This was another issue that I pulled out of my drugstore’s Big Bin of Slightly Older Comics, which was filled with books that had been reported destroyed to the distributor but had instead been sold off to the drugstore chain at a cut-rate price. This manner of double-dipping, the “affidavit returns” system, is one of the things that destroyed the Newsstand marketplace for comics almost completely. But I only worked out this connection years later. As the drugstore sold the books at a price of five for a dollar, I’d inevitably pull a few oddball items whenever I went on the hunt for new comics, simply to get to that magic number 5. This issue of SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP was one of those purchases.
SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP was one of those series that nobody seems to have much wanted to work on. It was created (as was SECRET SOCIETY OF SUPER-VILLAINS over at DC) to establish and protect Marvel’s joint trademark on the term “super-villains” as there was a bit of a challenge to it from, of all places, Superhero Enterprises, the firm that would shortly become Heroes World. As such, while you can understand what the thought process was here–the Sub-Mariner had been a headliner for years, going all the way back to the Golden Age of Comics, and Doctor Doom was easily Marvel’s most popular villain and had his own feature on a few occasions, it’s a series that lurches from storyline to storyline haphazardly, never quite finding its creative footing for the long-term. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t any enjoyable or well-crafted issues in this run. But it does mean that the book wasn’t a huge priority for Marvel, and so suffered a bit from benign neglect.
This time out, the creators in the chute were writer Jim Shooter, pre-EIC and freshly back doing work for Marvel after years away from comics, and artist George Evans, a reliable craftsman whose best work was on war and western features, and who seemed ill-at-ease on a super hero feature. He was a hell of a cartoonist, though, one who had worked for the storied EC line and who’d also worked on newspaper features such as Flash Gordon. The inking was provided by Jack Abel, and his finish here is a bit coarser than it was on the IRON MAN issue we looked at yesterday.
The pairing of Doctor Doom and Namor went back to FANTASTIC FOUR #6 in 1962, the second appearance for each character in that series. It was a relationship that had been touched upon a few more times over the years, but in SUPER-VILLAIN TEAM-UP, it was the most fully defined. In this issue, Shooter is forced t contend almost immediately with storylines in progress, including a number of status quo elements dating back to the final year of the Sub-Mariner’s own solo series. The issue opens on Hydrobase, where Namor has just watched three of his enemies, Attuma, Doctor Dorca and Tiger-Shark, kill Betty Dean, the policewoman who had first befriended Namor in the late 1930s when he first walked on the surface. Enraged, Namor bursts his shackles and attempts to kill his foes, but it’s only the arrival of Doctor Doom that prevents the Sea King from being overwhelmed, as he’s not in the best of condition. Doom uses his armor’s technology to teleport the two of them away, back to his own facilities in Latveria.
For his own reasons, Doom wants to make an ally of the Sub-Mariner, but he realizes that until Betty Dean is avenged, Namor’s not going to be open to thinking about anything else. So Doom makes the Sub-Mariner’s cause his own, planning their assault on Hydrobase, which is under the control of the three villains. A bunch of Namor’s friends, transformed into amphibians, are being held there, so their strategy must allow for the safety of the hostages first. Per Doom’s strategy, the duo splits up, with Doom directly engaging their foes while the Sub-Mariner liberates his captive friends. Then, with no leverage held against them, Namor is able to join the attack himself directly. But Subbie is a proud man, and even though he’s been armed with a weapon by Doom that will encase Dorcas, Tiger Shark and Attuma in an unbreakable energy shell, this outcome isn’t satisfying to the Prince of the Deep, who wants to make the villains pay with his own two hands. So before they’re incapacitated, Namor destroys his own weapon, and instead launches himself at them, to pummel them physically.
Doom, however, stands alone against Attuma’s barbarian hordes as well as the high-tech Octo-Mechs created by Dr Dorcas. He calculated this eventuality, counting on the Sub-Mariner’s appearance to turn the tide. But when Namor doesn’t show, embroiled in his own personal revenge against his foes, Doom himself is on the verge of being overwhelmed, his armor’s energy reserved sorely depleted. One of the Barbarians even makes sport of Doom as his fellows overwhelm the Monarch of Latveria, casting him bodily to the ground. But Doom still had an ace up his sleeve. Having snatched up some ordinance from a downed Octo-Mech, he sets it off at ground zero, depending on his own armor to allow him to survive the blast while his assailants will not.
In the end, of course, Namor cannot bring himself to finish off his enemies–but Doctor Dorcas himself seemingly dies as one of his Octo-Mechs crashes down on top of him. The Sub-Mariner turns the other two over to the Amphibians, to face their justice. Elsewhere, on the beach, Doom turns his attention to the Barbarian who mocked him, forcing him to attempt the same life-threatening feat that Doom himself just performed. The pitiful barbarian is blown to pieces, and Namor is disgusted by this naked display of malice. It seems as though the alliance between the Sub-Mariner and Doctor Doom may be over before it even begins–but the next issue blurb tells us that, whatever happens, it’ll be in the hands of yet another writer and artist. This wasn’t a terrible issue by any means, but it wasn’t great, either. There were any number of titles in the Marvel line in the mid-70s that felt this way, like little more than “product” being cranked out by craftsmen who weren’t especially invested in it.