Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Shrouded in Mystery... Super-Villain Team-Up 5

Super-Villain Team-Up #5 (April 1976)
"...and Be a Villain!"
Steve Englehart-Herb Trimpe/Don Perlin

NOTE: Doug's resource for images used in this series of posts didn't reproduce well for the blog. You'll notice that the panels we've chosen appear somewhat distorted. Our apologies to all of you, our following masses, for falling below our usually high standards!

Doug: You know, Karen and I regularly bat around ideas for the blog -- we're always chewing on a "to-do" list. One of the books that keeps coming up is Super-Villain Team-Up. We whet our appetites just a bit earlier in the summer during "Giant-Size June" when we looked at G-S SVTU #1. We'd now like to take a three-issue spin through a story chock full of heroes, villains, and a new mystery man named... the Shroud!

Doug: Of your two faithful critics, I would say that I am more picky about my comics to the art side, while Karen probably leans more toward the story side. That's not at all to say that we don't think both are important -- I just think that my impressions and/or prejudices of a book are formed as soon as I open the cover and see the interior artwork. This book in particular, with the nice Buckler/Sinnott cover was a disappointment to me when I saw that Herb Trimpe did the story. Now, before you folks from Herb Trimpe's Hulk and other parts unknown jump all over me, let me say that I felt that Trimpe's Hulk was fine. In fact, I liked his work there. But I'll say that reading through this issue gave me a "throwback" feeling... I felt like I was reading a Larry Lieber/Dick Ayers composition from one of Marvel's B-list Silver Age titles. This book just didn't have that Bronze Age feel for me that some of the other things we've reviewed have given. Thoughts?

Karen: I pretty much agree with you, Doug. The combination of Trimpe and Perlin does no one any favors. While I enjoyed Trimpe's work on Hulk, I've never thought he could draw the Thing particularly well. This issue just felt flat to me. And as much as I usually praise Englehart, I thought this was one of his weaker efforts. Doom in particular seems to come across as a one-dimensional, mustache-twirling villain, not something I expect from Englehart.

Doug: As we begin, Namor bursts into Reed Richards' lab through a window. I don't know about you, but I'd think that there would be some external security, cameras, something -- you telling me that a guy (no matter how strong) can just fly right up to the Baxter Building unannounced and unimpeded and penetrate the outer skin? Seemed a bit lackluster for a big brain like Reed to be so defenseless. Anyway, Namor collapses on the floor of the lab and Reed immediately picks him up and places him in a huge vat of water (because scientists just always have huge 2,000 gallon vats of water sitting around). The rest of the FF barges in to see what all the commotion is, and Namor revives and tells them a story.

Karen: I almost laughed to see that big open tank of water in the lab!

Doug: Namor recounts how Dr. Doom had been after him to form an alliance and that Doom was becoming desperate, so much so that he ambushed Namor and zapped him with a ray that negated the operations of his lifesuit. Once felled, Doom gathered up the prince and flew him over and then into the ocean, to Atlantis. While there, and threatening him all the while, Doom unleashed an assault on several buildings and monuments in an effort to secure Namor's unyielding allegiance. At the sight of his kingdom's destruction, Namor relented and swore himself to Doom's service.

Karen: My memory is a little hazy regarding what was happening with Atlantis in the Marvel Universe at this point. Doom comments on Subby's "comatose subjects" -but I can't recall how they got that way. And we never actually see them, just the city.

Doug: Doom's image appears in the middle of Reed's lab (of course, Ben has to make the obligatory leap at Doom, even though Doom's a wraith), and Doom postures a bit for the crowd and informs the FF that Namor is in his service now. We cut away to Latveria and see a confident, even triumphant Doom stroll around his kingdom's streets. I think it was really at this point in the story when I came to the realization that this was a story being told ten years later than it probably should have appeared. I just didn't think Englehart was at the top of his game, and Trimpe's page layouts were so simplistic, often employing a very boring 4-panel structure. None of the envelope-pushing in panel design that had begun the Bronze Age from the likes of Adams and Steranko, Colan... that just wasn't here. It was really just a very straightforward story. Not a bad story, but just not overly dynamic.

Karen: Exactly, the whole affair was very pedestrian. I got the feeling that, for Englehart at least, this book might have come last on his list. The effort here is just so...blah.

Doug: As Reed works to beat the clock against the serum to which Doom has subjected Namor, Johnny spies a shadowy figure across the street on a rooftop. Assuming it to be one of Doom's spies, Johnny flames on and goes on attack mode. To his startled eyes he comes face-to-face with a man clad in all black, with no visible eyes. This is our introduction to the Shroud, a Batman-like fellow. I draw that comparison for a few reasons -- he seems prepared for any eventuality (like Johnny's flame), he has a dark personality, and he's quite adept at fisticuffs.

Karen: The Shroud was the one interesting thing in this story. He's definitely got that 'Dark Knight' feel to him, but also that mystery man thing going, like the Shadow. That becomes much more evident later on. I did kind of think the asbestos-lined cape sounded a little silly. And did Johnny launch a fireball at him before he knew that?!

Karen: Something I thought was kind of odd: Johnny musing about how much better Namor looked in his swim trunks instead of his blue uniform. Johnny thinks that Namor looked like a Bronx gang leader! I have to say it took a long time for that blue outfit to grow on me.

Doug: That's funny, because I always thought Namor's black suit was really cool -- I especially liked the wings. So Johnny takes his whuppin' and then hustles back to the Baxter Building. Reed snaps at his interruption, which shows everyone that this may be the one time Reed fails to solve a problem. Namor, feeling helpless and defeated, breaks out of his vat (hey, duh, dude -- there was no lid on the thing!) causing untold water damage throughout the FF's headquarters, and flies off (but he does thank Reed for his efforts). Of course, since Doom had infected Namor, he doesn't get too far until he begins to fall. Doom appears in the sky, zaps Namor right out of the air, and they both disappear. From one side of the street the FF swear to defeat Doom, while on the other the Shroud makes the same personal pledge. To be continued...

Karen: Yes, we will continue to look at this series, but I have to say that this issue was not the most encouraging. It's been years since I read SVTU; I hope my good memories are not displanted with this new read-through!


Edo Bosnar said...

STVU was a mixed bag. There were some really fun and/or over-the-top stories full of Bronze Age goodness, but some mediocre stuff like this issue as well.
I think the best way to read SVTU is in the Essentials volume in a few sittings - which I did a few years ago. Then the good stories kind of balance out the crappier stuff.

Doug said...

I had this issue as a kid, and while I recall most things (some through the hazy lens of time), this one I really didn't -- same for #'s 6 and 7, which we'll get to later. As I said (and will say again), Englehart's just off his game here. Karen likens this stuff to some hokey 1940's serial, and I agree. Just not so good.


Herb Trimpe's Hulk said...

Don't worry, Doug, even I have to admit Herb Trimpe wasn't put on this Earth to do conventional super-heroes, so I take no offence at your complaints about his artwork on this. More off-beat stuff like the Hulk and Son of Satan always suited him better.

As for why the Atlanteans were in a coma. I know there was a strand in the Sub-Mariner's mag where they were sent into one when Namor collided with a sunken ship, unleashing its cargo of nerve gas. The nerve gas also robbed him of the power to breathe on land and forced him to wear the suit. Whether the coma they were suffering from in this tale is the same one - bearing in mind it was from a couple of years later - I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...

Love this site. Always enjoy both of your analysis as well as the occasional articles in Back Issue. I have to admit, in spite of the often rough art and hurried storytelling, I always had a bit of a fondness for SVTU.

They weren't exactly complex stories, most "team up" comics never were. They followed a predictable formula for the most part. But when I first read SVTU in the 70s, the idea of a comic book centered completely around and about nothing but villains was fresh and original and intriguing. When heroes fought villains, we knew basically who was going to win and what each characters motive was. But villains battling villains had an element of surprise to it.

Even though the series centered around Dr. Doom, it wasn't always clear who would win if Doom battled Red Skull or Magneto. That's what made it interesting in spite of being formulaic.

J.A. Morris said...

I generally liked SVTU,but I have to agree about the efforts of Trimpe & Engelhart in this issue.

Could someone please refresh my memory about why Namor started wearing the black-winged costume? Did it have something to do with staying on land longer? Google failed to answer this question. I've always been partial to this costume because it's what he wore in this silly story,first time I ever saw Namor:

Karen said...

Thanks Herb Trimpe's Hulk for your memories regarding the reason the Atlanteans were comatose. I only read Sub-Mariner intermittently - I'd pick it up when the cover looked cool! I thought there was some sort of ecological disaster but I don't really know if I read that story or not. I do recall Namor having to get the suit from Reed in order to breathe on land. I don't think he needs it any more though. you'd think it would gall him to wear something Richards made!


Anonymous said...

I got the Essecials Volume and read it in one sitting. I remember the stories int he mid seventies. However I never got the chance to buy all the issues. For the first time in 30 years I got to finish the saga. The Essencials line showed me Wally Wood worked on this saga. Never having purchased the issues, it was great to see him in action.

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