byzantine's The X-Men #35 - Along Came a Spider... review

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Contrived Coincidences

This issue is nominally part of the wider "Factor Three" storyline. Well, it does manage to reintroduce the Banshee, give readers a glimpse at the Changeling and introduce the headquarters of this "European" organization. But otherwise it is a collection of contrived coincidences. By definition: a " highly improbable occurrence in a story which is required by the plot, but which has absolutely no outward justification". Here we have several. Even Roy Thomas himself seems to be calling attention to them.

One gets the impression that Thomas was asked to create some excuse plot for the X-Men to fight Spider-Man. But wasn't interested enough to give it a full effort. There a few interesting lines of dialogue here, but really nothing exceptional.

- Let us start with the basic premise, which seems to portray the missing Professor X as a rather inept spymaster. Xavier apparently assigned Sean to locate the headquarters of Factor Three, located somewhere in Central Europe. He equipped his new agent with "advanced devices" which would help him locate the whereabouts of the enemy and report it back to the X-Mansion.

He also added a communication device on the headband of the Banshee. But the Banshee has not been aware of what was going on with the x-Men and is unaware that Charlie has been abducted. While the X-Men are unaware of Sean's mission and location. In other words, the Prof has left everyone in the dark.

In one the better scenes of the issue, Jean sorts this mess. Locating references to the communication device and using its frequency to pinpoint the location of the missing mutant. Then using an old atlas to find out in which country Banshee is. A good use of a level-headed X-Woman.

But lets start with the coincidences:

- Contrived Coincidence #1: Banshee locates the headquarters of the enemy and has a brief encounter with a spider-like robot. He escapes and manages to sent his first message to the X-Men. What does the message contain? His whereabouts, the identities of high-ranking Factor Three operatives, any info on their technology?

Nope. Only the cryptic message: "Beware the Spider". Because apparently Sean is blacking out and can only think of the robot. Riiiight. Based on that message, the X-Men should be waiting for the attack of The Spider/Richard Wentworth and Nita Van Sloan. Not an obscure little robot.

A robot which at this point is in Europe and has no reason to face the X-Men. But, low and behold, the Changeling sends another spider-like "reconnaissance unit" to spy on Xavier's students. So the nonsensical warning receives a meaning.

- Contrived Coincidence #2: Lets face it, Sean Cassidy is unsuitable for missions requiring a stealthy approach. He has spend "weeks" flying over the "mountains and valleys of Central Europe". With his "mournful wail" evidently spooking the locals. You would think locating him wouldn't be beyond the abilities of Factor Three. Particularly since his homebase is a rented chalet in the general vicinity of their own headquarters.

But the villain organization makes no move against him until the guy reaches their doorstep. The ,unknown, operatives send to retrieve him arrive just in time to find him passed out. This supposedly explains why Sean can't sent more messages. How the heck would they know that their opponent was in a weakened state? He hadn't realized it himself!

- Contrived Coincidence #3:Peter Parker has decided to take his motorbike for a ride outside the limits of New York City. With no specific destination in mind. He decides to stop just outside an "abandoned mill". He feels like exploring the place. We learn a couple of pages later that the mill is just outside the borders of Xavier's land property.

He hasn't the foggiest idea of what he is doing and why. His though balloons leave no question on that matter: "Y'know, its funny how I just hopped on my 'cycle and ended up here in Westchester County! It's almost like fate was pulling me here -- for some mysterious reason I can't even imagine". Lampshading, Mr. Thomas?

As if the Spider-Man basically approaching the Xavier Mansion for no particular reason was not enough of a coincidence, Thomas adds to it. A flying saucer (!) transports the spider-like robot right outside the mill. Setting the stage for a fight between two spiders.

- Contrived Coincidence 4: This robot is no mutant. Spidey is no mutant. The pilot of the saucer might be a mutant. Though we don't get to see him. But Cerebro senses the threatening presence of an evil mutant at the Old Mill and sends the X-Men (Angel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman) running.

The most logical explanation would be that Cerebro recognized the pilot. But no. Scott, later, offers the weak explanation that Cerebro can't tell the difference between a "mutant-built robot" and an actual mutant. Come again?

- Contrived Coincidence 5: The X-Men arrive at the scene only following the destruction of the robot. So they assume that Spidey is their "evil mutant" and a Factor Three operative. So they attack Spidey from all sides. With Beast proclaiming their opponent to be a super-villain.

Spidey keeps trying to reason with them. But they offer no explanation. Its one of the misunderstandings that could be cleared up in a couple of minutes. But its the X-Men's turn to act like irrational hotheads. Why exactly? The issue never bother establishing what they know of their opponent.

Beyond Spidey's theory that the X-Men are getting their information from the editorials of J. Jonah Jameson.

Way too many coincidences for my taste.

-. At least Thomas gives an explanation on why Spidey completely outclasses Warren in this battle. He finds Warren reminiscent of one of his own sparing partners and is using similar methods against him: "That'll teach you to fool around with a guy whose tangled with the Vulture!" ... "You winged nuisances are all alike! Without your wings, you're pushovers". These are my favorite lines out of this poor issue.

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