Ah, Marvel Team-Up reaches its centennial issue, which is nothing short of remarkable, considering so many of the awful issues prior to this one. I'd like to take this opportunity to share my belief that when I rate an issue, I will not give it a perfect 5 out of 5 unless I see it as a true masterpiece of art, and something that is inspirational and insightful. Among the thousands of comic books that I've read, there may be 50 such gems in total. Does this sound like foreshadowing to you?
|Co-Plot/Pencils:||Frank Miller, John Byrne|
|Inker:||Bob McLeod, Bob Wiacek|
|Cover Art:||Frank Miller|
|Reprinted In:||Marvel Tales #250 (Story 1)|
|Reprinted In:||Fantastic Four/Spider-Man Classic|
|Reprinted In:||The Complete Frank Miller Spider-Man (Hardcover)|
|Reprinted In:||Spider-Man's Greatest Team-Ups (TPB)|
The webhead is swinging along one day, minding his own business (indeed, as every issue starts out), when he cries out "Ah! My mind!" and all of a sudden, he isn't in control of his faculties anymore. He falls toward the street below, as a young girl struggles to control Spidey's movements and thoughts. She seems to think that too much is at stake to let him go now. Before he falls to his death, the girl suddenly finds that Spider-Man sticks to walls, and climbs back to the top of the building. Next, the girl tries to make Spider-Man use his webbing, noticing that it comes from his wrist-devices, and not his body. She has some fun in discovering that Spider-Man has a wealth of strength, agility, speed, and webbing at his command, then takes Spidey's body to New York's Freedom Tower, where the Fantastic Four attend some sort of charity event. The Fantastic Four exchange pleasantries with General Nguyen Noc Coy, formerly of Vietnam, who now appears a simple businessman. He introduces Tran, a young man from Vietnam who has recently escaped, and Tran's small siblings Leong and Nga. Nguyen buys several of Alicia Masters' sculptures for her charity. Thing notes that everyone in the building is packing a gun, which frightenes everyone. However, upstairs, Spider-Man shows up, and attacks the guards who are taking the children to bed, freeing them. The children are frightened, but as Spider-Man tells them (in Vietnamese), he has been sent by their sister to protect them. The girl feels a strange and almost painful buzzing in Spider-Man's head, but doesn't understand what it means until Reed Richards grabs hold of Spider-Man. She begins to fight the FF (sans Human Torch) with Spidey's body as a weapon, almost succeeding in subduing them all. Thing asks if Spider-Man got tired of being a good guy, and at this, the girl realizes she has made a horrible mistake, as she apparently bought Jameson's Daily Bugle propaganda, thinking Spidey was a villain. She succeeds in subduing the FF, but finds Nguyen and Tran behind her. Tran offers to use his ability to subdue Spider-Man, but Nguyen says that they should leave at once. Before Spider-Man can do any more damage, Susan lashes out with a force field, attempting him out. Sue knocks a lot of people out that way. But she fails, and eventually, Nguyen orders Tran to take Spider-Man out - and he does, using the same possession powers that the girl at the start of the issue exhibited! What is going on?
So, Spider-Man is knocked out by the ordeal of having his mind riped apart all night, and as he slowly comes to, an angry Thing beats him into the ground.
The next day, Reed and the Four discover that Spider-Man wasn't in control of his body all night, and has no idea what happened. Reed calls Charles Xavier to ask about the possible mutants in Manhattan, which Charles confirms. Reed tells him that he doesn't want the X-Men's help for now (and thank God for small favours, this isn't Secret War!).
They take the Fantasticar to a small church on the lower east side, where the meet the girl who possessed Spider-Man as well as a priest who is helping her. They listen to the girl (Xi'an Coy Manh) tell her story about how the priest rescued her from Vietnam several years earlier. She tells them that she and her brother, Tran (the guy from the charity ball) are mutants with identical abilities, and that Nguyen had escaped to America with them. Years later, when Xi'an made it to America, she found that her uncle had prospered through the use of Tran's possession ability to manipulate others. He expected Xi'an to do the same, but she refused - so he kidnapped her young siblings. This is when she decided to use Spider-Man to get her siblings back. The heroes all swear to help her out, and they head out to the Brooklyn pier to face Tran and Nguyen. Unbeknownst to them, however, Tran has the ability to possess multiple people at once, and uses the Fantastic Four against Spider-Man! Spidey has the fight of his life upon him (which is exceptionally well-drawn and well-paced), and succeeds in fighting the FF hard for some time, until Thing finally beats him down again. Before Thing can kill Spider-Man, Xi'an snaps, and uses her abilities against her own twin brother - this time absorbing his entire essence, essentially killing her brother, and making his soul a part of her own. Xi'an has a touching reunion with her younger brother and sister, and Spider-Man bets that this girl, now calling herself Karma, has an awesome potential for good or evil - but he bets on the good.
This issue also features an awesome short story about Black Panther and Storm - but that is for another time!
In 1980, the year this issue was published, there could be no more of an amazing collaboration than the pair that created this issue - Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. It really is a pity that they didn't do a lot more together, as the other projects (including the Wolverine mini-series) they did share were solid gold. This issue does an amazing job of showcasing human drama, and giving the reader a solid feeling for the pain that Karma has gone through in her life. It doesn't have the light-hearted hijinx that Spider-Man is often used to, but this is mostly because he is possessed for half the issue. Frank Miller's art is spot-on, as usual, and even in this issue is almost revolutionary for the use of black and white frames, darker colors, and the depiction of night on the dark characters in the book is immaculate, arguably even better than his legendary work on Daredevil. This is one of Marvel's hidden gems, and a must-have for any fan of comics.
It's just too good to give it anything BUT the fiver.