Marvel Team-Up #23

Background

Poor Bobby Drake. Better known as Iceman and co-starring in this issue, the 60's and 70's were a little rough on him. When MTU 23 came out Iceman's own book, "The X-Men", wasn't doing so well. A little over a year later, when a new team revitalized the book and started a craze that continues to this day, Iceman wasn't on board. No, when the new X-Men took over good ol' Bobby went out West and joined the Champions instead. Must've been getting his career advice from David Caruso.

As this story opens we see Spider-Man lifting off in an advanced aircraft (borrowed from the FF) to get some desperately needed medication for Aunt May. In a nice bit of continuity, this opening page actually takes place between pages of Giant Size Spider-Man #1, which was on sale the same month and had Spidey cross paths with Dracula himself.

With Spidey off on another errand the Human Torch will once again be taking over as star of the book. Let's see what he's up to...

Story 'The Night of the Frozen Inferno'

  Marvel Team-Up #23
Summary: Human Torch & Iceman (vs. Equinox) Spider-Man Cameo
Editor: Roy Thomas
Writer: Len Wein
Pencils: Gil Kane
Inker: Mike Esposito
Cover Art: Gil Kane
Articles: Human Torch

Having seen Spidey off on his way, the Torch returns home and wonders what to do with his evening. After spending a few panels feeling sorry for himself (his relationship with the Inhuman Crystal was a bit rocky at this point) he decides to check out a tip Spidey gave him about a possible robbery. It occured in GSSM #1, when Spidey noticed some strange activity on his way over to the Baxter Building. Looking for action, the Torch heads over to Favershams's Jewelry to check it out for himself.

The Torch lands outside the shop and finds a patch of ice on the sidewalk, which is surprising considering that the temperature is in the 60's. As he bends over to investigate he's struck in the back of the head with a bolt of ice. Being understandably irate about this he flames-on and heads off to find his attacker.

After flying just a few blocks the Torch comes across Iceman, making his way around town in his own style by running on an ice bridge he creates in front of himself as goes along. Iceman suddenly finds himself in a freefall as a flame bolt from the Human Torch smashes the bridge beneath his feet! Quickly using his powers to create a slide which deposits him safely on the pavement, Iceman turns to confront his attacker.

The Torch demands to know why Iceman attacked him, and in response Iceman claims to know nothing about it. The Torch naturally doesn't believe him, and claims that "the evidence is against you, so I'm just going to have to take you in!" This probably explains why Johnny is an adventurer instead of a lawyer, because frankly I don't think that what we've seen so far rises to the level of "evidence". Anyway, this being Marvel Team-Up the two heroes engage in battle based on this misunderstanding. Their powers exactly cancel each other out, and in a bit I found especially amusing these two super powered heroes end up exchanging punches on the street corner like a couple of quarreling schoolboys.

As their little fistfight rages a limousine pulls up, and out of it step the uncanny X-Men. Two things are notable about this: one is that the Beast is not in attendence. At this point in history Hank McCoy has recently finished up his solo run (in Amazing Adventures v2 issues 11-17) and it's almost exactly a year before he would join the Avengers, so he's kind of in limbo. The other thing is that the X-Men are not wearing their proper costumes. They're attired in the "school uniform" type outfits, rather than the individual costumes they'd gotten in X-Men v1 #39, a full seven years earlier. How could Gil Kane get a detail like that wrong, you wonder? Simple... when MTU #23 came out the X-Men didn't matter. As I touched on in my introduction, this took place before GS X-Men #1 started the merry mutants on the road towards total industry dominance. In 1974 their book was doing nothing but reprints and was lucky not to be cancelled outright.

Ok, history lesson over, let's get back to the action! Cyclops and Marvel Girl use their powers to seperate the battling heroes and get them to calm down. When that's been done Cyclops informs Iceman that because he stormed away from Xavier's school a half-hour ago he didn't hear about the top-secret mission the X-Men have been assigned to by their mentor. When the Torch hears this he manages to put two and two together and realizes that Iceman can't possibly be the one who attacked him, because he was nowhere near the scene of the crime.

Now that Iceman's innocence has been established he wants to stay and help nab the real culprit, and the X-Men drive off with an admonition for Iceman to be back at the mansion before dawn to accompany them on their mission. Wait a minute... the X-Men drive off? That's a little messed up, isn't it? Why not stay to help? I mean, if Iceman turns up dead tomorrow aren't they going to feel awful that they left him to face some menace without them? I suppose they had to leave because the book is Marvel Team-Up, not Marvel Gang-Up, but still...

The "tempestuous temperature twins" head back towards Faversham's jewelers hoping to find some clue to act on, and boy do they find one! Just as they arrive an explosion from within reveals that the villain they seek has returned to the scene of the crime to finish the job that Spidey interrupted before. Entering the building, hoping to sneak up on their foe, the heroes are suddenly struck by both ice and fire bolts, prompting Iceman to wonder "what kind of burgler are we up against?!" As if in answer to his question they see a man in a strange suit leap out of a hole in the wall onto the street below, bearing a bag of stolen loot.

Acting quickly, the Torch closes the gap between them and tackles the villain, but is rewarded with a kick in the gut for his efforts. Their adversary isn't interested in a fight, his one concern is to get away, but it seems to be too late. The scuffle with the Torch made a tear in his outfit, which it turns out was a containment suit. As he rips his way out of the now useless garment we get our first real look at Equinox, the Thermodynamic Man. Half his body is covered in flames and half in ice, and which half is which changes from frame to frame. This nicely creates the impression that the temperature extremes are rippling over his body constantly. Equinox and the heroes battle for a short while, then approaching police sirens prompt the villain to grab his bag of loot and flee. He nimbly hops upon a passing bus to make his escape.

Of course, Iceman and the Torch follow hot (or is that cold?) on his heels. They catch up with him in short order and another battle ensues, in the midst of which a punch from Iceman sends Equinox toppling off the bus. The heroes then blast Equinox with their respective powers, and by sheer luck both blasts catch him at the precice moment his body was switching temperatures. This halts his "internal reactions", causing the energies to build up to a critical mass. There's a huge explosion, and Equinox has seemingly been blown to atoms in the process.

Sitting in the crater where Equinox was is the package he stole from Faversham's. It contains only an atomic clock, which seems an odd item to steal from a shop containing millions of dollars worth of jewels. As the heroes ponder this, the Human Torch presciently notices that the hole in the pavement where Equinox detonated leads down into the sewer, which has just enough of a current to carry a man to safety. And on that note, we call this issue a wrap.

Next Issue: Spidey is back, joining with Brother Voodoo to confront the menace of Moondark!

General Comments

We have indeed not seen the last of Equinox. Later in the series he'll be back in an outstanding two issue story arc pencilled by the then little known John Byrne. That story will shed some light on our villain's motives and provide some needed characterization. But that's a tale for another review.

I found the ending to this issue a trifle unsatisfying. The heroes have a strong suspicion that Equinox has escaped into the sewer but do nothing about it. This seems a trifle irresponsible, since he's either a villain who poses a threat to society or a man badly in need of help. Either way, just shrugging your shoulders and calling it a day is inappropriate. Overall not a bad issue though, even if it did lack a certain wall crawler.

Elsewhere in Spidey's world: Spider-Man pretty much spends this whole month at sea. In GS Spider-Man #1 he's on a cruise ship with Dracula, and in Amazing Spider-Man #134 the Tarantula is making his first appearance trying to hijack a Circle Line tour ship on the Hudson River.

And meanwhile, in the real world: Former Chief Justice Earl Warren dies in Washington D.C. at the age of 83.

Overall Rating

Well, there was no Spidey in here so it sort of starts out with a strike against it. But it does have a fair amount of action and introduces an interesting villain. I give it two and a half webs.