The title adjectives preceding the names of the superheroes immediately date The Arms of the Octopus. It’s from the period where Spider-Man’s body was occupied by the mind of Doctor Octopus, where the Hulk was a secret weapon for S.H.I.E.L.D. let loose under licence, and when the original teenage X-Men had been catapulted to the future. It’s fair to say all were having difficulties acclimatising, not that Otto Octavius would admit it.

“Absurd. Contrary to sensationalist media, time travel is exceptionally rare, though it’s almost a hoax…” and if Octavius says it, it must be right. Except he’d have more credibility if he weren’t spouting off in front of the time-displaced X-teens and his own doppelganger. Mike Costa designs a fair number of nice moments like that amid a script investigating how it is that threats from the past are manifesting. While there’s enough action to keep the artists happy, much is dependent on the capabilities of Octavius, Bruce Banner and Henry McCoy as they converse in the language of advanced theoretical science. Because the remainder of the X-Men are counterpointing these conversations with comments of their own, often concerning Spider-Man’s arrogance, they’re always interesting.

While it’s a collective outing, the Hulk isn’t seen until the second chapter, but all three artists revel in making the pages seem somehow dated, especially with primitive retro designs. Over the first chapter Kris Anka dresses the X-Men in a fine selection of outdated civilian clothing, McCoy in particular, as Costa accentuates his awkwardness, yet wonder at what for him is the future. Anka has a slightly cleaner style than the looser pages of Jacob Wyatt (sample left) and Michael Dialynas (sample right), but all convey the mixture of humour and action. It’s Dialynas who gets to draw a preoccupied Bruce Banner wandering off naked over a football pitch.

After the enormous fun of the longer story we have the mysterious presence of a thoroughly unpleasant Wolverine story in which a qualified butcher is going about murdering people and skilfully amputating body parts. Who thought this was a suitable companion piece for the smart, lighthearted superheroics of the main story? In Chris Cosentino’s plot Wolverine is able to call on a friendly chef to confirm the horror. It’s meant to be tongue in cheek, but is gruesome and silly, with the only saving grace being Dalibor Talajić’s polished art. It’s presence knocks the overall ranking down, but it’s thankfully less than a quarter of the page count. Buy Arms of the Octopus for the title story and ignore the rest.