We continue our looking back review of the MTU Time Travel story which began back in Marvel Team-Up #41.
|Cover Art:||Gil Kane|
Dr. Doom's time machine has returned for him, but Spider-Man is too shaken by the deaths of John Proctor and the others to much care right now. Holding a twig in one hand and his head in the other, he tries to remind himself that the whole event was history and there was nothing he could do to change it. Cotton Mather comes upon the scene and it is clear just by looking at him that he has been driven mad by the last four crazy issues. Spidey cannot muster any sympathy. He leaps upon the time machine and bids Cotton farewell with a "Ta-taa, Chuckles. You've made your own hell and, personally, I hope you stew in it." As a lightning storm whips up, Spidey disappears into the time stream. His dramatic departure warps Mather's mind even more.
Somehow the storm has monkeyed with Doom's time platform, because Spidey does not immediately reappear in his present. Instead, he has "traded in the express trip for the local". He sees the American Revolutionary War, Abraham Lincoln, World War I, and finally makes it back to present-day New York. But then "something catastrophic occurs", and New York metamorphoses into a demolished city under attack from metal saucers, shooting rays, and walking on three long thin metal legs. The time platform, unceremoniously, dumps him on the ground in this "futuristic/alternate" timeline. He lands in a war zone and sees a man riding a demonic-looking horse (red with a flame-like mane and a devil's spiked tail). The man is being pursued by the tripod machines. The man is riding right toward the web-slinger.
"You stand in the path of both the Martians and myself, friend", says the rider, "Yet I sense that you're a man beneath that costume, not a stinking Martian-Mutate so I'll not ride you down! Will you stand with me, help me turn the devils? Will you fight beside Killraven?"
(Killraven's series took up 22 issues of the 1970s Amazing Adventures. Originally known as War of the Worlds, it began in AA #18 (May 1973) written by Gerry Conway with art by Neal Adams and Howard Chaykin. "Inspired by the novel by H.G. Wells", the series assumed that the events that Wells created actually took place and that the Martians learned to develop an immunity to Earth diseases before attacking again... successfully, this time. By the year 2018, the world is enslaved, though there are pockets of resistance. One group is led by Killraven, a large man with long red hair and clad in a skimpy blue outfit that appears to serve no useful function. Trained as a gladiator for the Martian's games, Killraven is an expert in swordplay, archery, "karate, savate, wrestling". He leads a group of "Freemen", among them Old Skull, M'Shulla, and Carmilla Frost. Eventually, the writing and artwork is taken over by Don McGregor and Craig Russell and, for the briefest of times, Killraven was a fan favorite. By issue #29, the series is named for him, but it reverts back to its original title with issue #35 before coming to an end in #39 (November 1976). At the time of this MTU story, Killraven's series was, seemingly, alive and well with the latest issue being AA #36.)
Spidey doesn't know what the heck is going on but, following his instincts, he leaps onto Killraven's "serpent-stallion" to join the "freeman" in making a hasty retreat. Killraven tries to put a ruined building between himself and the Martians but the tripods easily blast the protection to bits and the two heroes must continue their flight on foot. (It's hard to tell just what happened to the stallion. Either it was crushed by the building or it fled after losing its riders.) Killraven yells at Spidey to "Run!" but the web-slinger thinks there is a better solution. He shoots webbing onto a leg of a tripod and, using his spider-strength, manages to topple it. Killraven then shatters the glass dome in the saucer section with his sword. He pulls out a human being... a "sniveling slave of the Martian overlords renouncing his humanity for the reward of hunting others more human than himself". The "slave" points a gun at Killraven but Spidey stops him by squirting webbing in his face. Killraven finishes the job by cutting the man down with his sword and Spidey seems completely unconcerned about it. (I would be willing to assume that Killraven merely knocked out his enemy with the flat of his blade except that the "slave" screams "Aarrggh!" when Killraven swings through.) Rather than kicking up any fuss about killing, Spidey refers his ally to the other two tripods by warning him that he might "wind up a toasted pop-tart" if they don't do something.
When the second tripod arrives, the wall-crawler uses his webbing to carry him to the glass dome at the top. He rips it away with his bare hands and punches the man inside full in the face. The man falls out and the tripod tumbles. Spidey leaps away, yelling "Timmmbbbeerrr!" (but did Spidey just kill a man?)
The third tripod has Killraven on the run. Spidey finds one of the Martian ray guns on the ground and tosses it to Killraven who uses the "photonuclear fire power" to blow up the pursuing machine. After the mayhem, the two heroes get acquainted. Killraven tells Spidey that the year is 2019... "just eighteen years since the second Martian invasion of Earth!" (Eighteen years since... let's see, that's... gulp!)
He reveals that his true name is Jon Raven and that he was raised in the gladiatorial pens. He tells of his escape and the formation of the "Freemen". This story shakes Spidey to the core. "What are you saying, man, that it's all going to end?", he says. "That nothing we do matters because in thirty years time (Try three now, Spidey.) the Martians are gonna grind it all into paste?... Then what in heaven's name is the point of living? Of caring? Of anything?" Killraven comforts him with these words: "I mourn a lost past, you a shattered future. Neither of us really knowing if one relates to the other. I only know that nothing is certain, my friend, not past, not future, and if life does have any point at all, it is bound up by the living of it." But while Killraven talks, five menacing figures sneak up from behind.
The wall-crawler's spider-sense tingles but it is too late. Each figure is equiped with a hook on the end of a long cable. They twirl the hooks over their heads and fling them. The cables wrap around our two heroes. Gas is emitted from the hook-ends. (Which explains why the five men are equiped with full-head masks and oxygen tanks on their backs.)
The gas subdues both good guys. But this is more than just knockout gas. It is also a powerful hallucinogen. Both men enter similar dreams. Killraven thinks he is floating in space... he feels the cold. Spidey drifts in non-space, surrounded by sinister "familiar eyes". Killraven believes he has fallen onto "some amorphous yielding surface". Above him, a red-haired woman appears. It is Volcana Ash, a potential Killraven love interest who left the Freemen in AA #31 to search for her sister. She has helped Killraven in the past. "Without words", he reaches for her help again.
Spidey, meantime, has fallen onto a giant spider-web. He cannot pull away from the sticky web. And he, too, is visited by someone from the past. The Green Goblin.
Back in Killraven's nightmare, Volcana Ash betrays the rebel leader and fires a volcanic blast at him from her hands. Killraven raises his sword to strike but then realizes "You're not her. You can't be her." But Volcana retorts, "How much did you ever really find out about me? About anyone? Or have you always been too busy with your precious revolution to care?"
At the same time, Spidey cannot believe he faces the Goblin. "Norman Osborn is dead! (Hem.) His son Harry is cured! (Hmmm.) You can't be either of them." "Who am I, then?" says the Goblin as he tosses a pumpkin bomb.
Killraven will not be shaken with doubt. Screaming "Liar!", he throws his sword at Volcana. She doesn't even attempt to get out of the way. Instead she asks him if he is so sure that she is not real. "Yes!", he replies, "There are things on which I'd stake my life! Freedom, for instance, and humanity, and the belief that you are not Volcana!"
And, over in Spidey's mind, he frees himself from the sticky webbing, leaps up and knocks the Goblin off his bat-glider. Both tumble back onto the web and Spider-Man reaches for the Goblin's mask. "Go ahead, then, wall crawler", says the Goblin, "Take off my mask! And I hope the truth kills you!"
Killraven's sword pierces Volcana in the abdomen. She screams "a long, drawn-out banshee wail" and then falls to earth. And, in that instant, Killraven's doubt returns.
And, Spidey removes the Goblin's mask and underneath is Mary Jane Watson. "After all", she says, "hasn't everyone you've ever known turned against you at one time or another?" But Spidey doesn't buy it. He knows this is not Mary Jane. "You're something inside of me! Something I've held down since the day I stood by and let Uncle Ben get murdered.", he says, as he punches MJ in the nose. (Well, Sal, mercifully, drew this panel so that all we see is the Goblin's gloved hand, but that has to be what Spidey is doing.)
Killraven's doubt passes quickly. The dying Volcana turns to smoke and fades away. "My cause is just", says KR, "and it is belief in it that sustains me."
Mary Jane also turns to smoke. "You're nothing but a stinking, lingering doubt", says Spidey, "and I've come too far to pay any attention to that part of my past."
Both Killraven and Spider-Man return from their dreams. The men who sprayed them with the gas lie unconscious all around them. The heroes realize that, as they fought in their hallucinations, they were fighting for real as well. "We beat them in our sleep." and Killraven finds his sword embedded in a Martian flunky's corpse.
The Freemen leader is impressed with the teamwork he and Spidey displayed. He offers the wall-crawler a place beside him in his battle with the Martians. But Spidey has to go. Doom's platform appears behind him once again and his own time awaits. Killraven gets thoughtful at their parting. "From what little you have said, my friend, I get a sense of a past I cannot understand, a time when there was no war, no Martians, a time that does not exist in my memory!" "Then make it exist, KR", replies Spidey, "You're doin' fine so far! Just don't give up until they give back everything they've stolen from you, including the past!"
Spider-Man leaps onto the time platform and disappears, leaving Killraven with much to think about.
This storyline has gone on so long that the letter page in this issue covered the Spidey/Scarlet Witch issue that started it all! Mark Dooley of Columbus, Ohio wrote, "MTU #38 stunk! MTU #39 didn't... much. MTU #40 had me saying what the heck happened? MTU #41 had me applauding." Dean Mullaney of Staten Island, New York (one of the co-founders of Eclipse Comics) told Bill Mantlo, "It seems that my assumption that being given a regular series to handle would show your good side was correct... This initial installment of the team-up with the Scarlet Witch was almost totally first-rate." Finally, both Peter Harvey of Salem, Massachusetts (!) and Richard Nathan of Santa Monica, California complained that witches were not burned to death in Salem but hung. The editorial response? The only deaths shown in the story were by hanging. The townspeople who cried out to "Burn the witch!" were so scared they were having flashbacks to their European roots. Well... Okay!