After spending the last few issues teaming up with an assortment of second- stringers, this issue finally sees Spidey paired up with another of Marvel's headliners, Daredevil, the Man Without Fear.
Of all the costumed heroes sharing the Marvel Universe with Spider-Man, perhaps none are more close to him than Daredevil. Unlike the somewhat artificial friendship between Spidey and the Human Torch, which was clearly contrived because they were Marvel's two "teen heroes" at the time, Spider-Man and Daredevil share a similarity in worldview and methods that has brought them together many times over the years, not just in Marvel Team-Up but also in their own books and a number of mini-series and one-shots. Indeed, right on the cover of Daredevil's first issue was an allusion to Spider-Man, and the promise of the same kinds of thrills and excitement.
Daredevil owes another debt to the wall-crawler as well. Daredevil first achieved greatness when the brilliant writer/artist Frank Miller put him up against two members of Spidey's rogue gallery... The Kingpin and the Punisher. So effective was Miller's new style of storytelling (which to this day is endlessly aped, usually by less accomplished hands) that since the 80's the Kingpin has come to identified more with Daredevil than with Spidey. For evidence of this one need look no further than the recently released Daredevil movie, which used the Kingpin as it's main villain.
We join Spider-Man this issue in the act of taking a rare moment off from crime fighting. Unable to find any criminals after several hours of criss-crossing the city, he's spun himself a little web swing and settled in to enjoy the latest issue of "Crazy!", Marvel Comics' somewhat inferior "Mad" magazine clone (nice plug there, Len).
Spidey's break is to be cut short however, when he spies a cat burgler making his way across some power lines carrying a satchel. When I say cat burgler that's no mere turn of phrase mind you, it's an actual six-foot tall anthropomorphic cat!
Assuming this suspicious character to be up to no good, Spidey snags the satchel out of his hands with a webline, prompting the Catman to wonder aloud "...what--who--?" Spidey's answer is a joke that was dated even when this issue hit the stands in 1974, as he assumes an "Amos & Andy" accent and asks if the name of "Ruby Begonia" rings a bell. The two wrestle back and forth for a while, with neither able to gain a real upper hand, when Spidey is suddenly struck from behind by a newcomer that didn't trigger his Spider-Sense.
The assailant was able to get the drop on Spidey because it's someone his spider-sense would never consider a threat, namely our co-star Daredevil. Continuing to act in a bizarre manner, DD starts talking a bunch of trash about taking Spidey out of circulation and presses his attack. Of course, Daredevil is hopelessly outclassed by the webslinger, but because Spidey is unwilling to hurt him they trade blows back and forth for a while. Taking advantage of the distraction, the Catman flees the scene, but he's forced to leave his satchel behind because Spidey webbed it securely to the pavement.
As soon as the Catman is gone DD throws up his hands and says the fight is over. An understandibly angry Spider-Man demands an explanation for his actions, and Daredevil treats him (and us) to a brief flashback.
Early that morning Gail Callan, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist, was abducted by the Birdman, who was able to swoop down and grab the girl before her bodyguards could do a thing about it. The kidnappers called shortly after with a ransom demand, instructing that attorney Matt Murdock be the bagman. They wanted Murdock, you see, because since he's blind he'd never be able to identify them.
The kidnapper's plan is weak on two very important points. First is that since the kidnappers are three guys who look like a bird, a cat, and a gorilla I think any hopes they have of anonymity are wildly optomistic at best. Secondly, as we all know, Matt Murdock is the alter-ego of Daredevil. Right after making the drop Matt changed into his red suit and took off after the Catman, planning to follow him back to his lair. His plan was going just fine when Spidey jumped in and started throwing punches & webs. Daredevil had to act fast to ensure the Cat's escape, and attacking Spidey was all he could think off at a moment's notice.
Now that Catman has fled they have a real problem though... how will they find the hide out? Fortunately for them a small quantity of dirt from the Catman got stuck to the satchel during the struggle, and for Daredevil's superhumanly keen senses a small quantity is enough. Examining it as only he can, Daredevil determines that it's in fact sand, and he detects a lingering scent of saltwater and stale popcorn.
Based on that, Daredevil presumes the villains to be at Steeplechase Park, an abandoned amusement park by the ocean. Let's look over there now and see if he's right.
Sure enough, over at Steeplechase Park is Gail Callan, tied to a chair and surrounded by our three very ill tempered villains. The Ape Man is rather put out that Cat Man has showed up sans loot, and decides to make Gail pay for it. When she (reasonably enough) points out that none of this is her fault the Gorilla doesn't really care. He just tells her and go ahead and scream, as there's no one hear her.
Wrong again, Ani-Men! DD & Spidey were coming up on the park at just that moment, and the scream confirms what they already suspected. Foolishly answering a knock at the shack door, Cat Man gets himself a face full of Daredevil's knuckles! At that the Birdman ruthlessly tries to make good on their threat to execute the girl if interfered with, and starts shooting. Fortunately Spidey is able to put a wall of webbing between the girl and the bullets, and by the time Apeman has torn through the webbing Spidey has made off with the girl and dropped her safely atop a nearby building. Meanwhile, Daredevil wades into Birdman and Catman and the fists start flying.
Things get a little chaotic after that, with the heroes and villains chasing each other all through the park. Birdman is taken out of the fight when Spidey plucks his wings and leaves him hanging from a lamp post. Meanwhile, Daredevil has pursued the Catman into the scary house, knocking him silly and leaving him tangled up in a mock-up monster spider's web. Childhood confession time : the illustration of that spider (page 30, panel 4) gave your six-year old reviewer nightmares that lasted well into adulthood. I'm sure they'll return now that I've re-exposed myself to the image, so I hope you people appreciate what the PPP staff goes through to review some of these books!
Anyway, that's Cat Man and Birdman down for the count, leaving only the Apeman unaccounted for. While his partners were getting their butts kicked he found Gail and has taken her to the top of the roller coasters highest hill (what is it with gorillas carrying blonde chicks to the top of tall structures, anyway?). By threatening to both shoot the girl AND toss her over the side he's holding the heros at bay, but Spidey gets an idea. Using his webbing he trips the lever that starts up the roller coaster car, which plows into the Apeman from behind while he's keeping an eye on the heroes. He drops both Gail and his gun, and of course catching a falling girl is no problem for these heroes (well, ok, except that one time). By then the police have finally arrived, and as they collect the Ani-Men for a trip to prison Spidey swings off to finish reading his magazine.
Next Issue: Sorry Spidey fans, but next issue is headlined by the Human Torch, teamed up with the might Thor!
I consider this issue to be one of the two or three strongest issues to date in Marvel Team-Up. The plot is very simple, which means there's very little opportunity to make a story ruining blunder. With a minimum of exposition required, it also leaves room for lots of action, and Jim Mooney delivers it to us with some of his best pencils.
Elsewhere in Spidey's world: The terrible legacy of Norman Osborn lives on in his son Harry, as the Green Goblin Lives again in Amazing Spider-Man 136 (which has a totally awesome cover, by the way). Also, a collection of classic Spidey reprints is the subject of the first oversized Marvel Treasury Edition, released this month.
And meanwhile, in the real world : it's nothing but pardons at the White House this month, as new President Gerald Ford issues amnesties to Richard Nixon, Viet Nam era draft dodgers and military deserters.
This one hits all the bases, being well written, well drawn and action packed, Four webs for it.