Acts of Vengeance Spider-Man & X-Men is part of the greater Acts of Vengeance crossover, a story which pit heroes up against foes that aren’t typically in their rogues gallery. The main plot involves Loki assembling a team of villains which includes Doctor Doom, Kingpin, Magneto, Mandarin, Red Skull, and the Wizard — but you wouldn’t know that from reading this trade.
That’s really where Acts of Vengeance: Spider-Man & X-Men falls off: it doesn’t tell you what the plot is. It’s just a bunch of random issues involving Spider-Man and the X-Men from this event (and Alpha Flight, for some reason) though the larger plot is never referenced.
Sure, it’s fun to see heroes take on villains they’ve never faced before, like seeing Wolverine tangle with Tiger Shark. But it’s also quite confusing at times because it doesn’t feel like an event and each story seems more tied into the events of the ongoing title at the time.
For example, Peter Parker had undergone a change that made him more powerful than usual — the first few issues of Amazing Spider-Man in this trade are all about that plot. The problem is unless you were actively reading Amazing Spider-Man at the time or have a lot of knowledge about Spider-Man lore, Peter’s predicament here is kind of confusing since you’ve been dropped in the middle of the ongoing plot.
Acts of Vengeance: Spider-Man & X-Men isn’t really a plot-heavy story despite being a trade about the crossover event. It becomes its most fun when the writing is its campy, 1989-esque self. Like when Kingpin is chatting with the villain team and just slips in the title of the event in the goofiest, hamfisted way. It’s fun! and in these moments the crossover has a lot of charm in the way old comics often do.
Acts of Vengeance: Spider-Man & X-Men is also at its most fun just on principle, seeing Spider-Man take on Magneto or Logan with Tiger Shark, only because these characters rarely interact. It’s a chance to pit familiar heroes against power sets unfamiliar to them and it’s quite enjoyable in those moments.
The trade itself feels a bit aimless because of its lack of overarching plot, and one has to wonder if it would read better if they were in order or included those early issues explaining what the crossover really was.
The writing varies from issue to issue, but there are some standouts. The art is almost always very good, from McFarlane’s Spider-Man to Lee’s X-Men. One thing Acts of Vengeance here does is remind the audience of just how bad the Psylocke/Betsy Braddock plot was. Yeah, it’s in this trade.
This was it. The first time Betsy Braddock inhabited the body of an Asian woman who didn’t even get a name at first — Uncanny X-Men #256. And the reasoning behind this story is even more racist than you remember, especially when you consider that this was the only information readers had on the body swap at the time. It wasn’t until X-Men V2 #20-24 that the truth of how Betsy body swapped came about, revealing the truth about Revanche/Kwannon.
All in all, Acts of Vengeance: Spider-Man & X-Men makes a lot more sense as a trade if you know the history of the event and have prior knowledge of both ’80s/’90s X-Men and Spider-Man. It’s not the easiest trade to jump into without it, and often feels a bit aimless with its lack of connection to the main plot. While the writing varies from issue to issue, the art is almost always great.
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