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Here in Utah (on the 26th of July), the fireworks are finally winding down, and that means that my yearly Longbox Junk spotlight on Captain America is ALSO winding down. . .but I'm not done just yet!
Let's crank up the Longbox Junk time machine for a short hop back to 1983. There we will find Captain America teaming up with Spider-Man to tackle not only a verminous villain, but also to weather the stormy seas of LOVE!
Ready? Let's do it!
MARVEL TEAM-UP #128
COVER: Eliot R. Brown
SCRIPT: J.M. DeMatteis
PENCILS: Kerry Gammill
INKS: Mike Esposito
Marvel put out a few of these composite photo covers (DC did a few as well). They ARE unusual and interesting for what they are, but truthfully I've never really liked them. The use of live models for this one just makes it even worse than the others.
It's cool that they tried something different and I realize that there's actually a collecting niche for these covers, and that there are people who really dig them, but I think that they were reaching beyond the grasp of available technology, and it didn't come out great. . .in MY humble opinion.
Let's get inside!
We begin our tale with a trip to the fair, following Peter Parker and Steve Rogers as they try to enjoy a bit of time off from being superheroes. Unfortunately Peter isn't having much fun. He's a bit torn about falling in love with a criminal (Black Cat) and what that means for him as a hero. His friends Mia and Roger try, but they don't have much luck cheering Peter up.
Steve Rogers ALSO isn't having as much fun as he should be. His girlfriend Bernie is excited to be spending time with Steve away from him being Captain America, but Steve is reluctant to completely commit. His last relationship (with Sharon Carter, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.) ended in death and disaster. He doesn't want a repeat of the same happening to him again.
Pete and Steve run into each other as they wander through the fair, they know each other from work at the Daily Bugle (where Steve had worked doing some illustrations in the recent past), but not as Spider-Man and Captain America. Pete, Steve, and company decide to join up and enjoy the fair together.
BUT. . .
Their fun is soon interrupted by a swarm of rats sweeping through the fair! Pete's Spidey-Sense alerts him to danger!
The rats are quickly joined by a feral pack of dogs, led by a twisted creature. . .half man and half rat!
Steve recognizes the man-rat as Vermin. An unfortunate victim of Baron Zemo's experiments in a Mexican castle. A normal man whose brutal and evil nature was brought to the fore by mad science!
Vermin and his minions begin to wreak havoc through the fair.
Both knowing this is a job for a super hero, Pete and Steve tell their loved ones to leave, and then rush to find a place to change into their "business clothes". Both of them find a nearby men's room, quickly change, and then run into each other as they head into battle! They immediately decide to team up to take down Vermin and his minions.
And the battle is joined! It's not an easy fight, but eventually Cap and Spidey gain the upper hand. Vermin and his minions retreat and vanish before the heroes can give chase.
In the aftermath of the fight, an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. shows up on the scene. . .Gail Runciter. She and Captain America had been at odds over her actions during Cap's assault on Zemo's Mexican castle recently. Cap's reaction to her interference had been overly-strong. They agree to talk it out.
At Gail's nearby apartment, she and Cap have a heart to heart talk. They come to terms over their conflict, but then Cap is surprised when Gail reveals that she has feelings for Cap. . .strong feelings that have nothing to do with their work together.
Cap is surprised to realize that he also has feelings toward Gail. Feelings that definitely conflict with his growing relationship with Bernie. The two of them have a moment, but Cap resists the temptation and leaves to sort things out in his head.
MEANWHILE. . .
Peter arrives back at his apartment to find Mia waiting alone for him. Her boyfriend Roger has left and she stayed to make sure Peter was okay after the commotion at the fair. As Mia tends to Peter's wounds, he begins to wonder what it would be like to be with her. . .a normal woman. . .no super-hero/villain drama.
The two of them begin to have a little moment of their own. . .a moment that is interrupted by a news bulletin about Vermin taking over a nearby grocery store! Peter leaves his feeling behind for the moment and quickly rushes a confused Mia out of his apartment. It's back to work as Spider-Man!
As Spidey swings into action and arrives at the grocery store, Captain America also arrives on the scene, having also heard the bulletin. The two of them agree to team up again and finish what was started earlier at the fair.
The two of them head in, even though it's an obvious trap. Spidey's Spider-Sense kicks in and warns of Vermin's ambush, and then it's ON!
As Cap and Spidey battle vermin, they both find themselves distracted and making little mistakes that they shouldn't. They both realize that their moments of temptation are weighing on them more than they thought and affecting them in ways they don't like.
But despite the distractions, both Spidey and Cap shake it off and manage to finally win the day!
The heroes leave Vermin to the authorities and head out together to discuss what happened. . .
As the two heroes relax on a nearby rooftop, they talk about how maybe they were off their game a little bit because they saw something of themselves in Vermin. . .something neither of them liked very much.
Cap and Spidey say their farewells and head back to those who love them, both heroes putting their moments of temptation behind them as lessons learned. All's well that ends well.
THIS is the kind of comic book that brings me right back to my Bronze Age childhood. It's full of action, has a splash of drama, and is generally somewhat silly and forgettable. But over all of that, it's FUN. It's Captain America and Spider-Man teaming up to beat down a villain. The outcome is never in doubt. You KNOW the heroes are going to save the day. It's just good old Bronze Age fun!
That said, J.M. DeMatteis DOES add a little depth to the story by focusing not only on Cap and Spidey, but ALSO Pete and Steve as they resist temptation and ponder what it means to be in love as a superhero.
DeMatteis was the writer on the mainline Captain America title at the time, and from the few issues I have of this period in Cap's history, it seems he was wanting to more fully explore Captain America's "secret" identity of Steve Rogers than other writers before. I like that he carried that through to this seemingly inconsequential team-up issue and made it more than a punch-fest.
On the art side, Kerry Gammill provides some solid work that even has a few pretty great moments. . .my favorite is the page I scanned above where Cap and Spidey are both using the same men's room stalls to change in without realizing it. A great, funny moment! His scenes of Spidey swinging through the city are also very nicely done.
Like I said in my review of Captain America and Hawkeye
, not every comic has to be a masterpiece. Sometimes you just want to have some forgettable fun with some colorful superheroes. That describes THIS comic perfectly.
It's not the greatest comic story ever written. . .but it doesn't have to be. It's not the greatest art I've ever seen. . .but it doesn't have to be. It's not the most memorable comic in my collection. . .but it doesn't have to be. It's just a quick, fun read, full of Bronze Age memories for those who happened to be there at the time.
I can certainly recommend this issue to any fan of Spider-Man or Captain America (or Bronze Age superhero comics in general) as a fun little team-up comic with just a splash of "secret identity" drama.
As far as I can tell, it's never been collected, so you'll have to read it online or find the actual issue in a back issue bin (like I did. . .for TWO lousy dollars). But if you're looking for some good old Bronze Age superhero fun, go ahead and grab this one if you spot it. It's a nice little nugget of Longbox Junk.
Up Next. . .
A few weeks ago I picked up a half-dozen of Marvel's Indiana Jones comics at a yard sale. How about we take a look inside one and see what's going on?
Be there or be square!