Tuesday, March 25, 2014

SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP #7 - June 1997


Old Scores
Credits:  Kurt Busiek (writer), Sal Buscema and Dick Giordano (art), Tom Smith (colors), Comicraft’s Team Dave (letters)

The Plot:  A Drone created by the Enclave robs a scientific firm, killing a security guard in the process.  The media blames Spider-Man, based on the testimony of the surviving guard.  The mayor orders the Thunderbolts to bring in Spider-Man, much to the delight of Mach-1, who previously faced Spider-Man as the Beetle.  Eventually, the Thunderbolts realize that Spider-Man is innocent and track the Drone to the Enclave’s headquarters.  Spider-Man follows, using the spider-tracer he placed on Mach-1.  During their fight with the Enclave, Spider-Man saves Mach-1’s life, and gives him the information he needs to stop the Enclave’s brainwashing scheme.  Later, Mach-1 gives Spider-Man a video recorded by Techno that implicates the Enclave.  He tells his teammates that this was in their own best interests, but later admits to himself that playing a hero is having an impact on him.

The Subplots:  J. Jonah Jameson is thrilled to have yet another opportunity to blast Spider-Man.  Later, Peter goes to the Daily Bugle to research the Thunderbolts, arousing Robbie Robertson’s curiosity.  I’ll also point out that Anna Watson is mentioned-but-not-seen yet again this issue.

Web of Continuity:  This story takes place early in the Thunderbolts’ career, when they are still villains-in-disguise.  And, like many stories, this issue has to take place prior to May 1997's Spectacular Spider-Man #246, due to Jonah's appearance.

*See _________ For Details:  The Enclave lost their original headquarters in Fantastic Four #67.  Some of their technology previously appeared in the Spider-Man: Dead Man’s Hand one-shot.  Mach-1 debuted as the Beetle in Strange Tales #123.  He points out that the Human Torch was his first opponent, but Spider-Man has been his main adversary over the years.  Finally, Spidey reminds the Thunderbolts that he said nice things about them in Thunderbolts #1.

I Love the ‘90s:  Dallas, the T-Bolts’ liaison with the mayor, says that she will “modem over the data” on Spider-Man’s alleged crime.

Production Note:  The tiny print is still incorrectly listing the year as 1996.  Also, this is the final issue of the series.  A new volume of Marvel Team-Up soon takes its place, but Spider-Man is no longer featured in every issue.

Review:  I believe this is the last time Sal Buscema provided pencils for a Spider-Man story, so there is some historical significance to the issue.  And it looks great, by the way.  Buscema has figured out how to make the post-McFarlane style work very well by this point, creating a stylized version of the character that’s still rooted in actual anatomy.  Buscema’s also asked to draw a lot of characters this issue, yet he never seems to be shirking on the work.  (Having Dick Giordano do the finishes doesn’t hurt, either.)  The story is probably more of a Thunderbolts story than a Spider-Man story, but Busiek is still careful to work in some of the Spidey hallmarks, such as Peter going to the Daily Bugle for research and JJJ gleefully blaming Spider-Man for the latest crime that he's been framed for.  Playing up Spidey’s past with Mach-1 also helps to make Spider-Man feel less like a generic hero, which is often a problem with team-up stories.  The Thunderbolts have a much more interesting role to play, as they debate just leaving Spider-Man out to dry, or actually finding the real culprit (if only to protect their image in the future.)  Mach-1’s character arc could easily come across as cheese, but Busiek executes the ending quite well.  

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