Monday, January 16, 2012

It's A Bug's Life: Marvel Team-Up 60

Marvel Team-Up #60 (August 1977)
"A Matter of Love... and Death!"
Chris Claremont-John Byrne/Dave Hunt

Karen: Howdy folks. You might recall that at the end of part one of our story, it looked as if Yellowjacket had joined that big hive in the sky, as our villain Equinox caused a tanker truck to explode, catching YJ in the flames. As we begin part two, Equinox is excitedly yelling that he has killed an Avenger. This sets off that other Avenger, YJ's wife the Wasp, but sadly, her powers are no match for the villain. Spidey pulls Jan away just as she's about to get blasted.

Doug: I found the dialogue to be really clunky in the first few pages. Again (I just want to curse myself every time I suggest this), a lit
tle decompression would have been more impactful in regard to the way Jan's emotions played out. While Byrne's pictures are definitely pretty to look at, I'm finding that Chris Claremont is struggling to get away from the dock. And what should we make of Equinox? I sense that he's a minor-leaguer, and more trouble than he's worth. He is sort of cool-looking, however, especially the way the heat/ice alternates on his body.

Karen: Sure, there were a few rough spots
here and there, but all in all, I thought Claremont did well. I agree that Equinox seems like a minor threat - I think that was a frequent problem with the MTU villains. If Spidey can handle Electro on his own, Equinox doesn't seem like he should be so difficult. But that's who we got here. Spidey and Jan begin to question Dr. Sorenson, the mother of Equinox. She defends her son by saying the thermodynamic processes in his body are affecting his mind, but that doesn't go over well with the Wasp. She grabs the doctor and yells at her, prompting Spider-Man to pull her off. Wasp snaps at him, saying. "Who've you ever lost?" Uh oh...Why not just drive a dagger in his heart? Spider-Man quietly responds, "Someone very close." But before that conversation can go any further, Equinox is on the move again, tossing cars like toys as he pursues our heroes. Dr. Sorenson tries using an experimental ray on him, but to no avail. Spidey scoops up the doc and swings off with the Wasp right behind. They realize they're going to have to have a plan. Since the Avengers are out of town, they head for (where else?) the Baxter Building.

Doug: Byrne's visual of Spidey with his shoulders seemingly slumped, head bowed and the hesitation in his voice is solid, even if it is a very narrow
panel. I'd have liked to have seen floating heads of not only Gwen, but how about of Uncle Ben, too? And back to my previous comment, about the lack of emotional feeling coming through in the first scenes -- for me this just segued back into standard superheroing a little too quickly. I know Equinox was a violent menace bent on not only Spidey-destruction but property destruction in general, but... Ah, maybe I'm just being old and grumpy.

Karen: During their trip to see the FF, Dr. Sorenson explains how her son Terry came to be Equinox. Frankly it's kind of boring but essentially her scientist husband grew resentful of her success and started physically taking it out on her. She finally left him, but one night as she came to see him (not sure why) his house blew up. Seve
nteen year-old Terry ran in to save his dad but was caught in some strange energy beams, and of course, became Equinox. She tried to reverse the process but couldn't. Terry got crazy, and began a life of crime.

Doug: I guess if Barry Allen could become the Flash from some lightning and chemicals, then anything's fair. Here's a question for you -- since Equinox is apparently not wearing any clothes, then why does his head look as if he's wearing Wolverine's mask? Was that a cosmetic sort of thought so that in his first appearance readers could keep the bad guy separate from the Torch and Iceman?

Karen: Yeah, Equinox seems oddly inhuman. Besides the strange head shape, he also has fangs. If anything, he looks sort of demonic, which would make sense if his origin was a supernatural one. But otherwise, it's just weird. Once at the Baxter Building, Wasp is able to gain access with her Avengers ID card (don't leave home without it). As they enter the building though, the lights go out. Seems Equinox has zapped a sub-station nearby. Of course, Reed Richards would never rely purely on NYC's power grid, so the lights come back up immediately -however, the power loss means the building is operating off the back-up computer, and apparently it doesn't know that our heroes are authorized to be there! Lasers start firing and Spidey scrambles to get Dr. Sorenson to safety. But the door of the room he enters locks behind them, leaving Wasp on the other side. Jan's OK though -in fact, better than OK. She seems to be faster and stronger than ever before. Instinctively, she knows this is Hank's doing. She enters the ventilation system and flies to the main control room, where she shuts off the security system.

Doug: I really liked the panel where the Wasp rips open the grill. Her facial expression was well done. Four panels after that, there's an image that looks like it was ripped right out of Avengers #83 when the Wasp first spied the Lady Liberators. Didn't you think she negotiated those air ducts just a bit too easily?

Karen: Were you expecting there to be lasers in them too, like in The Andromeda Strain? Honestly, the thought never occurred to me! While Wasp has been having fun, Spidey and Dr. Sorenson have been holed up in the FF lab, improving her device. Unfortunately, using it on Equinox means being in close contact. And of course, who should show up but Equinox himself, burning a hole in the wall to make his entrance. Man, are the FF gonna be PO'ed!

Doug: Yeah, whoa -- what about how ol' "Noxie" (shoot me --
I hate that name) got to the point where he could blow out the wall? He scaled the Baxter Building like King Kong! Ummm..... Do you think Dr. Sorenson questioned Spidey's scientific aptitude? Parker assembled that new weapon about as quickly as Reed Richards himself would have. But back to the Baxter Building, and this thought would ring true in regard to Avengers Mansion as well -- don't you think there would be better security around the perimeter of the building? I mean, I realize these places are supposed to be right on a city block, with civilians all around. But I can't help but think that, with access to the Negative Zone just inside (for example), getting close to that sort of thing was just too easy.

Karen: Spidey takes on Equinox by himself, wishing the Wasp was there "to distract Noxie" but finds he's in trouble. Suddenly, a figure appears -is it the Wasp? The Thing? Aunt Petunia? No! It's Yellowjacket! That's right, he's not dead! Equinox is shocked, Spidey is shocked -but the Wasp, who has just flown into the room, is really shocked. Hank tells her to let Equinox have it with her stingers -and amazingly, they blast him across the room. While the thermodynamically challenged youth is still reeling, YJ slaps Dr. Sorenson's device on him and it stops his fire and ice powers -although he isn't quite human looking. Jan throws herself at Hank, who explains that when the truck blew up, he shrank to insect size and rode the shock waves. It rendered him unconscious but not dead. He also says that Jan's increased powers are due to a serum he gave her -her birthday present. Now the smaller she gets, the more powerful she gets. It took the adrenalin rush she felt when she thought Hank had died to activate it. YJ, Wasp, and Dr. Sorenson head off with Equinox in tow to see the police, leaving behind a poor wall-crawler who hopes he can clean up the Baxter Building before the FF come back.

Doug: The ending was good -- I really thought it was cool that Spider-Man felt like he should clean up. Nice detail. Of course since I'm using the new trade paperback, I peeked ahead to the next issue to see what happened next. The clean-up excuse was a nice bridge between issues 60 and 61. I didn't have a problem with the explanation of YJ's reappearance, although I wonder how long it took him to figure out that our cast had relocated to the Baxter Building. By the way, and maybe our readers will have to help us out here -- you cited the panel where YJ says they are taking Equinox to the police. Sure he's depowered, and is wearing the dampening harness-doohickey. Where did super-baddies end up back in 1977? Was the Vault open for business yet?

Karen: This was a fun romp, just a simple little story that delivered some solid entertainment. It was nice to see YJ and Wasp outside of the Avengers -that didn't happen too often!

Doug: I agree with you about the two-part story, and about the little Avengers -- and that may seem surprising given some of my criticisms above. I do believe that if Claremont had written this a bit later, after he'd become more comfortable with Spider-Man it might have been better. But Byrne's art really holds it together. By the way, if anyone is wondering where this 2-parter fits in with his X-Men writing schedule, these Marvel Team-Up issues fall right around X-Men #'s 105-106 -- and you may immediately recognize that the Claremont/Byrne run in the X-Men had not yet begun! Of course, they had been a creative duo on Iron Fist for well over a year, however. Hey -- news you can use!


William said...

The Claremont/Byrne era of MTU is absolutely one of my all-time favorite comic-book runs ever. I remember purchasing and reading them when when they originally came out, and I was but a wee lad. I think it was the one comic that I bought religiously every month. The art was so incredible to me and the stories to fun and action packed, I just couldn't get enough.

Even though I have all the individual issues, I couldn't wait to get the trade when it came out (which I did for Christmas, YAY!). I just finished up to the Captain Britain 2-parter yesterday. Don't want to rush through the book, so I'm waiting a while to start reading again.

As for this particular issue (and the last), I love the artwork, (but then I am a bonafide 'Byrne Victim') and I really like the way he portrayed Equinox's pulsating fire/ice power by alternating it from panel to panel. It was a great solution of how to get across an "animated" effect in a printed comic.

The writing is typical Claremont, a little dramatic (but I kind of like that). However, like Doug, I detested the way he had the characters keep using the nickname "Noxie" ad nauseum. Man that got annoying. In fact, when I read the story I substituted, the word Equinox most of the time in my head. (I know, I'm weird)

And speaking of old "Noxie", I will have to say that I don't agree with Karen's assessment that he seems like a "minor" threat. It looks to me that the guy was written to be all but invincible. He has the powers of the Human Torch and Iceman combined, and he appears to be practically indestructible as well. As evidenced by last issue when he survived and calmly walked away from a massive gas truck explosion. To me, Equinox comes across as an "A" level threat that would be more in the Avengers' or the FF's league. So, Spidey, YJ and Wasp would definitely be outmatched here.

Doug: To answer your question about what they did with super villains back then. I'm not 100% sure on this, but I believe it is answered in the very next issue by Jean DeWolff. She is going to confront some "major action", and she asks central for help from "Kris Keating's hot shot SWAT goons." Which I assume is some kind of special police unit that was put together to tackle super villains. They aren't available BTW, so Jean has to go it alone. But that's for next time.

Anyway, you guys did a nice job as usual reviewing this issue (and the last). Looking forward to the future reviews you have planned for the next few issues. BTW, Love that shot of YJ standing in shadow in front of the that melty hole in the wall. Coooool.

david_b said...

I recall picking up ish 59 back in the day and enjoying it, but didn't actually buy this issue until just a few years ago.

It was a very succinct, cleanly-done 2-part story. The art was consistently beautiful at Byrne's highest standards. Nice understated inking throughout as well.

I couldn't stand the 'Noxie' drops either (it just got obnoxious), it seemed like the heroes (and Claremont) played down the otherwise huge danger of this villain. He could have taken on the FF or Avengers quite well, had he perhaps been smarter or events played more in his favor.

Enhancing Jan's powers without her knowing..? Um, is that ethical? Otherwise it was great seeing otherwise-supporting heroes the Pyms in action.

Great review!

Doug said...

Just to be fair, William, I too stated that I felt that Equinox was not an A-lister. You raise a good point about the combined powers of the Torch and Iceman -- in many circles those two would be regarded as the weak links of their respective teams (OK, Angel has to get a vote somewhere along the line). So even when combined, I don't know... What Equinox does have going for him is that he's apparently super-strong, and seems to be drifting more toward "evil megalomaniac" or some such thing right before our eyes. But I just can't see Iron Man or Thor, or even if Reed Richards had been present, having too much of a bother with this fellow.

But point taken about the tanker truck -- I suppose he was either able to absorb and channel the heat or somehow use his icing powers to cool the air around him. Impressive either way.


Edo Bosnar said...

David_b, you could even say it got ob-noxie-ous - sorry, couldn't resist...
I have to say, it's the little details in this issue that remind me why I just loved Marvel so much back then: the easy camaraderie between Spidey and YJ & Wasp, the fact that Spidey stays behind to clean up the Baxter Building after the dust-up is over - it all just made the MU seem like this kind of fun, comfortable place. And it this seemed to especially come to the fore in titles like Marvel Team-up and Marvel 2-in-1.

William said...

Doug said, "Just to be fair, William, I too stated that I felt that Equinox was not an A-lister."

Sorry, my bad. I wasn't trying to come across 'snarky' or anything, (in case it seemed that way). Just meant the comment as a lighthearted difference of opinion. As we all know, it is sometimes difficult to infer attitude in written posts. : )

I will agree with you both that Equinox is not an "A-list" villain. He's just a powerful one. He could have actually become quite a cool recurring threat for someone, if they had used him correctly and more often. He had an interesting power and backstory (with the whole mother angle and all). He also had a cool name. Does anyone know if Noxie (you know that's growing on me) was ever brought back after this story? I don't recall ever seeing him again myself.

Doug said...

William --

No worries at all -- you're fine. I just didn't want my partner coming along later and saying "What the??", since she played off a comment I'd made first.

And I believe this series of comments has ramped up our geek quotient, particularly in my previous statements on how Equinox may have saved himself!



Dougie said...

I can't believe Mark Gruenwald would have left Equinox out when writing about Project Pegasus, maybe in Quasar (I liked Quasar!). But if he did, hopefully Reed and the two Hanks worked together to cure, er, Noxie.

Anthony said...

According to this Equinox was taken to Project Pegasus after the events in this issue. I guess Mark
Gruenwald remembered Equinox when working on the Project Pegasus entry in the Marvel Handbook.

Doug said...

Thanks, Anthony and Dougie -- that's good information!


Fred W. Hill said...

Did they ever match Equinox against Mercurio (from Conway-era Thor)? As for MTU-60, fun if not essential. At least Claremont ditched Stan's old bit of having the Wasp blather about how much she hates and distrusts spiders and anyone associated with them, but it was rather snarky of her to just assume that Spidey had never suffered any great personal loss. But, hey, we'll just put it down to being under emotional stress, as when Peter snapped at Mary Jane after returning home after what we all thought then and for over 20 years later was his final battle with Norman Osborne.

J.A. Morris said...

This was one of the first back issues I ever bought, so it's a bit of a sentimental favorite. The art is good, but yeah, the dialogue & story are a bit of a mess.

But I love the panel where Yellowjacket appears out of the shadows. I knew he wasn't really dead, but that's a real "f*#k yeah!" moment!

Related Posts with Thumbnails