Thursday, January 21, 2016

BAB Classic: "Aye, They Be Witches!" Marvel Team-Up 42

This post was originally published on 31 March 2010.

Marvel Team-Up 42 (February 1976)
"Visions of Hate!"
Bill Mantlo-Sal Buscema/Mike Esposito

Doug: Here we go -- part 2 of our four-parter set in Salem, Mass. Salem, Mass. in 1692, that is! We pick it up right where our tale finished, with Spidey, Wanda, and the Vision in the heart of a witch-hunting mob led by a crazed Cotton Mather.

Doug: The mob starts to get nasty, hitting the Vision in the face with a stone. Wanda unleashes a hex against the assailant, in the form of a swarm of locusts. Can there be any doubt now that she (and her companions, too) is a witch? The Vision going intangible and then immediately hard-as-a-diamond doesn't help matters, although it does preserve our heroes lives for a short time. However, Wanda is eventually grazed by a bullet, Spidey is overwhelmed by numbers, and the Vision is knocked out of commission by a power burst from Mather's cross.

Karen:Okay, I really have got to protest how easily Spidey went down to this mob of yahoos. This is a guy who has fought the Lizard, the Rhino, heck, even the Hulk, yet he gets knocked out by a bunch of pitchfork-wielding nuts? This was a case of Mr. Mantlo doing something for his convenience as a writer, not because it actually made sense in the story.

Doug: I'd have to agree with you after you cite those super-baddies. It was contrived, wasn't it?
Doug: When Spidey awakens, he finds himself shackled by the wrists and in a jail cell with other townsfolk. Wanda and the Vision are shackled across the room from him. He has a benefactor in John Proctor, who gives Spidey a lengthy discourse on the goings on in Salem over the past year which have brought them to this point. It's a tale of voodoo, witchcraft, false accuasations, and unfair/unquestioning justice. Spider-Man soon bursts his bounds, frees the Vision, and it's off they go to find out just what the heck is going on.

Karen: So... can we safely say that Bill Mantlo had probably done some reading about the Salem Witch incidents and was fascinated by them? Because we get a heaping three pages of history right in the middle of this story! This really seemed excessive to me.

Doug: I agree with you, as an adult. But, as a child of 10, I thought it added some necessary layers to the story. Let's face it -- you just don't get stuff like that in the 4th grade. Shoot, we were probably still making Pilgrim hats and construction paper Indian headdresses at that point!!

Doug: Spying a bright light in the distance, our two heroes go to investigate. Sneaking over, they see Cotton Mather in conversation with a dark figure atop a black horse, and holding a raven. The man in black identifies himself as the Dark-Rider. The Vision, seeing Mather as the man who hurt Wanda, lashes out at him. The Rider looses his raven against Spidey, and as the Wall-Crawler moves against it, it begins to grow. An eye-blast from the Vision kills it, and it reverts to its original size. As the Rider confronts Spider-Man, the scene is interupted by a new voice -- a voice that belongs to Dr. Doom!

Karen: The Vision seemed a little too emotional here, attacking Mather rather than waiting to find out more details about what's going on. Still, considering that Wanda was injured I can let that one go. The Dark Rider's reference to "people of this time" is a definite clue that he himself is not of that time period. The plot thickens. The appearance of Doom at the end was appropriately dramatic.

Doug: Yeah, you're right. I did a quick re-read on that balloon -- I guess I'd originally glossed over it thinking the Rider was referring to the colonists. But no, Spidey clearly says that "people of this time" means he and Vizh. Spoiling our next post on this story, did you notice in one panel where the Rider's face is partially shown that he has red hair? He sure doesn't look like that in the next two issues.

Doug: Mantlo has crafted a really fun story. The historical setting lends itself to a backdrop of adventure, the characters are fun, and each issue so far has had enough twists and surprise endings to keep the reader on the edge of his/her seat. I'm looking forward to the next issue!


Humanbelly said...

This is from the period when Sal was penciling about 27 titles a month, wasn't it? While there's certainly nothing wrong with his work (other than it seems a touch stiff in places), it does have a sense of being very "basic". Very by-the-book. . . not particularly innovative or thought-through, y'know? But the story-telling's clear and the action holds to Stan's old maxim of being able to follow the plot w/out reading the words. And of course Sal is one of the few guys out there who could make every character look House-Style correct-- which is hugely important in a book w/ a perpetually rotating cast.

What do folks think of Espisito's inks? I think this title was his main job for quite awhile-- he was the constant for a good chunk of its initial years. Sometimes I feel like he's a bit heavy-handed, and there's always something slightly off-putting for me with his face-work. I do wish I could explain it better. . .


Redartz said...

It's often tough to comment with any depth on a story I haven't read in 40 years. Fortunately we have these great reviews to help refresh that hazy memory...

To answer HB's query: I generally considered Esposito to be a fairly standard inker. Not bad, but nothing to het fired up over either. His inks over Romita on those Silver Age Spidey's seemed to slightly roughen The polished appearance JR 's work often displays. Just my opinion...
And as for Mike inking Sal- seems I read somewhere that Sal would, at times, do little more than layouts. Esposito's inks in this situation leave the art rather flat and thin, to my eye. Nothing againt Mike, but I really prefer a stronger inker over Sal...

Edo Bosnar said...

In general, I have nothing against Esposito's work, but he was one of my least favorite inkers for Sal's pencils. It often seemed to take the energy out of it.

As to the story, I agree with Doug's point about the little history lessons in comics: I really ate that stuff up in comics back then. In fact, it quickly made history my favorite subject in school - and I eventually majored in history once I got to college.

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