Friday, 13 May 2011

Essential Super-Villain Team-Up






The original Marvel Team-Up was one of my favourite comics growing up, but I missed out on its dark companion, partly because the book only lasted 17 issues, but also because it wasn't particularly well distributed in the UK, so back issues were hard to come by. The only comics here I'd read previously were issues 8 and 9 which were probably made available to UK audiences because they tied into a big crossover storyline in Avengers... which is also included in this book, along with a few other related comics.

The collection begins with a short run of Dr. Doom solo stories that appeared as one half of the Astonishing Tales comic back in the very early 70s. These are most notable for some excellent Wally Wood artwork in the first few issues that made me realise I need to check out more of Wood's work pronto. The 10-page stories begin well, as written by Roy Thomas, but when Larry Lieber takes over you know they're going to go downhill fast. He may be Stan Lee's brother, but creative genius doesn't appear to run in the family.

Following this, Super-Villain Team-Up kicks off properly... sort of. Curiously, before the regular comic began, two Giant Sized issues were published featuring Dr. Doom and the Submariner, continuing storylines from Namor's own just-cancelled solo title as well as explaining Doom's fate following his most recent encounter with the Fantastic Four. That's one of the biggest problems with this book - people complain nowadays about all the crossovers that make you read a bunch of different comics to understand exactly what's going on... well, Super-Villain Team-Up appears to be the 70s equivalent. Equally frustrating, the book can't ever seem to settle on a regular creative team, with no writer or artist working on the title for more than about 3 consecutive issues. As a result, while there are some very enjoyable moments here from writers such as Gerry Conway and Steve Englehart, nobody's given much time to develop their own plots with a definite beginning, middle and end. It says something about a collection like this when its best stories by far actually come from the Avengers tie-in comics by Gerry Conway, Jim Shooter and George Perez.

That said, Super-Villain Team-Up is not without its enjoyable moments - most notably Englehart's surreal spot of political satire that has US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger show up to broker a non-interference deal with Dr. Doom that effectively bans American superheroes from messing with his plans. I've no idea whether this caused controversy back in the 70s, but imagine Donald Rumsfeld or Hilary Clinton making a similar pact in the 21st century - that'd surely hit the headlines. There's also the debut and origin of the Shroud, a character who becomes slightly more interesting in later years, but is little more than a blind Batman here.

The book was originally cancelled with issue #14 (1977), but returned the following year with a reprint issue (#15) before a final two-part story was released in '79 and '80. These last two issues make for the best (non-Avengers) story here, and ironically neither Dr. Doom nor the Submariner stars. Instead it's a team-up between the Red Skrull and the Hate Monger (who turns out to be Adolf Hitler resurrected) in a quest to recreate the Cosmic Cube. Peter B. Gillis delivers a couple of interesting twists with solid, if unspectacular, artwork from Carmine Infantino and Arvell Jones.

I bought Essential Super-Villain Team-Up a year or so back on eBay for just under a fiver (including p&p). My copy has a creased cover, so I wouldn't have wanted to pay any more. It's still available on Amazonfor under a tenner, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it unless you're either a complete Marvel zombie or a glutton for punishment. I'm obviously both! That said, it kept me reading, I found it fun in short bursts, and I had no desire to bung my copy on eBay having got to the end... so it can't be all bad.



2 comments:

  1. Marvel Team-Up was one of my favourite comics as a kid, too! I also really liked Marvel Two-In-One, the only DC comic I really liked was the Brave and the Bold, and I always wanted to check this out (but probably won't now, thanks to your review). I think you can safely say I had a thing for team-up books!

    P.S. We may have to change the name of this blog to Marvel Comics On The Ration, soon, as 90% of the stuff in my read pile is Marvel, too!

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  2. Hey, your Super-Villain Team-Up review came back!

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