Wednesday, October 2, 2013

SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP #6 - March 1997

Breaking and Entering!
Credits:  Larry Hama (writer), Dietrich Smith (penciler), Sean Parsons (inks), Tom Smith (colors), Bill Oakley (letters)

The Plot:  Spider-Man passes by Avengers Mansion as the Hulk is breaking in and fighting his way past SHIELD’s forces.  As Spider-Man tries to subdue the Hulk, Aquarian arrives, proposing a peaceful resolution to the conflict.  Suddenly, the trio realizes that a Doombot is also in the mansion, downloading all of the Avengers’ information and sending it to Latveria.  They destroy the Doombot, but not before it successfully completes its mission.  Luckily, a SHIELD Life Model Decoy inserted a virus into the database as it was being downloaded, corrupting the information and Latveria’s power grid.

Web of Continuity:  This story takes place when the Avengers, and Dr. Doom, are assumed dead following Onslaught’s attack on New York.  SHIELD now oversees the mansion.  The Hulk is invading Avengers Mansion to gain access to Tony Stark’s database, which he believes has information that can save his life (he’s dying after being split from Bruce Banner in Onslaught: Marvel Universe.)

Miscellaneous Note:  The indicia on the first page list the previous year.  The cover date is accurate.

Review:  Because one gratuitous quarterly Spider-Man filler comic wasn’t enough in the ‘90s, the fates brought us Spider-Man Team-Up.  I’ve never read an issue of it before, and I only recall one reference to the series after its cancellation: Mark Waid once joked in an interview that the only comic he ever wrote for the money was Spider-Man Team-Up #1.  

I remember this book as yet more product pumped out during the Clone Saga, but it actually survived for two more issues after Peter Parker’s return.  This issue is written by Larry Hama, during his days of random Marvel assignments like Venom and Howard the Duck specials.  I don’t know if he had any say over the guest stars, but I would be curious to know if he genuinely wanted to bring in Aquarian (or “Wundarr the Aquarian” as he’s officially known).  Aquarian was apparently created as a parody character during the flower child days, and it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to use him as another other than a joke.  Hama plays it straight, though, working in some of Aquarian’s hippie philosophy and giving him a few scenes to show off his powers.  He adds essentially nothing to the plot, but I guess if you genuinely like the guy, there’s nothing offensive here.  

Regarding Spider-Man and the Hulk, there are a few decent action scenes between them, although Spider-Man’s justification for entering the story is the tired “just happened to be swingin’ by” set-up, which was already pretty old ten issues into the original Marvel Team-Up.  Probably the best moment in the story is the introduction of the Doombot, which is given a pretty creative means of sneaking into the mansion.  The twist ending is also amusing, although it apparently establishes that the Avengers’ entire database has been destroyed, which I doubt stayed in continuity.

Lost Souls
Credits:  J. M. DeMatteis (plot), Marv Wolfman (script), Bob McLeod (breakdowns), Tom Palmer (finishes), Tom Smith (colors), Bill Oakley (letters)

The Plot:  Dracula pulls a young woman named Raynee out of the crowd in a ballroom.  Later, the police investigate a mass murder inside.  Peter Parker takes photographs and runs into Dr. Strange, who’s also investigating.  Strange later informs Peter, while as Spider-Man, that Dracula is the culprit.  Soon, Dr. Strange is incapacitated by Dracula’s astral form, leading Spider-Man to investigate Dracula’s home.  He encounters a peaceful Dracula, and has dinner with him and Raynee.  Eventually, Strange frees himself, as Spider-Man discovers Dracula’s true nature.  Strange imprisons Dracula and reveals that Raynee is actually a golem created by Dracula to soothe his loneliness.  Dracula escapes, vowing vengeance on the heroes.

Web of Continuity:  This story is treated as the first time Spidey discovers there is an actual Dracula.  I don’t know if that fits with any established Dracula stories, but I’m assuming it’s something Marv Wolfman wouldn’t get wrong.  Spider-Man does briefly forget that Dr. Strange knows his secret identity, though.

I Love the ‘90s:  References include the approaching millennium, The X-Files, and the Macarana.  Spider-Man also spells out a web address with a “www///” leading me to believe someone got “http://” mixed up with “www.”.

"Huh?" Moment:  For some reason, Dracula waited six months to return to the ballroom and commit the murders, or it took six months for the police to discover them.  Either way, I don’t understand why the prologue is set six months in the past.

Review:  Bizarrely, this is not the lead story.  At the very least, the reunion of Marv Wolfman and Tom Palmer on a Dracula story should’ve been hyped, even if that has nothing to do with Spider-Man.  And while it’s obvious the creators wanted to do a Dracula story first and kind of backed into a way to fit it into this book, Spider-Man’s role doesn’t come across as obviously superfluous.  (He is superfluous, just not obviously so.)  His job as a photographer gives him an organic introduction into the story, and he works as a sort of “average Joe” commentator on the supernatural elements.  As Spider-Man’s first meeting with Dracula, however, there’s not much here.  Dr. Strange and Dracula look great, yet Spider-Man’s off-model (McLeod’s interpretation of the post-McFarlane giant eyes always looked wrong to me.)  The story’s main focus is on setting up a Dr. Strange and Dracula rematch, with Raynee added as the human element.  On that level, it’s a decent read.  Spider-Man’s a fun interloper, but he’s clearly not the star. 

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