There was a candy store near my grandmother’s house that we used to walk to when we would visit her, which was frequently. We’d go there and get a candy bar, or play some pinball. And it turned out that they carried comics–but only one kind of comics, Marvel Comics. And so, this was the first Marvel book that I ever read, MARVEL TEAM-UP #16.
Of all the titles I might have picked up off of that small rack that day, I’d imagine that I honed in on this issue of TEAM-UP both because I knew Spider-Man somewhat from the 1967 cartoon series, which was then playing in reruns (as it would for a decade to come on NY stations). And I knew the name Captain Marvel, even though I recognized that this was somehow a different hero.
It was a pretty ill fit with my sensibilities, to tell you the truth. The Gil Kane art was somehow claustrophobic, seemingly jammed into every panel. The inking seemed rough and harsh to my eyes. And the amount of copy was overwhelming–remember, this was a period in which I routinely didn’t read captions, and in this era of Marvel titles, purple prose captions were all the rage.
The story opens with Rick Jones being mentally guided by the voice of Mar-Vell, with whom he is connected, to seek out the Alpha Stone, a powerful gem that could cause untold harm here on Earth. Unfortunately, at that moment, the gem is being stolen by criminal Basil Elks. And when gunfire shatters the gem, the energies released transform Elks into the Basilisk, able to fire destructive beams from his eyes.
Fortunately,Peter Parker is on his way to a movie when he hears the commotion, and he becomes Spider-Man in an attempt to take the Basilisk down. As they battle ineffectively, Rick Jones finally shows up. he slams his Nega-Bands together, switching his atoms with Mar-Vell, who is also known as the hero Captain Marvel.
But despite the best efforts of Spidey and Marvy in pitched battle, the Basilisk kicks the hell out of them and makes his escape. In the aftermath, Mar-Vell downloads Spidey on the background of the gem that empowered Elks. It’s one of two, a pair–and the Basilisk is no doubt on his way to steal the other, and become unstoppably powerful.
Fortunately, Mar-Vell’s cosmic senses can track the Basilisk’s energies, and they follow him to where he’s attempting to excavate the second jewel. And another fight immediately breaks out. Marv and Spidey try to defeat their foe, to no avail, as he gets closer and closer to the second stone.
But Mar-Vell locates the second stone first! However, at his touch it grows to colossal size, envelops him, and then vanishes. Knowing that teh issue is over, rather than finishing off Spider-Man, the Basilisk instead decides to cut out, leaving Spidey to ponder about the fate of Mar-Vell. It’s not much of a cliffhanger–heck, this isn’t much of a story, mostly a string of fights linked together by a macguffin–and I was unimpressed. It didn’t make me want to pick up more Marvel books, I can tell you that much.