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.
Marvel Team-Up 59 Some Say Spidey Will Die by Fire, Some Say by Ice
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.
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.
Wow. Sexy, rich, beautiful and in the mind for some rowdy fun. What more can a man ask for?
Soon enough, the action starts (not that action) and we find Yellowjacket fishing Spider-Man from the Hudson.
Spider-Man has been attacked by a villain that was first encountered by these two:
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.
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.
Unfortunately, during these times, the Wasp's sting is more bothersome than dangerous. They will, in time, be upgraded - 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.
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.
Here's more Byrne fine art, this one showing Yellowjacket's wonderful costume design.
And here's the villain of the piece. Equinox melts debris thrown his way by Spidey.
Here Yellowjacket gets in close with Equinox.
Yellowjacket doesn't have any super strength or invulnerability; he's counting on his insulated suit to protect him.
Marvel Team-Up 60 A Matter of Love and Death
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.
The story takes our heroes to 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.
The Avengers have access to the Fantastic Four base. This arrangement is reciprocal - FF IDs are honored by Avengers security.
Here's another noteworthy panel.
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 have a surprise panel for us.
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.
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.
Marvel Team-Up 61 Not All Thy Powers Can Save Thee
A Human Torch/Spider-Man team-up is the most common recurring team-up in the Marvel Team-Up series. 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.
Here's a wonderful Byrne panel of the pair.
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!
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.
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. But 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.
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'.
Getting the Super Skrull to tip the trap isn't easy. Here Torch takes a hit full on the face.
Excellent layout on this panel
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.
Marvel Team-Up 62 All This and the QE2
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
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.
And this one.
The panel below I'm including because the angle is so unusual and Byrne pulls it off flawlessly.
Here's a demonstration of Ms. Marvel's super strength.
Here's one more panel about Ms. Marvel. And yes, she and Spider-Man both defeat the Super Skrull.
Marvel Team-Up 63 Night of the Dragon
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.
Now here's a look at an Iron Fist 'associate' : Misty Knight.
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.
It' a duel to the death between these two denizens of K'un Lun. Here's my favorite action panel.
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.
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.
We also have the famous Spidey wit in full display.
Marvel Team-Up 64 If Death Be My Destiny
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.
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.
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.
Marvel Team-Up 65 Introducing Captain Britain
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 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
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 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.
He is made to choose between a sword and an amulet.
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.
Marvel Team-Up 66 Murder World
In Murderworld, both Spider-Man and Captain Britain are trapped by Arcade in a giant pinball machine.
Here's a great panel of Spider-Man being pursued by Arcade's deadly toys.
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.
With devastating results
Marvel Team-Up 67 Tigra, Tigra, Burning Bright
Next up is Spider-Man vs. Tigra.
I must say that I am a bit disappointed with John Byrne's 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.
If there is one panel that successfully embodies the whole story it is this one.
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.
Here's another great panel showing Spider-Man and Triga in the middle of an exotic animal stampede.
This is a rare use of Spidey's webs : a web ball.
The whole thing could only have ended one way really.
Marvel Team-Up 68 The Measure of a Man
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 home.
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.
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.
Inside are a pair of hostages
Like the house, it's all an illusion, what the pair really are is this.
That girl has an outfit worthy of a Conan the Barbarian comicbook.
D'Spayre's power is so formidable that Peter is reduced to weeping.
As far as I can tell, it must be emotion-based, allowing D'Spayre to bring on extreme negativity and depression.
It is a measure of Peter's character that shaken as he is, he still manages to carry on the fight.
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.
The final panel of Spider-Man and Man-Thing is very well drawn.
Marvel Team-Up 69 Night of the Living God
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.
Polaris too gets to show why she was once thought to be Magneto's daughter
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.
In a rare turn of events, we find Spider-Man getting captured in his own webbing.
This panel highlights that Lorna Dane is 'the girl with the green hair'.
We also get a very brief glimpse of Beast 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.
Wonderful Byrne panel : The Living Pharoah vs. Havok.
We all know it was going to happen and it has. The Living Monolith!
With the Living Monolith in the picture, Spider-Man is definitely out-powered and so is Havok. What to do? What to do?
Marvel Team-Up 70 Whom Gods Destroy
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.
Not a surprise, Spider-Man gets swatted around like he was nothing.
Fortunately, before Spidey hits the pavement, Thor comes into the picture.
At first, even Thor gets swatted around.
I find this panel of Thor lying around a pile of mannekins entertainingly done.
Here's Thor withstanding a Monolith power blast.
As for Spider-Man he manages to get a free ride on Mjolnir.
And now here's what I've been waiting for : the Living Monolith taking a full-on Mjolnir strike.
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.
It's all part of this huge double page spread showing the Living Monolith hitting 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.
Marvel Team-Up 75 The Smoke Of That Great Burning
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.
This story happens during the days of Disco. Here's a representative panel showing that time period.
Spidey gets overwhelmed by the flames so in comes Luke Cage with his super strength and steel hard skin for the rescue.
Here's an even bigger show of strength from Power Man as he manhandles a machine attachment to demolish a building.
Not to be outdone, Spider-Man helps with the rescues (being a rescuer himself).