BHOC: MARVEL TEAM-UP #57

Here’s another book that came out of a 3-Bag in that era. This issue of MARVEL TEAM-UP didn’t wow me, and in fact I don’t own it today–somewhere along the lines I traded it away. It was yet another Spider-Man comic book in which the allure of the wall-crawler eluded me. Despite having watched the 1967 Spidey cartoon for years in reruns, I just could not find an entry point into the web-slinger’s adventures that would hook me. A good part of that is that, during much of the 1970s, Spidey and Peter Parker were presented as much more together and with-it than I could ever hope to be–almost the antithesis of where the character had started out in the 60s.

The issue was illustrated by Sal Buscema, who was a mainstay artist in the 1970s, and one of the most prolific members of the Bullpen. His style was not my favorite, but he was always a solid craftsman who would tell the story directly and excitingly in the Marvel manner. In a lot of respects, Sal toiled in the shadow of his older brother John, who was one of the finest draftsmen in the field. And so his contributions and strengths were often overlooked or dismissed. But you would always get a solid job from Sal.

The issue was written by Chris Claremont, who was still one of the newer writers on the scene and still finding is feet and his voice. The villain of the piece, the Silver Samurai, came from an issue of DAREDEVIL from a few years earlier–and, as was his wont, Chris would continue to bring him back (Chris had a hard time letting go of characters he wrote) , eventually tying his backstory in byzantine fashion to that of Mariko Yashida over in his X-MEN continuity. But here, none of that backstory yet exists, and the Samurai is a much simpler, much more straightforward and far less interesting character.

The issue opens with Spider-Man stumbling across a rooftop robbery in progress. He quickly dispatches te four would-be thieves, but then is swiftly laid low by an unseen assailant–the Silver Samurai. Elsewhere, the Black Widow has responded to a summons to the SHIELD Barber Shop headquarters, only to find it deserted. Attempting to locate the whereabouts of the disappeared SHIELD agents, Natasha takes off in an aircar–and happens to see the energy flash of the Samurai’s sword as he battles Spider-Man on the rooftop. She’s able to intercede before the Samurai can finish off his downed opponent.

The Widow and the Samurai battle it out–Natasha was around for that earlier DAREDEVIL story, so she recognizes the Samurai and knows he’s a bad guy. Their battle is equally matched–until a recovered Spider-Man joins the fray. Now outnumbered two to one, the Samurai decides that the smart play is to retreat with the mysterious prize that he stole. And in order to do that, he begins slicing through the main load-bearing pylons of the building they’re battling in, causing it to sway dangerously and threaten to collapse atop them.

Spidey is forced to disengage from the fight, first in order to catch a guy who was thrown from the upper floors when the building began to buckle, and then to attempt to shore up the damaged pylon in order to prevent the building’s total collapse, at least until a more permanent solution can be found. He starts to carry steel I-beams over to the gap in the breached pylon, webbing them into place. All the while the Widow battles the Samurai, keeping him away from Spider-Man until the web-slinger can finish his work.

Once the building is stabilized, Spider-Man can turn his attention back to the Samurai. Together, he and the Black Widow pummel him into unconsciousness, discovering in the aftermath that the thing he and his goons stole was a strange clay statue. And that’s the end of the story–there’s a blurb which indicates that some of this stuff will be followed up on in CHAMPIONS, where the Widow was regularly appearing, but I don’t know that any of it was. Regardless, I found the issue to be completely lacking–it wasn’t much more than a 17 page fight, and the questions is posed (what happened to everybody at SHIELD headquarters?) weren’t resolved or in any way addressed. Even the heroes scarcely seemed to care about them. Even looking at it now, it’s no wonder that I traded this book away–there’s not much to recommend it as anything other than a couple of minutes entertainment.

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