Posted - July 12, 2013 | Updated : August 17, 2015


Marvel Team-Up


I've always loved the brilliant simplicity of Marvel Team-Up. Every story gives us Spider-Man, Marvel's flagship character, paired with another character or characters from the Marvel Universe. From a reader's vantage point, each pairing presents variety within a single series. From Marvel's point-of-view, its an opportunity to showcase characters who would be otherwise unable to successfully star in their own books. Because of the necessary scope of stories that feature different characters from the Marvel milieu, Marvel Team-Up is also one of the more entertaining ways a reader can beef up on knowledge of the Marvel Universe.



We begin with Spider-Man and Yellowjacket.

Where Yellowjacket is, the Wasp is sure to follow (or maybe its the other way around). Sure enough our tale begins with the wondrous Wasp, Janet van Dyne, in her penthouse apartment.


janet van dyne in her new york penthouse

She's wondering where here husband, Henry Pym a.k.a. Yellowjacket has gone to when the man in question suddenly arrives to this kind of welcome.


janet van dyne giving hank pym a sexy welcome

Wow. Sexy, rich, beautiful and in the mind for some rowdy fun. What more can a man ask for?

Soon enough, the action starts and we find Yellowjacket fishing Spider-Man from the Hudson. Here's a panel showing everybody in costume.


wasp, yellowjacket and spider-man in costume

Well, it's the Bronze Age of comics so I won't note the absurdity of having a dripping wet Spidey and simply draping a blanket over him in the hope that it can dry him off.

Spider-Man has been attacked by a villain that was first encountered by these two:


the human torch and iceman in action

What a perfect team-up that was wouldn't you say? Fire and Ice. Looking at this panel makes me wonder why Marvel never had a Human Torch/Iceman series.

The first attention-getting John Byrne panel is this one showing the villain, Equinox, blasting into Janet van Dyne's apartment.


one side of janet's apartment explodes

The blast is drawn to such wonderful effect with the smoke and the blast imprint balancing each other nicely the debris effectively communicates the force of the blast.

Here's the Wasp rushing into action with her sting.


the wasp hits equinox with her sting

Unfortunately, during these times, the Wasp's sting is more bothersome than dangerous. Later on in our tale all of that will change, I remember Janet van Dyne destroying an entire armored vehicle with her blasts in Secret Wars.

This panel is a great panel showing Yellowjacket's blasting ability.


yellowjacket uses a power blast against equinox

Obviously, his 'wings' play a part in generating the blast energy.

These twin panels effectively show Hank and Janet as a couple - they're bickering over Hank's recent power-up and Janet's relatively weaker stings.


wasp and yellowjacket bickering during battle

Here's more Byrne fine art, this one showing Yellowjacket's wonderful costume design.


a shot of yellowjacket's costume

And here's the villain of the piece. Equinox melts debris thrown his way by Spidey.


equinox melts a car door thrown at him by spider-man

Here Yellowjacket gets in close with Equinox.


yellowjacket punches equinox

Yellowjacket doesn't have any super strength or invulnerability; he's counting on his insulated suit to protect him.

The story continues as Spider-Man teams-up with the Wasp.

Thinking that Yellowjacket is dead, Wasp goes on a rampage. Unfortunately, she's not powerful enough to be very effective. Janet is actually putting herself in danger as evidenced by this timely save by Spider-Man.


spider-man saving the wasp

The story takes our heroes to the Baxter Building.


spider-man, the wasp and dr sorensen approaching the baxter building

It's great to see these panels from Byrne at this point in time because years later John Byrne would be both scripter and artist of the Fantastic Four for an acclaimed - and long - run on that series.

This is also something I didn't know about.


wasp uses her avengers id to gain access to the baxter building

The Avengers have access to the Fantastic Four base. I wonder if this is reciprocal and the Four can also enter Avengers Mansion when needed?

Here's another noteworthy panel.


dr. sorensen and spider-man in reed richard's lab

The woman is Dr. Margay Sorensen, mother of Equinox, and also a scientist looking for a cure to her son's 'condition', but its her comment about Reed's lab that got my attention; the comment once again points out the vast financial resources Reed's genius has afforded the Fantastic Four.

I've been griping about the Wasp's lack of power for a bit now but Claremont and Byrne has a surprise panel for us.


the wasp ripping off a steel grid

The Wasp has shrunk down to her 'wasp size' in order to avoid some Baxter Building security equipment gone haywire; so she's in front of this metal grill she normally would not be able to budge but she bends it as if she has super strength! It will later on be revealed that not only does she have enhanced strength, her stingers have also become more powerful - its all Hank Pym's doing it turns out.

Here's Spider-Man demonstrating one of his other abilities - the scientific smarts of Peter Parker.


spider-man working in reed richards' lab

What the heck is that on his head?

Here's a demonstration of the Wasp's improved sting; and Yellowjacket's admission that it was he who gave her a power up.


the wasp tests her all-new powerful sting

A Human Torch/Spider-Man team-up is the most common recurring team-up in the Marvel Team-Up series (Did I say 'team-up' enough times?). It points to one of the classic friendships in the Marvel Universe. Maybe its because Johnny and Peter are around the same age and both are based in New York (together with 80% of the Marvel Universe).

Here's a wonderful Byrne panel of the pair.


spider-man confronts human torch

This is Spidey's mag and a man on fire is always attention getting, but both Spider-Man and the Human Torch take a back seat to the visuals of this story's villain - the Super Skrull!


the super skrull confronts spider-man and the human torch

Wonderful rendering by John Byrne. As can be seen in the panel, the Super Skrull has all the combined powers of the Fantastic Four .

Now a brief interlude as we check in on Captain Jean DeWolff.


captain jean dewolff and her 30s roadster

Not only does she sport a beret most of the time, she also drives a 30s roadster on duty as a cop. Dressing the way you want and driving what you own as part of the Force? Even with super powers running rampant on these comics, its Captain DeWolff's circumstances that really stretches suspension of disbelief. Buy you know what? Her idiosyncracies, unlikely as they are, make her a colorful character and the read more interesting, so I'm all for it. Plus, John Byrne really drew that roadster pretty well.

I like Johnny's attitude in this story because he pretty much takes 'point' position against the Super Skrull. This is refreshing since I'm used to seeing Johnny play more of a supporting role when he's with his own team.

The first time I saw John Byrne drawing Spider-Man was an issue of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man. . Spidey was up against the Ringer in that issue and I remember just being in awe of how well Byrne drew Spider-Man; particularly, Spider-Man in action. So some panels here remind me of that. Like this one.


spider-man swinging

Once again it is Peter Parker's smarts that prove to be the clincher. Here Spider-Man, aided by the Torch, constructs a Skrull 'mouse trap'.


spider-man and the torch builds a skull trap

Getting the Super Skrull to tip the trap isn't easy. Here Torch takes a hit full on the face.


the super skrull hits the torch

Excellent layout on this panel


the super skrull pursues our heroes

That isn't the Torch in the foreground, it's the Super-Skrull mimmicking the Torch's power.

Did I say that Peter Parker's smarts saves everything in the end? I was wrong - the Skrull trap is a big fail.

Ok, I'm very excited about the next team-up since it's Spider-Man/Ms. Marvel. Unlike Spidey, Ms. Marvel/Warbird/Binary/Captain Marvel has gone through many names and many looks - I love them except the fiery Binary look. This is the 70s Ms. Marvel and she's looking great! Here she is in action against the Super-Skrull


ms. marvel hits the super skrull

Maybe now the Super Skrull can be stopped. Spider-Man and the Human Torch were a bit under his weight class. Ms. Marvel with her Kree-derived super strength, invulnerability and energy blasts is more the Skrull's match. The costume doesn't hurt either. Look at this great panel.


ms. marvel on the floor with the super skrull behind her

And this one.


ms. marvel hits the super skrull

The panel below I'm including because the angle is so unusual and Byrne pulls it off flawlessly.


ms. marvel on the queen mary II overhead angle

Here's a demonstration of Ms. Marvel's super strength.


ms. marvel lifts a car

Here's one more panel about Ms. Marvel. And yes, she (and Spider-Man) both defeat the Super Skrull.


spider-man and ms. marvel over a knocked out super skrull

In the great tradition of Marvel Team-Up we are taken from one corner of the Marvel Universe to the next, depending on who Spider-Man's 'guest star' is. Now its time to visit the world of Iron Fist.


the iron fist in training

Now here's a look at an Iron Fist 'associate' : Misty Knight.


misty knight as an undercover agent

She's working undercover here, the man beside here is a criminal she's investigating by posing as his, uh, . . . The question is whether she's sleeping with him as part of her undercover work. I'm tempted to borrow from The Fast & The Furious 2 and think of her as a 'sparkling conversationalist'. Of course she's sleeping with him.

Here is the villain of the story : The Steel Serpent.


the steel serpent

It' a duel to the death between these two denizens of K'un Lun. Here's my favorite action panel.


iron fist fighting with the steel serpent

It turns out that the Iron Fist is an actual artifact of power. I used to think it was a form of martial arts discipline perfected by Daniel Rand allowing him to have a fist 'like a thing unto iron'. Nope, its an energy object. And because its an object it can be taken from Daniel Rand, and it is - by Steel Serpent.

Here is a scene from the past, in K'un-Lun, showing the great dragon Shou-Lao. The dragon is the source of the Iron Fist power.


steel serpent confronts the dragon shou-lao

So how does Spider-Man do against the Steel Serpent? Not very well I'm afraid. But we do have this one panel were Spidey manages to get the upper hand.


spier-man hits steel serpent

We also have the famous Spidey wit in full display.

Soon enough, its time for round 2 between Iron Fist and Steel Serpent - but this time it is Steel Serpent who has the power of the Iron Fist. Here are two excellent panels from that fight.


steel serpent fights iron fist
iron fist fights steel serpent

So how can Iron Fist defeat an empowered Steel Serpent when he lost to an unpowered Steel Serpent in the beginning? The answer is he can't. It is Steel Serpent that defeats Steel Serpent.


steel serpent being consumed by the iron fist power as daniel rand looks on

The panel shows the power of the Iron Fist consuming Steel Serpent; he was never meant to have it so it is destroying him.

And with that, the one true Iron Fist regains his power.

More! More! More! You say? Alright, how about Spider-Man and Captain Britain. Let's go . . .

The villain here is Arcade. Here he is welcoming some clients into his private 747.


arcade meets with his clients


Arcade is a contract assassin who kills his targets by making them go through his 'Murderworld' creations. The Murderworlds are deadly theme parks. From the number of times I've seen him, Arcade can be classified as a solid mid-level Marvel villain. But I'm ambivalent about him. He looks silly, for one, and he's not awfully interesting. I suspect he is more popular among comics writers than comics readers because his way of dispatching targets is very conducive to a writer looking to fill up a lot of pages.

Before the Murderworld section we get a look at Captain Britain

spider-man omnibus


captain britain leaps into action

This is Brian Braddock's earlier costume plus take a look at that now-unfamiliar 'power rod' he's carrying. It's a neat gadget which, among other things, can project a force field.


captain britain uses his force field

Captain Britain recounts his origin where a hapless Brian Braddock comes face to face with two mystical figures in what appears to be the site of Stonehenge.


two mystical beings present brian braddock with a choice between the amulet and the sword

He is made to choose between a sword and an amulet .


the amulet changes brian braddock to captain britain

He chooses the amulet and becomes Captain Britain. Later on, the sword will be chosen by another Briton and she will become the female Captain Britain.

In Murderworld, both Spider-Man and Captain Britain are trapped by Arcade in a giant pinball machine.


spider-man and captain britain trapped in arcade's pinball machine

Here's a great panel of Spider-Man being pursued by Arcade's deadly toys.


spider-man being pursued by arcade's toy plane

Unlike the previous issues when Spider-Man took a backseat to his 'guests', here, it is Webhead who will prove to be Arcade's undoing. Here Spider-Man manages to sneak into the innards of Murderwold's electronics.


spider-man crawls through the electronics of murderworld

With devastating results


murderworld electronics start exploding

Next up is Spider-Man vs. Tigra.

I must say that I am a bit disappointed with John Byrne's Tigra.


tigra

She's just not sexy enough.

Tigra is one of those primal, wild characters that an artist could draw so fetchingly well that the reader almost forgets the story. Oh well.

Kraven, though, is excellently rendered.


kraven hits spider-man

If there is one panel that successfully embodies the whole story it is this one.


kraven, tigra and a chained spider-man

To the point : Kraven has mind-controlled Tigra and will use her to kill Spider-Man.

Fortunately, Spidey finds the electronic control collar and manages to disable it.


spider-man discovers tigra's mind control collar

Here's another great panel showing Spider-Man and Triga in the middle of an exotic animal stampede.


tigra and spider-man in a wild animal stampede

This is a rare use of Spidey's webs : a web ball.


spider-man creates a web ball and throws it at kraven

The whole thing could only have ended one way really.


spider-man and tigra with a defeated kraven

The next story is Spider-Man and Man-Thing and it is a moody, surreal tale.

We join the pair as they make their way through the Mangrove swamps that Man-Thing calls his (it's?) home.


spider-man in a web boat and the man-thing

Two things to note about these twin panels. First, Spider-Man's creative use of his webs as a makeshift paddle boat. Second, the pair is approaching what a appears to be a house in the middle of nowhere.

The villain is called D'Spayre.


d'spayre

I think D'Spayre's character design is topnotch. I'll be surprised to note later that D'Spayre is also pretty powerful.

The house isn't really a house, its a mystical tower.


a mystic tower

Wow.

Inside are a pair of hostages


a girl and an old man bound on the floor

Like the house, it's all an illusion, what the pair really are is this.


a wizard and a sorceress

That girl has an outfit worthy of a Conan the Barbarian comic (not a complaint).

D'Spayre's power is so formidable that Peter is reduced to weeping.


spidey is staggered by d'spayre

As far as I can tell, it must be emotion-based, allowing D'Spayre to bring on extreme negativity and depression. Reminds me of DC's Psycho Pirate.

It is a measure of Peter's character that shaken as he is, he still manages to carry on the fight.


spider-man attacks d'spayre

As I read through the tale I always thought that it was the mindless Man-Thing that would prove D'Spayre's undoing but I was wrong. It is Peter, determined, relentless Peter who wins the day.


spider-man defeats d'spayre

The final panel of Spider-Man and Man-Thing is very well drawn.


spider-man and man-thing

The next two stories feature Spider-Man and Havok and Spider-Man and Thor. These Marvel Team-Up stories have a direct link to the first run of the X-Men in the 60s up until 1970. Towards the end of the X-Men run I think the creative team was Roy Thomas and Jim Steranko. One of the stories was about Cyclops' brother Havok and Havok's link to a third mutant called the Living Pharaoh. The bond between Alex Summers and the Pharaoh is due to the common origin of their mutant powr - cosmic energy. But only one of them can use the cosmic energy at any one time - with the natural preference falling to Havok. Thus, while Havok is alive or unrestrained, the Pharaoh has no power. But there's more. During the times the Pharaoh gains the power he becomes a gigantic uber-powerful being called the Living Monolith. The last time the Havok/Living Monolith storyline was told it was in the pages of the X-Men; so this is a sequel of sorts. Armed with this brief backgrounder lets dive into the tale.

First we look in on the kidnapping of Alex Summers. In order to make things a bit more difficult for his would-be captors, the powerful Havok isn't alone. He is with Lorna Dane, the equally powerful Polaris. Nonetheless, an abduction is attempted.

Here's an incredible demonstration of Havok's power as he and Polaris are attacked.


havok unleashes his power

Polaris too gets to show why she was once thought to be Magneto's daughter


polaris unleashes her power

These two's powers didn't get too much play in the old X-Men series so its a treat to see them cutting loose here.

How do you feel about pulling late-nighters? Or all-nighters? Yes, they're exhausting but they have a certain undeniable attraction don't you think? Makes one feel heroic and deserving of something when your in there in the wee hours working when others are sleeping. I suppose that's how Peter feels.


peter parker pulling an all-nighter

In a rare turn of events, we find Spider-Man getting captured in his own webbing.


spider-man getting trapped in his own web

This panel highlights that Lorna Dane is 'the girl with the green hair'.


lorna dane and her green hair

We also get a very brief glimpse of Beast in Avengers Mansion


the beast answers the phone in avengers' mansion

It's always nice to see my favorite X-Man.

Ah, here he is at last, the Living Pharoah, announcing himself with a power blast.


the living pharoah unleashes a power blast

Wonderful Byrne panel : The Living Pharoah vs. Havok.


the living pharaoh vs. havoc

We all know it was going to happen and it has. The Living Monolith!


the living monolith gets a grip on spider-man

With the Living Monolith in the picture, Spider-Man is definitely out-powered and so is Havok. What to do? What to do?

Ah here it is. It's Spider-Man and Thor. Now that's a fit match for the Living Monolith. Brace yourself, it's going to be a match between heavyweights.

This street level panel of the gigantic Living Monolith gives a great idea of both size and power.


a view of the towering lving monolith

Not a surprise, Spider-Man gets swatted around like he was nothing.


living monolith swats away spider-man

Fortunately, before Spidey hits the pavement, Thor comes into the picture.


thor save spider-man from going splat

At first, even Thor gets swatted around.


the living monolith swats thor

I find this panel of Thor lying around a pile of mannekins entertainingly done.


thor falls on a pile of mannekins

Here's Thor withstanding a Monolith power blast.


thor uses mjolnir to form a shield against the living monolith's power blast

As for Spider-Man he manages to get a free ride on Mjolnir .


spider-man snags mjolnir and gets a free ride

And now here's what I've been waiting for : the Living Monolith taking a full-on Mjolnir strike.


mjolnir hits the living monolith in the back

This panel is also very nice and creative. Thor throws Mjolnir but needs to get back to the action as fast as possible. So he jumps off a ledge and meets the returning Mjolnir in mid leap. Just wonderful visuals.


thor catches mjolnir in mid leap

It's all part of this huge double page spread showing the Living Monolith hitting Thor with a fishing boat!


Living Monolith hits Thor with a fishing boat

As usual, it is impossible, so far, to defeat the Living Monolith with a straight-on fight. So we get the usual solution which is to 'wake up' Havok so that Alex Summers re-absorbs all those cosmic energy. This also means that if Alex ever meets his death the Marvel U is going to have it's hands full with a rampaging Living Monolith. I'm betting we are going to see a Marvel crossover event about this one sometime in the future.

The last collaboration between Chris Claremont and John Byrne in the pages of Marvel Team-Up is Spider-Man and Luke Cage.

Its a rare tale without super-villains. What we do have is a raging fire and in many ways thats just as dangerous. Here's Spider-Man trapped in the inferno.


spider-man trapped in a fire

This story happens during the days of Disco. Here's a representative panel showing that time period.


a disco panel

Spidey gets overwhelmed by the flames so in comes Luke Cage with his super strength and steel hard skin for the rescue


luke cage rescuing spider-man in the middle of a fire

Here's an even bigger show of strength from Power Man as he manhandles a machine attachment to demolisha a building.


luke cage lifting a crane

Not to be outdone, Spider-Man helps with the rescues (being a rescuer himself).


spider-man leaps with a fireman on his back





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