Monday, January 25, 2016

BAB Classic: "Before the Awesome Power of the Dark Rider!" Marvel Team-Up 43

This post was originally published on 7 April 2010.

Marvel Team-Up 43 (March 1976)"A Past Gone Mad!"Bill Mantlo-Sal Buscema/Mike Esposito

Doug: Face Front, Marvelites -- it's the penultimate chapter to our little tour through Salem, Mass., circa 1692. When we left off, Doom had arrived on the scene in all his pomposity to face the Dark Rider. Mather falls apart, claiming allegiance to this new "angel of light". While the Dark Rider offers Mather to Doom, Doom backhands ol' Cotton, sending him reeling back toward Spidey and the Vision. It's obvious a face-off is coming!

Karen: I thought it was quite some hyperbole for Doom to say to the Rider that "It was your power that drew me here...power such as even Doom has never known!" considering that Doom had once stolen the power cosmic of the Silver Surfer! But I love the way Sal drew that backhand -whoosh!!

Doug: The Dark Rider reveals that his only interest in Doom and the others of his time is their knowledge of magic. As Spidey and the Vision now move in, the Rider unleashes a cat that had been perched on his shoulder. The cat, like the raven in the previous issue, begins to grow, posing a formidible opponent for our heroes. This scene is a nice two-page spread, where the Rider tells Doom his own origin -- it's a nice recap of the origin tale from way back in FF Annual #2.

Karen: A giant cat. Spidey and the Vision have fought aliens, robots, monsters....yet they are in trouble facing a giant kitty cat. Oh please.

Doug: The bad kitty gets whacked, but by whom? Ah, yes -- the Scarlet Witch has arrived, weakened as she is from her ordeals of the past two issues. Apparently the jig is up (or something), because all of a sudden the Dark Rider flips off his lid, revealing a quite curious look. First off, he sports a Mohawk hair-do. Next, he has shriveled lips like he doesn't have his dentures in, yet has teeth that have been filed to a point (think Dee Snider of Twisted Sister). Lastly, he grows. Really big, he grows.

Karen: This guy reminds me of Necrodamus from Defenders #1, also drawn by Sal.

Doug: Scripter Bill Mantlo cuts us away to a courtroom in Salem, as John Proctor meets his fate. Two pages are devoted to more of the Witch Trials, with the young girls frothing at the mouth and proclaiming "They be witches!" and stuff like that. Even the judge is called out.

Karen: The court room scene, as well as the Salem history lesson in the previous issue, seem over-long. Not all of us are fascinated by this particular point in history the way Mantlo seemed to be!

Doug: Back to the battle, Doom utters one of the greatest lines of his career: "Back! Back, you damnable leech!" Awesome. That is something the Doc would say. Great characterization by Mantlo.

Karen: Yes, Doom constantly referring to himself in the third person was a fitting tribute to his ego.

Doug: During all of this, Wanda is for the most part useless. Spidey and the Vision, as well as Doom, are out-classed. The issue ends with a triumphant, gigantic Dark Rider holding the defeated Doom in his hand as Kong once held Fay Wray. But be optimistic, O Keeper of the Flame -- this yarn's "To Be Continued"!


Humanbelly said...

It's deja vu all over again. . .
So, this may be a gross over-simplification, but at the end of the first issue of this arc, Spidey and other(s) are trapped in the past, facing a threat that is as convoluted as it is dire (See that Claremont-ism I threw in there? Yeah? Yeah?). Things look bleak.

At the end of this third issue, Spidey/other(s) are trapped in the past-- yadda-yadda-- threat is convoluted/dire-- razza-razza-- Things look bleak.

Boy, do I ever remember getting to the end of this issue-- I may have said out loud, "Come on! Are you kidding me??" It's almost like a clever magic trick-- the plot really never moves forward at all (or barely does so), but the reader is distracted from that fact by how crowded the whole darned thing is getting! There are probably some smart comparisons to be made to WAITING FOR GODOT or ROSENCRANTZ & GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD. . . but I'll leave those for more apt literary minds than mine. . .

Mantlo does succumb to that siren song of comic book hyperbole, with the whole "power such as I have never known" pronouncement by Doom. It's a largely harmless, common convention, sure-- but it is just so wildly out of place in a team-up book like this. As soon as a reader disengages from a story in order to go, "Yeah, right. Tell me another. . . ", then that short-cut toward gravity and potential consequence backfires completely and becomes a disservice to the story.
This was a second-tier title. Nothing of truly cosmic consequence was ever going to take place in it-- every kid out there realized that. As Doug & Karen point out--- really? So this guy's more powerful than the Surfer? Than Mephisto? Really? Thennnnnnnn why haven't we ever heard of him before? Hmmmm-- perhaps he's Sentry's dad--?

But-- I nitpick.

Y'know-- it's all kind of like watching a week of Dark Shadows, or perhaps the earliest of Dr Who episodes. The situation is set up quickly. . . and then the bulk of the storyline for several episodes keeps you in a highly-revved neutral, stringing you along. . . and then there's a ton of actual "event" right at the end as a payoff. (Pretty much the standard soap-opera format since, like, yeesh-- Marconi invented the wireless. . . !) But-- when your installments are crawling in 4 weeks apart, welllllllll. . .


Doug said...

HB -

And... "I've never seen anyone move that fast!"

How's that snow thing working for you? Are you home today? Take it easy if you're shoveling, brother!


Edo Bosnar said...

Gotta love Sal's patented swooshing punches and backhands.
Otherwise, I take offense at Karen's suggestion that a giant kitty can't be a formidable adversary. We know that normal-size, real-life cats seem to have no problems fending off bears and alligators, so I don't see why a giant-size feline wouldn't give Spidey and Vizh a run for their money.

Karen said...

Honestly, these issues and storyline are pretty terrible, separately and as a whole. Everybody involved, especially the editor, thought it was a good idea to devote four issues to this? Or more likely, they just didn't care. Sure -throw in Dr. Doom, the Vision, whoever. Maybe we'll get good sales.

These are the kinds of issues that you have vaguely fond memories of, and when you go back and read them, they are not at all what you thought they were. It's like a cold slap to the face.

It also seems somewhat cruel to present these on a Monday to boot! Oh well, you're tough, you can all handle it.

Doug said...

I just re-read our review. True confession - I just picked this series to re-run because often we've been encouraged to re-present posts from the past that hand't gotten too many comments.

But upon looking through it again, my partner and I seem to have been less than enthused to write about this ish! Sheesh... I'm not sure we can call this one even a labor of love.

Ah, well. It's almost February and there are some cool reviews in the slow cooker, just waiting to land on your BAB plates. Hang in there!


Dr. Oyola said...

I may have commented this before, but if podcasts about comics are your thing, Traveling through the Bronze Age covered the first two issues of this arc (before going on indefinite hiatus) and have a lot of fun poking fun at them.

Marvel Team-Up #41

Marvel Team-Up #42

As for HB's comment about this being a second tier title - as a kid I was unaware of that kind of stuff. Team-up books like this and MTIO were among my FAVORITE books to get. Looking back I realize how they tend to be rushed and the writing is usually bad and the art frequently not up to snuff either - but I think what I liked about them was the ability to see some of my favorite C-List characters interact w/ some of my favorite A-list characters.

Edo Bosnar said...

I agree with Osvaldo about the team-up titles, they were favorites when I first started reading comics at a young age, and I still liked them quite a bit even after I became 'sophisticated' enough to realize they were second tier. In fact, DC Comics Presents and Brave & the Bold were easily my favorite Superman and Batman books (in the case of the former, it was actually the only Supes book I bought on a more or less regular basis).
And Osvaldo, those two episodes of Traveling Through the Bronze Age are pretty funny. Generally I liked their show, although their tendency to apparently drink pretty heavily while recording sometimes showed, and not in a good way...

Dr. Oyola said...

Edo, you should try Teen Titans Wasteland. It is more structured and less drunky. :)

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