Comics : Marvel Team-Up #10

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Totalistic Team-Ups

This review was first published on: 2002.

Background...

This is part two of our three-part "Tomorrow War" story. See Marvel Team-Up 9 for the beginning.

In Detail...

"Time Bomb!"
Marvel Team-Up #10
Jun 1973 : SMURF 118.825 : SM Title
Summary: Spider-Man & Human Torch (Tomorrow War part 2)
Editor:  Roy Thomas
Writer:  Gerry Conway
Pencils:  Jim Mooney
Inker:  Frank Giacoia
Cover Art:  John Romita, Sr.
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Issue
Review
 Reprinted In: Essential Marvel Team-Up #1
 Reprinted In: Marvel Treasury Edition #27
Articles: Human Torch, Jarvis, Kang the Conqueror

We begin by jumping right in where we left off last issue; Zarrko the Tomorrow Man is holding Kang the Conqueror at ray-gun point, with Spider-Man and Iron Man paralyzed at their feet. The rest of the Avengers are in stasis on the wall in the background.** Zarrko is considerate enough to provide us with some expository dialog as he details his nefarious scheme to Kang. Zarrko has dispatched three missiles back to the era of "the great wars of the 20th century

**Nitpickers take note: the Avengers are arranged in different order on this page than they were at the end of last issue.

In my opinion, if this is the best plan Zarrko can come up with it's no surprise he's been a minor league baddie this whole time. His scheme ignores the fact that right there in Kang's base he's surrounded by weapons that are literally thousands of years more advanced than what the 20th century can offer. Indeed, the fact that Kang has always been so successful against 20th century Earth

During Zarrko's speech Spidey has recovered from the effects of the paralysis ray. Although Tony Stark the man has also recovered, the Iron Man armor he wears has had it's power plant completely knocked out, leaving him helpless on the floor. He tells Spidey it's all up to him, and tells him to beat it while he has the chance and try to stop Zarrko's missiles. Spidey takes off unnoticed down the hallway, and after a few twists and turns comes across a time portal (we know what it is because it's conveniently labeled "Time Portal"). Spidey figures out the controls, which look a little less complex than my dishwasher, and pops himself back to New York at the time just after he and Iron Man disappeared.

Back in the control room Kang and Zarrko are still taunting each other. Kang, moving faster than his adversary can react, activates a weapon in his belt buckle and freezes Zarrko with the very same beam that felled Spidey last issue. His triumph is short lived though, as he turns at that moment to face an enemy that prompts him to exclaim "NO! It cannot be! Not you!" Who is the mystery assailant? You'll have to wait till next issue to find out, true believer!

Meanwhile, due to the vagaries of time travel technology Spidey is materializing in the Baxter Building (shall I insult your intelligence by reminding you that it's the home of the Fantastic Four? oops! Just did). Only the Human Torch is home, and over a cup of coffee Spidey brings him up to speed. After rubbing it in a little that Spidey fell for Zarrko's ploy hook line and sinker, he agrees to help out and try to stop the time missiles. The Torch flies off, telling us he's "headed for the bomb that's aimed at Japan", while Spidey heads for the one "due to land in South America", and whomever gets done first is supposed to investigate the target in Greece.

Here's a big plot hole? Zarrko never said where on Earth the bombs were aimed. I suppose one could make some kind of guess based on his "great wars" statement, but that's all it would be, a guess. Our heroes take off like they have GPS coordinates to the targets.

In the very next panel we join the Human Torch whom, after "a quick trip to JFK International Airport and a jet hop westward is on the island of Japan." Excuse me, but? HUH?!?! Japan is considerably more than a "jet hop" Westward of New York, in fact last I heard it was something like 20 hours flight time. This is another enormous plot hole just begging to be ridiculed. I mean, why not at least try to be reasonable and say he took one of Reed's super high-tech orbital craft or something? A commercial airliner? Come on man!

Well, Johnny arrives and sits on a mountain face, and as he admits he has no idea what he's looking for he settles in to wait. That wait is scarcely a minute long however, as right before his eyes a Japanese bullet-train converts to an old style coal-fired locomotive! The regular Japanese folk begin to transform into medieval farmers and Samurai warriors. Seeing this, the Torch uses his flame to raise an "infrared heat screen", and by following the "ripples" in it he's able to zero in on the capsule causing the disruption.

So let's re-cap: the Torch goes to JFK, boards a commercial airliner, flies 20 hours to Japan, takes off from the airport in a random direction and manages to land at the exact time and place that Zarrko's bomb goes off. Riiiiiiight. Let's add on to that this rather bizarre application of the Torch's powers and the fact that despite being in the area he remains unaffected by the time bomb and we must conclude that the writer is being either very lazy or very stupid. Knowing what Conway is capable of, I'm opting for lazy, myself.

The time capsule is being guarded by a Samurai Warrior, intent on stopping the Torch from getting to it. Johnny's flames conveniently die out at this point, forcing him to fight hand to hand. I have to point out that throughout the fight the Samurai is yelling actual Japanese words, but I am 99% sure that the sentences they're arranged in are nonsensical gibberish. Against all probability the Torch is able to defeat this fellow and close in on the time bomb, but the radiation is finally starting to affect him. Will he disarm it in time????

We won't find out for a little while, because we now jump to "one hour later, a jet headed to Venezuela". Spidey is stowing away on this jet in a cocoon he's webbed to the underside of it. Since it's a long established fact that Spidey's webbing dissolves after one hour, this constitutes another enormous plot hole, since Spidey should have fallen to his death somewhere over Georgia, to say nothing of suffocating or freezing to death somewhere along the way. No sooner does Spidey burst out of his webbing and roll away from the plane than it transforms into a two-seat bi-plane! I'm inclined to wonder what happened to the other 300+ people that were on that jumbo jet a moment ago, but it's probably best not to. Seeing that he's in the right area, Spidey swings off to find Zarrko's bomb. Using his Spider Sense he zeroes in on it, but it's being guarded by some stereotypical Inca Indian types. Spidey tosses them aside fairly easily, but as he closes in on the bomb itself he begins to fall prey to the radiation. Just as it looks like he'll pass out the bomb is incinerated by a flame blast from the Human Torch, who exclaims, "The cavalry's arrived!" See, the Torch was able to burn up his own bomb just in time, then "hitched a ride on the friendly skies" to join Spidey in Venezuela.

As tiresome as it's getting to point this out, I just have to. No freaking way does the time frame here work out. It seems like they made an attempt to mark the passage of time with that "one hour later" caption, but it's still an awfully weak excuse. What Conway is asking us to believe here is that the Human Torch and Spidey leave JFK at roughly the same time, and the Torch is able to fly from New York to Japan and then from Japan to Venezuela in about the same time it took Spidey to just fly from New York to Venezuela. Using commercial airline flights no less! The mind fairly boggles.

But with bombs two down and one to go it's time for our heroes to head off to Greece and the final time bomb. The two hop into a bi-plane, which with the destruction of the time bomb is in the process of reverting back into a Mig-15 jet fighter (what's a two-seat Mig-15 doing in a commercial airport in Venezuela? Don't ask). The next panel we're informed that they've arrived in the Mediterranean and are beginning their descent into Greece.

Look, I'm sorry to keep interjecting like this, but now we're being asked to believe that they flew from South America to Greece in a fighter with no charts, no flight plan and on a single tank of gas. This is just an extraordinary level of disbelief they're asking me to sustain, even for a comic book.

Well, just as they enter Greek airspace their jet spontaneously transforms into a bat-winged glider, of the sort DaVinci designed, indicating the presence of a time bomb. This dumps our heroes into thin air, and Spidey fashions himself a parachute out of webbing even as the Torch flies down. They land in the middle of a group of ancient Greek warriors, whom they are able to defeat without much effort. The Torch is about to burn up the final bomb, but Spidey stops him at the last second. Spidey points out that the remaining time bomb is the only clue they have to eventually stop Zarrko, and burning it up is counter-productive. Something has just occurred to Mr. Storm though; the radiation given off by the time bombs is remarkably similar to the force surrounding the Great Refuge of the Inhumans, and they may be able to help. "Great, how do we get there?" Spidey asks. "Not we Spidey?" the Torch answers, "?just you. An ex-girl of mine is there and I'd just as soon not see her, thank you." With that the Torch flies off, asking Spidey to let him know how things turn out.

As much as I understand that their page count was full for the month and they had to end the story, that's pretty lame. We're supposed to believe that the Human Torch is going to just leave Spidey in the middle of nowhere and bail out on a struggle that threatens the entire Earth because it would be awkward running into an old girlfriend? Johnny, DUDE, the Avengers are being held hostage, Iron Man could be dead by now and Kang is on the warpath, your frikkin' love life is not a priority at the moment! How about grabbing the rest of the Fantastic Four? Sorry, this just strikes me as an incredibly irresponsible and out of character way for the Torch to act.

Next issue: The Inhumans join the struggle to wrap things up.

In General...

After a strong start last issue the Conway really fumbles the ball here. The globetrotting may have sounded like a good idea when they were brainstorming the story, but in execution it just created plot holes big enough to drive a truck through. And I suppose I made it clear how silly I find the Torch's conduct on the last page. Speaking of the Torch, as of this issue he's appeared in a full 40% of the Team-Ups, almost half. That overexposure will be corrected later in the series but for now it's getting on my nerves.

Elsewhere in Spidey's World: This month, Amazing Spider-Man 121 hits the stands, and the title says it all: "The Day Gwen Stacy Died". Arguably the single most traumatic event in Spidey's 40-year history takes place when Norman Osborn tosses Gwen off the Brooklyn Bridge, causing her death.

And meanwhile, in the real world: On June 9th, Secratariat wins the Triple Crown, the first horse in 25 years to do so.

Overall Rating...

Silly, silly, silly. Though not condescendingly moralistic like "The Man-Killer Moves at Midnight" this issue is so unbelievable, even by the standards of super-hero comics, that it's almost unreadable. I can't quite figure out how the same man writing the classic, history-making and frighteningly realistic death of Gwen Stacy also penned this. I can only imagine that he put so much work into ASM 121 that he was forced to bang this one out in his spare time. A single web for this one, along with a suggestion to consult a map before writing any similar adventures.