Comics : Marvel Team-Up #22

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

This review was first published on: 2003.

Background...

This issue has Hawkeye making his first feature appearance in Marvel Team-Up. Hawkeye actually first appeared as a villain, partnering with the Black Widow to fight Iron Man in the pages of Tales of Suspense 57 (September, 1964). He proved to be a very popular character though, too popular to remain a villain, and was eventually redeemed to hero status. This transformation was complete when he became a member of the Avengers after their first major roster change. That lineup of Avengers, sometimes called "Cap's Quirky Quartet", consisted of the recently defrosted Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. It remains the smallest group in Avengers history at only four members and is also notable for being made up almost entirely of reformed villains. Hawkeye would go on to a long career (on & off) with the Avengers, as well as being spun off into several miniseries of his own and acting as the foundation of team books like West Coast Avengers and Thunderbolts. He remains one of Marvel's most popular second tier characters, and as I write this he's scheduled to headline another title of his own in the coming months.

As this story takes place Hawkeye has, in the course of a few months, resigned from both the Avengers and the Defenders and is attempting to prove his mettle as a solo hero.

In Detail...

"The Messiah Machine!"
Marvel Team-Up #22
Jun 1974 : SM Title
Summary: Spider-Man & Hawkeye (vs. Quasimodo)
Editor:  Roy Thomas
Writer:  Len Wein
Pencils:  Sal Buscema
Inker:  Frank Giacoia
Cover Art:  John Romita, Sr.
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 Reprinted In: Spider-Man Pocket Book #5

Our story starts with Spidey swinging over the streets of Manhattan by night (bet you didn't see that coming!). Unlike most other times though his movements this night are being tracked by Hawkeye, who releases an arrow that severs Spidey's webline! Of course, Spidey is able to latch on to a nearby wall long before he hits the ground, but just then his wrists and ankles are pinned by a fearsome flight of four forked arrows (try saying that ten times fast)!

I have to interject here for a moment to share yet another of my pet peeves with you. I understand that that Len Wein had pages to fill and he often felt the need to contrive a little dust up between the heroes, but things like this try my patience. Hawkeye, for all his skill, is just a man. With his combination of spider-sense, blinding reflexes and superhuman agility we've seen Spidey dodge automatic weapons fire more times than I can count. Unlike a bullet an arrow, no matter how skillfully aimed, still travels well below the speed of sound. There is simply no way that Hawkeye should have been able to tag Spidey not once, but five times.

Ok, now that that's out of my system we'll continue. Spidey busts free from the arrows pinning him to the wall and is about to slap Hawkeye up and down the street when the archer throws up his hands and says he only wanted to get Spidey's attention. Personally I think a shout of "Hey Webhead!" would have been more effective, but what do I know? Actually, Hawkeye's choice of attention grabbing might explain why two super-teams in under a year decided they could do without him.

Anyhoo, Spidey's interest is aroused now and he agrees to listen as Hawkeye treats us to a flashback. Earlier Hawkeye had been out patrolling looking for some crime to bust when he came upon an electronics truck being hijacked. Leaping into the fray he brought the truck to a halt with one of his specialty arrows and then began to deal with the thieves. As the first villain out of the truck was felled by a stun arrow the second one, oddly enough an exact twin of the first, pulled a strange looking gun and prepared to fire. Hawkeye plugged the barrel of the gun with a quickly fired arrow just as the man fired, and the result was very strange. The explosion of the backfiring gun blew off the man's hand and half of his face, revealing him to be not a twin but a robot! As Hawkeye stood stunned by this revelation one of the other goons blasted him with a stun ray, and they clambered back into the truck to make their getaway.

Fortunately, Hawkeye recovered enough to grab the back of the truck and tag along. The truck made it's way to a mansion in Westchester County (a suburb of New York City) and more of the goons started to unload the stolen electronic gear. Hawkeye managed to grab one from behind and render him unconscious, stealing his uniform.

This results in a truly comical bit, though I doubt it was intended as such. Hawkeye just puts the uniform on over his costume, but leaves his own mask in place! So he's walking around with this ballcap pulled down over his purple facemask, as though no one would notice. Unable to come up with some credible explanation as to where Hawkeye is concealing his six-foot tall recurve bow and his quiver of arrows in these new duds, the creators do us the courtesy of not even trying. They just don't draw them for a few panels. After the unloading is complete everyone lines up for inspection, and a robot (which resembles a very early Ultron model, by the way) comes to do the honors. Then, and I quote "... I (Hawkeye) broke out in assorted hot flashes, which must have been what blew my cover. Robots don't sweat!" This gets funnier every time I read it. I don't want to be mean but really, they're asking us to buy into the idea that the lead robot will notice a minute detail like sweat while ignoring the purple mask!

Ok, I've given them enough of a hard time about the whole mask thing, I'll let it go now. Since he's been found out it's time to drop the subterfuge, so Hawkeye's bow and arrows are summoned from whatever limbo they were in and he begins to fight his way out. After a titanic struggle he managed to leap out the window and make his way back to the city. Hawkeye was about to swallow his pride and go ask the Avengers for help, but when he saw Spidey swinging by he thought he saw a way to get some assistance while saving face at the same time.

Spidey agrees to help (naturally!) and the two start heading back to Westchester. Meanwhile we'll turn our gaze there instantly and see the creature responsible for all this trouble, Quasimodo, the living computer! He's in the process of scolding one of his security droids for allowing Hawkeye to escape, when on a nearby monitor he sees that selfsame archer and his new partner hopping over his security wall. Quasimodo dispatches a team of mixed robots to apprehend them. The heroes hold their own very well against the mechanical menaces, until a trap door opens in the lawn dropping them into a pair of clear tubes. They drop for some considerable distance before a burst of compressed air slows their descent and drops them into Quasimodo's control room.

Still imprisoned in the tubes, the heroes have little choice but to listen as Quasimodo outlines his master plan. The living computer has abanoned his goal to become truly human and instead plans to become much, much more. According to Quasimodo, "Computers --your modern human society revolves around them--in a sense they control your lives. But MY computer, thru a delicate system of complex link-ups, will control all other computers...and thus the world!"

There you have it folks. Al Gore didn't invent the internet, Len Wein did.

His expository speech finished, Quasimodo decides it's time to get rid of our heroes before they can intervene. He turns up the pressure on the pneumatic tubes holding our heroes and then fires them out the top like a BB out of an airgun, intending for them to go "splat" a few miles away. Things don't work out that way though. Spidey is able to stop himself by snagging a nearby tree with his webbing. Hawkeye, meanwhile, first slows his descent with a pair of "retro rocket" arrows and then floats gently to the ground holding on to a "parachute arrow".

Must...stop...self...from...making...an...Adam West utility belt joke! Whew, that was close.

Dropping a handy explosive arrow down the tubes they were just launched from to gain entrance, the heroes bust back into Quasimodo's lair and start kicking some butt. Surrounded by robots, Hawkeye launches a wire trailing arrow that ricochets around the room tangling them all up and then plants itself into a bank of high powered circutry. The resulting feedback not only fries the horde of robots, but it blows out Quasimodo's mind just as he's about to hook into his network.

Their enemy defeated and their job done, the heroes walk away towards their next adventure.

Next Issue: It's another Spidey-free romp as the Human Torch pairs up with Iceman!

In General...

Though the story has a few weak points it's generally good and certainly readable. To be fair, most of the weaknesses come from the nature of our co- star. See, Hawkeye is what I refer to as a "gimmick hero". Like an annoying TV character that builds an entire career out of a catch phrase, Hawkeye has his one trick and it's all he brings to the table. Now, in an ensemble book like the Avengers that's no problem, because you usually have upwards of four other heroes to take up the slack. But when he's forced into a starring role like this a writer like Wein usually has to come up with increasingly bizarre and unlikely applications of the gimmick just to give him something to do. The retro-rocket and parachute arrows in this issue are a prime example of this phenomena.

On the other side though I really have to give Wein credit for his prescience in concocting the villain's plot. Considering that I'm typing this on a computer in New York to submit to an editor in Australia and be read by Spiderfans all over the world, I have to wonder if maybe Quasimodo's plan didn't work after all...

Elsewhere in Spidey's World: Spidey is finishing up his battle with the Molten Man in Amazing Spider-Man 133. Also this month, the first of the thirty-five cent (a princely sum back then!)"Giant-Size" books hits the shelves. GS Super Heroes #1 features Spidey mixing it up with Morbius and the Man-Wolf.

And meanwhile, in the real world: Nixon aide Charles Colson pleads guilty to obstruction of justice charges, and Ted Bundy's murderous rampage continues with the disappearance of Georgann Hawkins.

Overall Rating...

Two and a half webs for this one. A nice enjoyable read with decent action, not too heavy and not too silly.