Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Omitted material: Marvel Team-Up 112

It’s time for yet another side step to take an issue featuring guest stars whom Marvel no longer holds the rights for. Today it's the turn of Marvel Team-Up #112 which follows directly on from issue #111, which has been reprinted in Essential Defenders volume 5. It features a team-up between Spider-Man and King Kull, another character from the works of Robert E. Howard. The issue is by the-then regular team of writer J.M. DeMatteis and artist Herb Trimpe.

The previous issue saw Spider-Man learn that one of the many races who once inhabited Earth were the Spider-People, whom Spidey's physiognomy resembles, enemies of the Serpent Race. Spider-Man was bitten by one of the Serpent Race and is facing dire consequences...

Spider-Man is facing death from the Serpent Race's venom, which is fatal to the Spider-People and those who resemble them. Unfortunately there is no knowledge of a cure in the present day, but in the distant past the Serpent Race was vanquished by King Kull, ruler of Valusia, whose scholars studied their enemy's tricks, so Dr. Strange sends Spider-Man's astral form backwards in time to Kull's age. Spidey can only interact with others by possessing their bodies, a bit like DC's Deadman except that Spider-Man brings his wall crawling powers with him. He saves Kull's life from an assassination and in return a grateful Kull sets out to obtain the cure from an evil shaman called Ju-Lak. This set-up takes up the first half of the issue and the remainder sees Kull lead his forces to battle with Ju-Lak's tribe, with Spider-Man fighting as well. Eventually they are all captured and Ju-Lak challenges Kull to a duel - but as Kull has the aid of a tiger spirit, Ju-Lak forces Spidey's spirit to aid him. But at the crucial moment Spidey restrains Ju-Lak, allowing Kull to triumph. The cure is obtained and Spidey drinks it via Kull's body. Then Spidey's spirit returns to the present day where he wakes up cured but has no memory of his journey to the past, as Dr. Strange wants to protect his sanity.

This is an issue where a lot happens, primarily because of the extended journey needed to bring the two heroes together. I'm not quite sure how an astral spirit is able to carry the physical cure back through time and surely the formula for the cure would be more useful in case it's needed again? Kull is not a character I'm familiar with but he seems a very straightforward character to write, the epitome of a noble leader who leads from the front and will take any risk to reward those who aid him - a characterisation that can be found in many an era but not one to get especially excited about. This is very much a small-scale encounter between the two heroes rather than any wider exploration of the ancient history of the Marvel Universe, in particular a further look at any connections between Spider-Man and the Spider-People. Perhaps that's for the best as it avoids exploring the possibility that there's rather more to Spider-Man's origin than the seemingly accidental encounter with a radioactive spider, and that's something that would need more space for exploration than an issue of Mavel Team-Up. Instead the focus is on action and rewards. And once again the story ends with Spider-Man having lost his memory of the events, thus bringing the tale close to a reset switch. All that said the dialogue and art are both good for their era and overall the issue manages to pack in a lot. It may have its holes and feel more like a Defenders style story than a Spider-Man one, but that's the beauty of Team-Up and it's an above average effort.

1 comment:

  1. I JUST ordered this comic last week. Been collecting issues I had as a kid.


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