Superheroes have a difficult relationship with the holiday season. It’s a time when they can unwind and enjoy each other’s company under more positive circumstances than usual, but they are still superheroes, so their downtime is inevitably interrupted by villains who force them to fight. This year is an especially fraught holiday in the Marvel universe, as wronged super-clones Ben Reilly (clone of Peter Parker) and Madelyne Pryor (clone of Jean Grey) unleash the demonic hordes of Limbo on New York City in the Dark Web crossover.
Dark Web is essentially a sequel to 1989’s Inferno event, and it’s delivering all of the chaotic fun that the previous crossover did so well. After last week’s opening salvo, Wednesday’s Dark Web: X-Men #1 by writer Gerry Duggan and artist Rod Reis unites the X-Men and Spider-Man to stop the inanimate objects that have been possessed by demons and are now hungry for human flesh. It’s a delightfully wild issue, with four moments that catapult it to superhero holiday excellence.
1. A demon poops on the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and brings it to life
Inferno leaned into the fantastic elements of the superhero genre with a story about abducted babies feeding a demonic invasion from another dimension and the cloned woman who joins them after going insane and changing into an extremely skimpy costume. As an example of the extremes: Daredevil fought a vacuum. In Dark Web: X-Men, a demon’s bowel movement forces the heroes to take down the most famous Christmas tree in New York City. Like Inferno, the weird twist gives Dark Web a lighter tone; even though people are being attacked by electric scooters and construction equipment, the atmosphere remains merry and bright.
2. Spider-Man reunites with his Amazing Friends
The holidays bring people together, and Dark Web: X-Men features the impromptu gathering of the three main characters from Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, the NBC cartoon that ran from 1981 to 1983. The addition of Iceman and Firestar to the X-Men roster this year made a reunion inevitable, and the trio gets an exciting action sequence as they use their complementary power set to take out the aforementioned demonic Christmas tree. The mutants also get themselves a taste of that classic Peter Parker bad luck, receiving boos from the crowd after they stop the tree by melting it and trapping it inside a giant ice block that won’t melt until March of next year.
3. The return of the Ultimate Himbo Superhero Costume
Alex “Havok” Summers’ position as the X-Men’s No. 1 himbo has been well documented, and Inferno is an essential part of his himbo history. In that story, Havok’s longtime girlfriend was possessed by an evil mutant at the time, and always living in his brother Scott’s shadow, he quickly fell for Madelyne after Scott broke up with her. Unfortunately, this is right at the same time Madelyne becomes the Goblin Queen. While Alex can see that she has clearly gone to the dark side, he remains loyal to her. That devotion is physically represented by the outfit Madelyne puts Alex in when she names him her Goblin Prince, tearing up his costume so that he’s only wearing a tattered crop top, loincloth, and thigh-high boots.
You have to give Alex respect for rocking a look that is so overtly sexualized. Dark Web: X-Men throws him back in his Goblin Prince attire after he and his teammates are knocked out by Limbo sleep-demons, which also feature a great design with blankets and pillows as their capes and collars.
4. The X-Men play White Elephant
The X-Men are no strangers to games, but they’re usually playing sports like baseball or basketball. This year, they’re getting festive by playing White Elephant, the holiday game where people randomly select a gift and get the opportunity to steal gifts from others. This is a hilarious note to end the issue on, and an inspired use of the data pages that have proliferated X-books in recent years. The activity reinforces a sense of camaraderie among the new teammates, and the gifts reveal a lot about the people who brought them.
The highlight? Cyclops ending up with his own gift: a Band of Brothers 4K Blu-ray set autographed by Tom Hanks. He’s such a dad.