Without question, Johnny Storm has served as Spider-Man's closest friend within the super-hero ranks...of course, he's also served as Spider-Man's biggest rival. Akin to siblings, these two super heroes spend as much time attacking each other as they do the villains they team-up to fight.
Marvel Team Up #61 features one of the many adventures shared by the web-slinger and ol' matchstick...and, as you probably expected, in this story they start out on the wrong foot with one another...
|Cover Art:||Ross Andru|
Spider-Man finds himself staring at the wreckage left behind in Reed Richard's laboratory after he, Wasp and Yellowjacket battled Equinox (as seen in Marvel Team Up #60). As the web-slinger struggles to convince himself to begin cleaning up, he finds himself under attack by what appears to be Ben Grimm (aka The Thing). After evading blows from The Thing, Spidey reels from attacks by the Human Torch, the Invisible Woman and finally Mister Fantastic himself! He's fairly convinced that his closest allies have turned on him, but no question remains when The Thing's arm lands a blow that sends Spidey flying from the Baxter Building!
As Spider-Man falls toward a nearby rooftop, he's snatched from the air by the Human Torch. Suffice to say, the web-slinger is none-too-pleased to be face-to-face with one of the people that just attacked him, so he uses his web-line pull both of them from the air and down on to a neighboring roof. Both of the heroes are confused at what just happened, but things start to make sense once Johnny tells Spider-Man that none of the FF are home, so they couldn't have attacked him. When the two return to the Baxter Building, Johnny suddenly realizes what is going on...there's a Super Skrull loose on the premises!
The Human Torch then recounts the events of Marvel Chillers #7 in which Tigra and Red Wolf battled a Super Skrull and then ultimately trapped him inside of the Soul Catcher (a mystical object of Native American origin). That Soul Catcher was then safely stored in a Stasis Safe in Reed's laboratory. The battle with Equinox led to the safe being torn open, and the Super Skrull getting loose. Just as Johnny finishes his story (in a bit of perfect timing!), the Super Skrull emerges from the shadows and attacks the two heroes.
Meanwhile, Captain Jean DeWolff, tired from a late night of work on the Equinox case, prepares to leave the police station when she gets word that there's trouble at the Baxter Building. In short order, she and Lt. Rafael Scarfe are on the scene and witness the battle between Spider-Man, the Human Torch and the Super Skrull.
Spider-Man, realizing that he and Storm have no chance against the Skrull, swoops down to DeWolff and asks her (and her officers) to keep the Skrull occupied while he develops plan b. DeWolff complies and heads into battle. Soon after, inspired by the movie The Thing (no relation to Grimm of course), Spider-Man builds a trap that will electrocute the Super Skrull. Johnny Storm then attempts one last attack on the Super Skrull in order to help out the police officers that are getting mauled by the Skrull. Johnny's attempt is not enough, and the Super Skrull pummels him, sending him down on to the pavement below where DeWolff and Spider-Man are standing.
The web-slinger realizes he's the last man standing and that he needs to lead the Super Skrull into his power grid trap. As the Skrull uses a sensor he built (from Reed's lab) in order to track his 'prize' (at this point it is not clear what the Skrull is after), Spider-Man snatches the sensor from the alien and goads him into following him. The plan works and the Super Skrull is electrocuted when he follows Spider-Man through the power grid....unfortunately the electricity does little to subdue the villain, in fact it only makes him angrier. The story concludes with Spider-Man face-to-face with an angry Skrull that is ready to tear him limb from limb!
I don't want to come down too hard on this issue, because clearly this is meant as a two-part storyline that connects directly into the subsequent issue. However, it is difficult to walk away from reading this story and not wonder if anything meaningful actually transpired. At the story's beginning, Spider-Man and the Human Torch were getting whooped by the Super Skrull, which is basically how the story ended as well.
And as far as the Super Skrull itself, there's no indication to the reader what the alien is up to...what's his plan? There's a vague mention of a "prize" that he's tracking (using equipment he "jury-rigged" from Reed's lab). But that's about it. I think the reader would benefit from a bit more fleshing out of the Skrull's plan, just to give some context as to why he's even there.
Claremont did insert some humor into this one though, as he captured the Torch/Spidey dynamic pretty well. Spidey being tricked into the thinking the Fantastic Four had attacked him, which then leads to his attack on the Torch actually works pretty well as a funny one-two punch to begin the story.
And my favorite sequence in the story was near the conclusion, just a Johnny is beat to a pulp by the Super Skrull (panel below).
While barely holding on to his life, Johnny still manages to rip on Spider-Man, claiming he's no Avenger and that he should play this smart even though Johnny knows "that will be a strain" for the web-head. I really enjoyed that sequence, nothing says brotherhood like spending your dying breaths making fun of your sibling...
But again, there's not much to this issue and with Ms. Marvel teased in this story, it is pretty clear that the web-slinger will be teaming up with Carol Danvers to defeat the Super Skrull in Marvel Team Up #62.
A little bit of humor in here, but to this one feels like nothing of significance happens at all...very much a filler issue. 2.5 Webs.