Issue # 1 begins with Spider-Man accosted by Shadowforce. Shadowforce is a team of a half-dozen or so brainwashed former criminals temporarily gifted with super-powers and working for the government; they all wear the same uniform and have bargain-bin codenames like "Airborne", "Hardtime", and "Firefight." I am obliged to note that there is nothing remotely "dark" or "shadowy" or "stealthy" about Shadowforce, so the name is as ridiculous as the rest of the concept. Anyway, the fight sequence lasts 12 pages(!) and ends up with Spider-Man getting captured. Fortunately, Flash Thompson saw the whole thing and starts calling super hero teams until one finally picks up the phone. Unfortunately, it's X-Factor, but Flash takes what he can get. Meanwhile, Spider-Man wakes up to find himself imprisoned in a hi-tech government complex (home to Shadowforce) so the military can figure out how to steal his super powers, but he breaks free of his restraints. There's a yawn-inducing cliffhanger as X-Factor arrives to throw down with Shadowforce.
If you're still reading, stop for a moment and ask yourself why. It's sunny outside. Go for a walk. Call your mother. Clean the bathtub.
In Issue # 2, we learn that one member of Shadowforce, a guy named Mirrorshade, has a superpower which creates a half-brained duplicate of someone. Well, for some reason, this duplicate has mirrored Spider-Man and is acting on an idle comment Spidey made about how he was gonna kill Flash Thompson. So the real Spider-Man has to go after it. I am hesitant to say nice things about SMXF:S (smooth!), but I will say I appreciated that they avoided the extraordinarily cliched thing in team-up stories of the good guys fighting each other before realizing who the true enemy is. Anyway, Shadowforce chases after Spidey because he's stolen an encrypted computer disk from their HQ that threatens to blow the lid on this secret government operation. X-Factor then chases after Shadowforce. Run of the mill dialogue helps us pass the time until there's a reasonably exciting battle on a train (my second compliment!). Shadowforce's government brainwashing wears off, and they remember that they're all criminals. Cliffhanger: Mirrorshade's Spidey-double has found Flash!
Spider-Man and X-Factor arrive just in time to save Flash Thompson in Issue # 3, but Mirrorshade escapes with Airborne. The Daily Bugle has the scoop that a certain General Sharpe is responsible for this illicit project to give convicts superpowers as Shadowforce decides to take over the facility and hold its staff hostage unless they're given safe passage out of the country! Obviously, there's a big battle at the complex. Spider-Man talks Shadowforce into surrendering so that they can bring General Sharpe to justice.
My notes, verbatim, about this storyline: "Below average & forgettable. Shadowforce not interesting. X-Factor bland." There you have it!