Monday, April 25, 2011

Taking the Polar Plunge: Super-Villain Team-Up #14

Super-Villain Team-Up #14 (October 1977)
"A World For the Winning!"

Bill Mantlo-Bob Hall/Don Perlin/Duffy Vohland


Doug:
Hi, kids -- here we are with a second chance for Super-Villain Team-Up. If you recall, the last time we visited this book, the Herb Trimpe art was only slightly worse than the Steve Englehart words. So it's only fair if we check in again a bit later to see if the series improved. Additionally, this one's a two-parter with a fave 1970's book of ours, The Champions. So buckle in, and stop back by next Monday for the conclusion.

Karen: Before we get started, I have to say, I've always loved that Byrne/Austin cover!

Doug: We open on the streets of Latveria. It cracks me up that everyone is always in traditional native costume -- or at least look a few decades out of time! Magneto, in full costume, strides the capital byways, looking to cause some trouble. He has come to Latveria to meet Doom -- but can't seem to get to Castle Latveria.
The monarch has decreed that all in the kingdom must celebrate his victory over the Red Skull in the previous storyline. Magneto, quite put-out by the lack of attention, succeeds in toppling both Latverians and an enormous statue of Doom. Then he takes to the magnetic waves (yeah, whatever that means -- this story will require a suspension of disbelief in regard to the realm of physics) and rides them toward Doom's domicile.

Karen: You know, I never even considered how ludicrous those 'villagers' looked until we started doing reviews. Between Marvel and the old Universal monster films, I guess I'd been conditioned to think that all small towns in Europe looked like that!

Doug: Inside the castle, Doom gloats over a plan that Reed Richards knows nothing of -- a plan that's already been executed.
Suddenly Magneto bursts in through a window, and seems surprised that Doom recognizes him. Say what? Why would Bill Mantlo write such a thing? I thought it was silly -- even in real time, the Marvel Universe would have been 16 years old -- Marvel time, that's at least probably 6-8 years. And Magneto thought someone of Doom's caliber wouldn't have known him? He's further amazed when Doom asks him to recount his recent rejuvenation from his infant state. Magneto's somewhat humiliated, but ends his story by saying how the X-Men ran from him. Not quite the way we reported it here on the BAB!

Karen: Hmmm.... is this actually the first meeting between these two? I can't think of another before this, not off-hand. But then, I haven't read every 60s and 70s Marvel comics. At this stage, Magneto was still not raised quite to Doom's level as a top tier villain. But he wouldn't have to wait long.

Doug: Doom reveals his plan -- cannisters of neurogas have already been released into the atmosphere, essentially making everyone his obedient slave. To prove himself, he works Magneto like a puppet. After enlisting his friendship, the two toast. But Doom has laced Magneto's goblet with a drug that knocks Magnus out. He next finds himself on the streets of Latveria. So, thinking that if he himself is to conquer the world, he's got to break Doom's grip. So he does what any of us would do -- he goes to Manhattan and attacks the Avengers!

Karen: I suppose even if Magneto had knocked politely, there was a good chance the Avengers would have attacked him! But yeah, this is definitely the 'obligatory fight scene'. Still, I enjoyed it on some level.

Doug: It's a four-page conquest, but Magneto makes quick work of the Avengers. I found it odd that the Vision could be subdued so easily (really -- synthetic blood would have iron in it?), as could the ionically-powered Wonder Man. Oh well -- guess it was necessary to the plot. Then to prove his point, Doom holographically appears in the middle of Avengers Mansion and, using the effects of the neurogas, forces the Avengers to bow to him.
Then it gets even more unbelievable. Magneto decides that the Beast can aid him in allying with other heroes who can bring down Doom. He takes the Beast to a quinjet, and then magnetically affects the iron in Hank McCoy's blood, controlling his brain activity in a bid to negate the effects of the neurogas. That's right -- why didn't you think of that? Magnetic mind control. Oh, and in case you thought Mantlo made that up, go back and check Avengers #111 -- that's when Mags did this to the Scarlet Witch.

Karen: Although I like the idea of the neurogas and the whole subversive nature of it, I have a hard time believing that beings like Thor, the Vision, and Wonder Man could succumb to it. But if I was Magneto, I do think I might have chosen Thor or maybe Iron Man instead of the Beast as an ally!

Doug: After striking out at the Baxter Building and at Westchester's School for Gifted Youngsters, the Beast decides that they have one more shot at help -- Los Angeles and the Champions! So away they go;
I'll bet the conversation on that cross-continental flight was fun! The note at the bottom of the last story page states that this is the final issue of Super-Villain Team-Up (although I did have issue #15, which was a reprint of a Doom/Red Skull battle), and up until a couple of years ago, I thought that it was! But lo and behold, there were actually more issues -- over the next three years! I have no idea why it became so sporadic. Does anyone else know?

Doug: I've intimated that Mantlo's script leaves a bit to be desired. He has all of the proper speech patterns down for the most part; I thought the plot was just silly. As we mentioned back when
we looked at this book before, it just seems to be written like some monster movie from the 1930's (and don't get me wrong -- I liked those!). And what of the art team? Well, it's a huge improvement over Trimpe's output earlier. But Perlin's and Vohland's inks tend to be heavy, as I've seen Bob Hall look better than he shows here. So, cancellation? Even though I was fond of this book as a child, I'm feeling that it for the most part doesn't "hold up" on the re-read 30+ years later. Other opinions?

Karen: Mantlo seemed to get put on a lot of titles in the late 70s/ early 80s, but while he usually did a good enough job, I can't think of anything that knocked my socks off. But with SVTU, I think it's a very limited concept to begin with, and not necessarily an easy task to keep it both interesting and making sense. While I enjoyed this as a kid, I would agree, reading it now it has been somewhat disappointing.


10 comments:

Terence Stewart said...

Ew, after my reading of SVTU #3 earler this month, and this review here, I don't think I'll be spending any more moolah on this series.
Hmm..I can't think of any previous meeting of Doom and Magsx, but I'm sure they must have met at some point (did they both not turn up at Reed & Sue's wedding?)

Doug said...

You may be right, Terence.

Here's an idea for a post, and I'll throw it out to all of our fellow Bronze Age bloggers -- first one who wants it can have it: For many of Marvel's short-lived Bronze Age series, it was the rotating creative teams that seemed to most do them in. Can you think of a series that was fantastically imagined, but so poorly executed that it never had a chance? What was out there that, say, had it been driven by Claremont/Byrne/Austin at the height of their collective powers would have been a smash hit? Any ideas?

Doug

Terence Stewart said...

Hmm, not fantastically imagined, as such, but certainly a book that filled a much needed spot at Marvel during the Bronze Age - Ms.Marvel. I imagine if the Claremont and Cockrum team (only lasted two issues!)had been the initial creative team (and Ms.Marvel had worn her Cockrum costume from the beginning), Carol Danvers might have had a much longer run than two+ years.
And she might not have ended up getting raped in The Avengers (thanks Shooter).

Inkstained Wretch said...

Super-Villian Team-Up should get some kind of award for being the most Bronze-Agey series of the Bronze Age.

I've purchased a few issues from the bargain bins and, while they're not really good in any objective sense, they are goofy fun.

Regarding could-have-been's that never had a chance, my nominee is Infinity, Inc. The first dozen issues were excellent, then penciler Jerry Ordway left. Then the Crisis happened and with it the ending of the Earth-2 continuity, the whole point of the series.

It soon became clear that Roy Thomas was struggling to keep up with how DC was rewriting the rules from month to month. Then came the rotating door of artists (some great, some meh). It sputtered to a close and Roy Thomas went back to Marvel.

J.A. Morris said...

I didn't read this story until the 80s, by that time Magneto had nearly god-like power.
But yeah,I thought the way he destroyed the Avengers was a little off. I also didn't think Magneto would be stupid enough to let Doom slip him a mickey!

And yeah, Magneto's "mind control through iron" is a stupid power, pretty sure it was abandoned after this story. Englelhart wrote the Avengers story. "The Stainless One" is one of my favorite creators, but that's not one his better ideas.

I don't know why so many Bronze age titles failed, but Doug's theory about inconsistent creative teams sounds accurate.

Fred W. Hill said...

Ugh, this story seemed all right when I first read it all those decades ago, but now it just strikes me as dreck. Not all that bad, really, but not exactly inspired either. Perhaps I'm being unfair because I have the image of Magneto as Claremont, Byrne & Austin depicted him in his 2nd go round against the "All New" X-Men and he was so much more interesting in that story than in this one, where he and Doc Doom come off as cardboard cut-out villains. Dangerous, yeah, but boring.

Edo Bosnar said...

I agree with Inkstained's assessment of SVTU: not a great series by any stretch of the imagination, but some goofy fun and even a few rather good issues here and there. Also, the Red Skull story in those last two issues, which came out on that glacial schedule, is actually quite good.
As for your question about generally well-conceived yet poorly-executed series that never had a chance due to shifting creative teams and general editorial cluelessness, I would say this is a perfect description of the entirety of Atlas/Seaboard's output.
Sticking to Marvel, though, I have to say one series that came to mind, even though it wasn't in fact all that bad, is the Champions. There were just way too many writers (Isabella, Mantlo, Claremont) and artists (Heck, Hall, Tuska, Byrne, etc.) hovering over that pot.

Doug said...

All --

I wrote the framing for Champions #16 last night. Sorry to say, but this story may not end any better than it began! Check back next Monday.

Doug

Anonymous said...

For some reason, i always liked seeing the Angel with the Avengers. I know he's pretty useless, but the costume is so cool, it just looked great on the cover. ( He's one of my favorite Marvel Legends figures, the classic red look, but his wings make him impossible to pose). I love this cover.

starfoxxx

Michael Alford said...

It's always a little painful to read some of the things they have Magneto doing if you understand physics at all.

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