Here’s another comic that I got in trade with my 5th Grade friend and classmate Donald Sims. And on the surface, it seems as though this book should have been an easy home run: it features the Fantastic Four’s greatest enemy in a lead role, and it was the Marvel equivalent to my beloved SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER VILLAINS at DC. And yet somehow, I was never more than lukewarm towards SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP. Part of that, I’m sure, is that I was never all that wild about Namor, the Sub-Mariner, who was really the heroic lead of the series–Namor was no Captain Comet in my eyes. But even more than that, SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP was one of those 1970s Marvel titles that lurched from creative team to creative team, never quite building up a rhythm for itself.
And this issue is a good example of that, as the credits herald the arrival of yet another creative pairing: this time, Bill Mantlo is the writer, with newcomer Bob Hall as the artist. It’s a bit of an inauspicious start, in that Captain America is forced to declare out loud all of the recap information that a reader like myself needs coming into this story–which frankly makes him look like a bit of a nut. Anyway, Cap’s busting into the Latverian Embassy in America because he’s got intel that Doctor Doom has joined forces with Cap’s all-time best enemy, the Red Skull, and Cap isn’t too fond of that idea.
Cap spends a couple of pages fighting his way through security systems and servitor androids before ultimately coming face-to-face with the man himself, Doctor Doom. Cap’s brought a scepter he’s acquired with the insignia of the Red Skull upon it, one a spectroscopic analysis shows was crafted in Latveria. But fortunately for Cap, Doom knows nothing of its creation–he and the Red Skull were foes when last they met, and Doom has had no change of heart since then. The scepter giving Doom the sinking feeling that the Red Skull may have moved in on Latveria in his own absence, he throws in with Cap to investigate.
From here, we cut away to the other star of the series, Prince Namor, who is returning to sunken Atlantis after last issue’s adventure. At this time, the Atlanteans had all been stricken by nerve gas and were comatose–Doom had offered to aid the Sub-Mariner in restoring his subjects, but as far as Namor knows, Doom was killed a few issues ago by the Shroud, so his bargain with the Lord of Latveria is out the window. Sadly, this leaves Namor with no means of reviving his subjects–he is a king without a kingdom. Namor’s reverie is shaken by a sudden tremor in teh undersea depths, one which threatens to collapse the ceiling of the chamber in which the comatose Atlanteans are being held.
Sortieing forth, Namor discovers a band of undersea miners attempting to drill through the force-field that protects Atlantis. He wastes no time setting off an action sequence in which he tears his way through these guys–the advantage is all his given that the slightest crack in their environmental suits will flood them, killing the interlopers. Namor threatens the leader of the miners with just such a fate, and the terrified miner tells him that he and his men take their instructions from Orbiter, a clandestine person that they have never laid eyes upon, but who operates from out of Latveria. Namor immediately realizes what this means–or at least what it would seem to mean.
Meanwhile, over in Latveria, we find the Shroud, a new character introduced a few issues before, leading what appears to be Doctor Doom through the secret passages of Doom’s castle. It is quickly revealed that this isn’t Doom at all, but rather Prince Rudolfo, the true heir to Latveria. The plan is to put him on the throne in Doom’s clothes–given that they believe the true Doom is dead, this way Rudolfo can reign in the Doctor’s stead. Unfortunately for them, while they manage to battle their way past a number of Doom loyalists who suss out that Rudolfo is an impostor, somebody else has gotten there first–and that figure blasts Rudolfo down.
At that moment, the real Doom and Captain America have arrived in the airspace over Latveria. But their ship is fired upon by ground forces–and Doom is in the predicament of having to contend with the very defenses he himself designed. With Cap acting as a midship gunner, the two men make a good show of it for a short while, knocking down the conventional forces. But this was all preamble to the most dangerous weapon in the Latverian arsenal: the oddly named Rainbow Missile. This missile is far faster than all of the others, and Doom cannot outmaneuver it in time. It strikes, seemingly destroying the ship along with Doom and Cap. And in the throne room, the mystery figure in Doom’s chair steps forward to confront the Shroud. Given the cover, this figure is no mystery at all. It’s the Red Skull, who with Doom’s demise intends to use Latveria as the crux of his new Fourth Reich. And that’s where we are To Be Continued.