If you've read any of my other review,s you'll know that I have a fondness for highlighting what I call "Cultural Time Capsules" as I see them in the stories. These usually take the form of a reference to pop-cultural or political figures by which you can easily tell what time frame the issue was written in. Sometimes though, as with this issue, the entire story is such a huge time capsule that pointing to individual references is a waste of time.
This story comes to us from April 1973 and teams Spidey with The Cat. The Cat was at this time a new character, having made her debut only a few months earlier. In the real world, Women's Lib was a big topic of national conversation. The Senate had approved the Equal Rights Amendment the previous year, though it would never be ratified by the states. On to this canvas of national debate Mr. Conway paints for us a heavy handed "men bad, women good, hate destroys all" morality play, and to read it 30 years later produces some genuine laughter. Now that you're armed with some background information, let's see what Spidey is up to!
Note that a visually identical character would later join the Defenders as the Hellcat. Patsy Walker found a costume like the Cat's (in "Avengers" #144), donned it, and dubbed herself the Hellcat. She joined the Defenders in #44. Spider-Man eventually met Hellcat in "Defenders" #61 (July 1978). He didn't realize she was a different character until she pointed it out.
This issue we dive right into the action, as we see Spidey clinging to a wall and about to be jumped from behind by some mysterious assailant. Of course, his trusty spider-sense warns him in plenty of time, and he's able to dodge the lunge. This sends his opponent falling towards the street below, but Spidey is able to grab her before she falls too far. "You're a girl!" he exclaims, now that he sees whom he's fighting. "Correction Spider-Man"... she answers, "I'm a woman. And not just any woman, I'm the Cat!" she tells him as she swats him aside. Both heroes land on a nearby roof. "Can we talk Spider-Man", the Cat asks, "or must I prove myself some more?" When Spidey shows some entirely understandable shock at the idea that a total stranger just endangered both their lives to "prove herself" in order to have a conversation, the Cat justifies herself by saying "I know men, Spider-Man, and the idea of a woman with powers like mine--- well, you would have been just a little skeptical."
I'm forced to interject here. First of all this is hardly Galactus we're talking about, it's the Cat. She hasn't displayed any dramatic superhuman abilities to be skeptical of yet. But my big problem is that whole "I know how men are" line that Conway has the Cat say and Spidey agree to. Right off the top of my head I can think of The Invisible Girl, Medusa, the Black Widow and the Wasp... four superhuman ladies that Spidey has crossed paths with. The idea that Spidey would dismiss a superhero based on gender just doesn't hold water, and Conway should have known that. This is the first, but not the last, time in this issue that Conway disregards basic continuity or common sense to try to make his point. Strike one.
Anyway, back on the roof the Cat is sharing a newspaper clipping with Spidey. "Politician Slain By Militants" the headline reads. The Cat tells of how Chicago Mayor Samuels (who was of course "violently anti-women's lib) was cut down by an assassin's blade last week, and the Cat confronted the killer at the scene. The killer was Katrina Luisa van Horn - The Man-Killer! The Man-Killer was able to overpower the Cat and escape, and the Cat has been trailing her ever since, which brings her to New York. She asks Spidey's help in bringing the Man-Killer in because if they don't "she'll destroy everything women have fought so hard for..." Yeah, that's it. The fact that she's a murderer doesn't enter into it, we just can't have her running around making ERA supporters look bad. Strike two, Mr. Conway. Well, Spidey agrees to help, and the pair swing off into the night.
Our view moves across town, where the Man-Killer has bashed her way into a meeting of some kind. A group of women dressed strikingly like Nazis are gathered around a table, talking to a man who looks like a low rent Kingpin. The Man-Killer isn't too happy to see a man talking with the sisters, because "men are dirt!" and she beats the guy within an inch of his life. This segues us into a flashback, the origin of the Man-Killer.
Katrina was a champion downhill skier, and she had been making her first appearance at the Olympics (we're not told what country she represented). One evening in the lodge, a loudmouth named Lubbings was carrying on about how women belong in the home, raising children, because they can't possibly compete with men. This prompted Katrina to challenge him to a race the following day, and he accepted. During the race, Herr Lubbings acts in an unsporting manner, and cuts Katrina off at a sharp curve. They both tumble off the cliff, and the impact kills Lubbings while disfiguring Katrina. Sometime later, Katrina was rebuilt by the sisterhood we see here, and provided with an exoskeleton that increased her strength to superhuman levels.
Our flashback concluded, let's listen in on Man-Killer's plan for the evening. She plans to attack "the center of male power" in the city, the Manhattan Harlem Power Plant! Now, if I can nit-pick a little bit, I'd like to point out that an awful lot of women live in New York City, and anything done to the power grid will affect them just as much as the men.
We now cut to the aforementioned power plant, as the Man-Killer and her girl-power strike force bust into the place using a big hover-tank kind of thing. They do this just as Spidey and the Cat are swinging by, and though I'd normally make a smart remark about how improbable that is, I'm going to let it go since it's actually the least of this story's problems. Spidey and the Cat swing into action, and while Spider-Man makes short work of the woman soldiers, the Cat goes after the Man-Killer. Spidey webs up and subdues all the commandos, and the Cat takes out Man-Killer with a single mighty kick.
But it looks like they counted the Man-Killer out too soon. As soon as they turn their back she makes off with some highly radioactive materials that were to be used for a "hush-hush" new prototype generator. Spidey takes off in pursuit of the Man-Killer, leaving the Cat to wrap up the militants.
Spidey catches up with Man-Killer in an alley, and he really has his hands full fighting her until the Cat shows up to help. Having gotten information from the prisoners, the Cat informs Katrina that her finances and technology have been coming from A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) the whole time. She's a fraud, and a tool of "the very men she hates". This revelation is too much for the Man-Killer, and our heroes leave her in the alley, a broken woman, as they walk off to return the isotope.
Yes, that's right. The Man-Killer has committed at least one murder, a score of assaults, an armed robbery and caused untold property damage, but the heroes leave her in the alley to be punished by her own conscience instead of bringing her in. Strike three, Mr. Conway, you're out.
Next issue: Spidey and Iron Man begin the Tomorrow War!
Thoughts on this issue : This whole issue is utterly ridiculous. I understand that Marvel Comics has always been topical, and that their willingness to tackle real-world issues is a big component in their popularity, but this issue is so narrow-minded and ham-fisted that it gets no credit on that score. This has none of the subtlety that made prior treatments of the Vietnam War or race relations in America so riveting. Everything about it, from the Man-Killer's absurd costume to the dialog is just laughable. Although it will be topped later on by "The City Stealers", this is the worst Spidey story that had yet appeared in the character's 11-year history. Honestly, I can hardly believe that this is done by the same guy who's writing such great stories over in Amazing Spider-Man at this time.
Incidentally, with this issue Marvel Team-Up becomes a monthly magazine, rather than bi-monthly. It will remain so until its cancellation.
Elsewhere in Spidey's World: In Amazing Spider-Man 119, Spidey heads to Canada to investigate a mysterious telegram sent to Aunt May, and comes face-to-face with the rampaging Hulk!
And meanwhile, in the real world: Pablo Picasso passes away in France at age 91. He leaves behind a staggering body of work, estimated at 50,000 individual works of art.
As I said in my summation, this is the single worst Spidey story to date. I'm going to give it a single web, and the only reason it doesn't get a zero is because I believe Conway was trying to make what he believed to be an important point.