Comics : Marvel Team-Up #39

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

This review was first published on: Feb 2014.

Background...

The Big Man first appeared way, way back in Amazing Spider-Man #10 and was revealed to be the reporter Frederick Foswell in that very same issue. The Crime-Master first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #26 and revealed to be the mobster Nick Lewis in the following issue. Now there’s a new Big Man and Crime-Master on the scene and they’re both gunning for Spidey.

In Detail...

"Any Number Can Slay!"
Marvel Team-Up #39
Nov 1975 : SMURF 152.700 : SM Title
Summary: Spider-Man & Human Torch (vs. Big Man & Enforcers)
Editor:  Marv Wolfman
Writer:  Bill Mantlo
Pencils:  Sal Buscema
Inker:  Mike Esposito
Cover Art:  Ed Hannigan
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 Reprinted In: Essential Marvel Team-Up #2
Articles: The Big Man, Fancy Dan, Human Torch, Montana, Sandman

There seems to be only two ways for an MTU story to start – either on a rooftop or at the pier. This time around Spider-Man’s chilling on top of some random New York City tenement. He is disturbed in his musings by a little boy named Miguel who is feeding some pigeons. They make small talk for a while but then a shot rings out (actually four shots). Luckily, our hero’s Spider-Sense got a tune up since I last reviewed a comic and he is able to dodge out of the way of the bullets. One of Miguel’s pigeons isn’t so lucky, however. “Pepita is dead!” Miguel exclaims. Awww!

Meanwhile, Human Torch is out on a joy ride in the Fantasti-Car when he is ambushed by the Enforcers. Well, two-thirds of the Enforcers (at this time, the Ox is still dead and hasn’t been replaced yet). It’s pretty much a repeat of the fight from Amazing Spider-Man #19, go look it up.

The next time we see Spidey he’s in a web-swing, hanging outside the location the shots came from earlier, waiting for something to happen. We are told by the caption that it is now night. Am I the only one that sees a problem with that? Like, what was our hero doing the rest of the day that was so gosh-darn important? If I had the proportionate strength and agility of a spider and someone had just tried to kill me, I would go after them sooner rather than later. The writer doesn’t even give us a crumb of explanation for this. At the very least Conway could have given us a thought balloon about Peter going to visit his sick Aunt May or meeting MJ for a hot date.

Anyway, he spies a suspicious group of suits entering a warehouse with a strange package – a coffin with airholes! Intrigued, he swings inside after the suits and hides out among the rafters. The Big Man makes his appearance and announces his scheme to the gathered hoodlums (all eight of them). He’s captured the Human Torch and is holding an auction to win the chance to kill him!

Spidey infiltrates the group by snagging some guy in the back and disguising himself with a trenchcoat and fedora. The assembled mob guys aren’t smart enough to see through our hero’s clever charade and allow him to get close enough to the coffin to free the Human Torch. Of course, our two superheroes make short work of the bad guys, but can’t seal the deal before the Crime-Master and Sandman show up to turn the tide!

In General...

In the issue where the Big Man originally debuted, Spidey took on the combined might of New York’s collected underworld. Later on, in the Crime-Master two-parter, he did the same thing in addition to fighting off the Green Goblin. Now he can’t polish off 11 guys with guns by himself? Lame.

Overall Rating...

I hate villains only motivated by revenge. It always leads to ridiculous schemes like holding an auction to win a chance at killing the Human Torch just to draw out your real target. Big Man already had Spider-Man in his sights earlier in the day - why not press his advantage then? I guess he just HAD to use that glass-lidded coffin he had lying around collecting dust!