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 little 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. Seventeen 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!