Characters Appearing: Flash Thompson, Forge, Havok, J. Jonah Jameson, Joe 'Robbie' Robertson, Joy Mercado, Madrox the Multiple Man, Polaris, Spider-Man, Strong Guy, Wolfsbane
Spider-Man/X-Factor: Shadowgames #1-3
Issue(s): Spider-Man/X-Factor: Shadowgames #1, Spider-Man/X-Factor: Shadowgames #2, Spider-Man/X-Factor: Shadowgames #3
Spider-Man is being attacked by a super-group called Shadowforce.
He was actually giving a talk to a boy's club run by Flash Thompson when he noticed the characters stalking him, and ran out to "take pictures". So Flash has taken the kids out to watch Spider-Man fight. This causes Spider-Man to think some non-positive thoughts about Flash, and those thoughts get picked up by a strange telepathic member of the attacking team.
Spider-Man is then captured.
Flash tries to get some help for Spider-Man, first going to the Daily Bugle. He gives them some pictures taken with his own camera, but they're not able to offer any help. Flash next tries calling the Avengers and the Fantastic Four. Neither group is home (at least for a random caller). So he then contacts X-Factor, claiming that the attackers were mutants. That gets them sent in. Wolfsbane locates some hair follicles, saying that they all smell like they're from the same "family" but that they don't smell quite human. A further forensic analysis identifies six people, all of whom are supposed to be in jail at the moment. Forge is able to confirm that the prisoners are all no longer in jail, and he hacks the prison systems to find out where they've been transferred to.
Meanwhile, government agents show up at the Bugle, trying to intimidate J. Jonah Jameson into not publishing the pictures they got from Flash.
Spider-Man wakes up in a lab, hearing scientists debate taking off his mask. He breaks his bonds and escapes. As he makes his way through the building, he hears talk about "the Nuke protocols" and "the data we have on the Abomination" and related things. He eventually learns that it's a government program run by a General Sharpe to try to create super-heroes. It's called Project: Homegrown (and no, it doesn't involve growing pot in the basement with UV lights).
Spidey was kidnapped so that they could get more data.
Spidey takes a disc with info on the project, but on his way out he's discovered by Shadowforce. But then X-Factor arrive. Spidey says that he needs to leave because he's afraid that the telepathic creature, Mirrorshade, has left to kill Flash Thompson based on the thoughts it misinterpreted from him. X-Factor agree to hold off the rest of Shadowforce while he chases Mirrorshade.
After Spider-Man leaves, Shadowforce knock X-Factor out and leaves. General Sharpe tries to ground X-Factor, but Havok ignores him. Meanwhile, Shadowforce is tracking Spider-Man thanks to a bug in the disc that he took. Spidey is in civilian form, but Shadowforce start shooting up the train, threatening to hurt civilians if he doesn't give himself up. But Spidey is able to outmaneuver them by disconnecting the train cars with passengers. It's a nice scene showing Shadowforce's leader, Hardtime, giving a positive assessment of Spidey's tactical abilities.
Spider-Man gets the train engineer out too, and then faces off against Shadowforce.
He holds his own and luckily X-Factor arrive. But then Shadowforce realize that they are out of range of "the commands". It turns out the Shadowforcers were all brainwashed until now.
Shadowforce leaves, and Spider-Man notes that the threat has changed.
The immediate problem is still Mirrorshade, but Spider-Man gets to New York to stop him from killing Flash. But another Shadowforce member, Airborne, manages to save Mirrorshade before he's captured by Spidey and X-Factor.
Shadowforce then return to the complex where they were created, and they take it over. Spidey and X-Factor follow. The press have gathered outside the building. Forge is there too, and he makes sure that X-Factor and Spider-Man are allowed to enter the building, over the objections of the Project: Homegrown people. Spidey and X-Factor head into the building and fight Shadowforce again.
Spidey sneaks off to destroy a device that is feeding Shadowforce their powers. Then X-Factor has to destroy the power packs on their backs to fully stop them. Mirrorshade is defeated thanks to Madrox's unique abilities being too much for him.
When it's all over, X-Factor are unable to expose the details of the project to the press. But Spider-Man is under no such restriction.
It's a fun, straightforward story. Shadowforce never appear again, and i don't think General Sharpe or Project: Homegrown are ever mentioned again either. In terms of the writing, it's not great in the sense that there's no innovations like telling things from an unusual character's perspective or doing much of a deep continuity dive (in fact, some of the characters pictured in the scenes describing Project: Homegrown feel a bit random). But it's a good plot and some nice natural dialogue. Fun interactions between Spidey and X-Factor. No overwhelming exposition or weird tics. It's hard to express exactly why, but (even granting a bit of bias in knowing it's Busiek) it just feels a step above most of what's going on in Marvel books at this time. It's readable at a time where that is exceedingly rare.
Pat Broderick's art here is miles better than what he'd been doing in Alpha Flight (aside from the Thing's face in that one panel).
Quality Rating: B
Chronological Placement Considerations: Notes in each issue confirm that this takes place before X-Factor #100 (when Madrox seemingly dies). More specifically, the MCP have it between X-Factor #95-96 (after Forge becomes the team liaison, after Wolfsbane returns from Muir Island, after Quicksilver is gone for an extended leave of absence). Spider-Man says that "X-Factor's had a bad reputation recently". Not sure if that's meant to refer to anything specific. As Jimmy Impossible notes in the comments, Flash being up and around means this can't take place between Spectacular Spider-Man #205 and Spectacular Spider-Man #210.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Kurt Busiek has referred to this miniseries as "the one project I apologize for every time someone asks me to sign a copy."
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 20, 2017 10:18 PM
I imagine a reason the art is better here than in AF is because the story is actually good. ;)
Posted by: MegaSpiderMan | February 20, 2017 10:33 PM
I have never heard of this before. The art reminds me (very) vaguely of Mark Bagley (facial structures, eyes, fairly clean and detailed), but with more, I guess, shading/filling lines? Also Shadowforce (and Shadowgames) sounds like an Image launch property or a Sega Genesis title.
Posted by: J-Rod | February 27, 2017 12:22 PM
Since Flash ends up badly injured and in hospital in Spectacular Spider-Man 205 and is still there through Spectacular 210, I don't think these issues can occur between Spectacular's 206-207. Can they move just before Spectacular 204? They are pretty context free for Spider-Man, though there is a note that the story takes place before X-Factor 100.
Posted by: Jimmy Impossible | October 17, 2017 12:03 PM
Yes, thanks for that, Jimmy. I've moved this and X-Factor #95 back in publication time.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 17, 2017 5:33 PM
One of the downsides to this mini-series falling after Spectacular #207-208 in the timeline is the state in which that leaves Flash and Peter's relationship. Flash won't be a regular in the Spider-books again until the end of the Clone Saga, so in real-time this series would have been his send-off rather than his heated conversation with Peter shown in those Spectacular issues, which would leave things in a much more positive place for the two of them. You could argue that the Spectacular issues leave things in a more realistic place, however. Either way, the idea of Peter's long-simmering resentment of Flash being given form through Mirrorshade and Peter having to take responsibility for it is still very poignant.
Posted by: TCP | November 28, 2017 6:42 PM
Edit: the above comment should say "falling BEFORE Spectacular #207-208"
Posted by: TCP | November 28, 2017 6:45 PM
Well, it should be noted though that in the second story in Spider-Man Unlimited 6, which probably takes place shortly before May has her heart attack, Peter and Flash seem to be hanging out as normal.
Posted by: Michael | November 28, 2017 7:55 PM
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