Comics : Marvel Tales #256

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Worst of the Worst

This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

This is a five-page backup filler story that follows on from Marvel Team-Up #91. In that MTU story, Peter Parker and Glory Grant attend a circus, where Spider-Man and Ghost Rider eventually end up battling Moondark the Magician. Actually, Ghost Rider kind of battles on Moondark's side for much of the fight. But we'll save that review for another day.

More importantly, in that MTU story we see background posters advertising a freak show at the circus, featuring a Six-Armed Spider-Man (later nicknamed Six), a Gorilla Girl, and Muck Monster who actually looks a lot like Man-Thing. But I think the writers of this backup story decided that having Man-Thing in the circus was too hard to explain, so they did a quick bit of ad libbing and assumed that it was just a Man-Thing lookalike. Works for me.

In Detail...

"Freaks"
Marvel Tales #256 (Story 2)
SM Reprint
Summary: Original Story (Spider-Man in flashback)
Editor:  Kelly Corvese
Plot:  Scott Lobdell
Script:  Dan Slott
Pencils:  Mark Pacella
Inker:  Dan Panosian
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Articles: Six (1st)

Our tale opens with Six, Muck Monster and Gorilla Girl attempting to hitch-hike, but the car they're trying to swap swerves off the road and crashes. They blame themselves (among some other chit-chat to assign themselves names and explain that they left the circus when Spider-Man defeated Moondark and freed them).

Actually, Six was the only one we actually saw back in MTU #91. He attacked Spidey at Moondark's hypnotic command. I've been through MTU #91 a couple of times now and it seems that surprisingly, while Gorilla Girl (named "Gorilla Woman" on the poster) and Muck Monster (named "Ma..[obscured]" on his poster) didn't actually make an appearance in person.

Anyhow, the three "Freaks" head to rescue the driver of the crashed car. She's a beautiful young woman, who explains that in fact she crashed because she was being chased by two escaped criminals. The criminals are... Hammer and Anvil. There's a one panel flashback showing Spidey snapping the chain that joins the two villains, a scene from back in Marvel Team-Up #86.

Through a bit of convenient dialog we learn that the woman is high-tech doctor who repaired their linkage. Presumably she did it under threat, because she tried to escape, but the villains want to capture her "just in case they need it fixed again".

The three Freaks, formerly circus performance, decide to play hero and rescue the woman. Six-armed Spidey distracts them, Muck Monster swings a tree and KO's Anvil, while Gorilla Girl transforms instantly into a very tall, very brown-skinned, very beautiful, very naked woman. Hammer stares and drools, then quick as a wink she changes back to a gorilla and KO's Hammer.

The Freaks decide maybe they have what it takes to be a super-team, and there's a lame gag to finish. That's it, five pages over.

In General...

Well, I guess some filler was needed. Full marks for pulling characters of old stories and re-using them, instead of just adding to the already bloated cast of characters in Spidey canon. It's just a shame the story is so lame. The sheer number of clichés packed into five pages is quite impressive.

Judging by the finish, I wonder if Scott Lobdell and Dan Slott actually thought this team might get picked up for a mini-series. Hell, it could have happened - the early nineties were full of crappy mini-series from characters that would be a joke if it wasn't for the fact that Marvel was doing the "Throw enough turds and one might stick" approach.

Well, this one didn't stick. And thank goodness. Dan Slott has gone onto far greater things, and I think we'll put this one quietly back in the closet and not remind him about it.

Overall Rating...

Let's give it a B for effort, and an F for achievement. One web.