RETRO REVIEW: Marvel Team-Up #137 (January 1984)

by

Or – “Truth In Advertising Dept.”

NOT A HOAX!

NOT A WHAT IF!!

NOT AN IMAGINARY STORY!!!

The staggering tale that could change Spidey’s life FOREVER!!!!

EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!!

MARVEL TEAM-UP #137
Writer: Mike Carlin
Penciler: Greg LaRocque
Inker: Mike Esposito
Colorist: Bob Sharen
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Editor: Bob De Natale
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 60 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $3.00

Previously, in Marvel Team-Up: Spider-Man’s debut in 1960-something flew in the face of all conventional wisdom about superheroes.  Teenagers, it was said, could only be the side-kick.  No one would get behind a hero with a creepy spider-motif.  The character design too scrawny, the costume too homemade looking, and he just had too many flaws and doubts to sell.  Of course, by the end of the decade, Spider-Man was holding down one of the most popular monthly books in the world, and by the end of the 70′s, he was appearing in FOUR monthly titles, on two different television programs, and everybody knew his theme song.  Marvel Team-Up was Spidey’s chance to give other heroes what the wrestling community calls ‘The Rub,’ wherein the lesser known characters theoretically benefit from their association with the flagship hero of the Marvel U.  And also, sometimes, the creators were able to just freak the freak out and go bug-$&@#.  This is one of those tales.

We open in deep space, as a planet literally EXPLODES, claiming the life of Galactus’ latest herald, Nova…

This story takes place, it should be noted, the same month as John Byrne’s ultra-serious “Trial Of Reed Richards” issue, and Big G seems to be referring to his own recent misfortunes (including nearly dying during the lead-up to that issue.)  It’s actually Reed that Galactus sets out to find, but the elusive Mister Fantastic isn’t locked in his labs at the Baxter Building, as usual.  Somehow, Reed has ventured out to see the circus with his family, and in standard Marvel fashion, his party ends up seated right next to Peter Parker and his Aunt May!

There’s some weird redhead there, but I called Joe Quesada, and he said he had no idea who she was.  In any case, the contractually-obligated oldest and youngest members of the Marvel Universe end up bonding over elephants and clowns, and I have to say that they’re kind of adorable together, and the joy that Ms. Parker seems to feel at having a little boy around again is pretty touching as well…  Course, it isn’t long at all before a contrived emergency causes the Fantastic Four to split for San Diego, with Spider-Man in tow, leaving May to babysit Franklin through the remainder of the circus.  That’s the point where Galactus arrives, tracking Reed Richards’ energies, with the intent of turning Mr. Fantastic into his latest herald (!!).

Uhh… Ooookaaaay.  That was interesting.  And I never expected that May Parker had such a rockin’ body under those knit caftans all these years.  (That whole sentence made me feel dirty.)  When Galactus continues roaring about his hunger, Franklin reaches in his backpack and replies, “Why don’t you give him this pack of Twinkles?  They’re my favorite!”  That is a lower-case L in that word, by the way, and not an ‘I’, for any copyright lawyers who might be checking in.  The last survivor of the dead planet Taa scoffs at first, but finds that he does get a big delight in every bite of golden sponge cake, and sends his new herald off to score more never-expiring dessert treats…

“Well, Queens it is, then!”  Heh.  This joke is made doubly funny by my brains insistence that being raised in Forest Hills makes Peter Parker talk like Archie Bunker, and Aunt May like Edith.  There’s a weird angsty moment that lasts a panel or two here, but it’s mercifully short, as Golden Oldie gathers all the snack-cakes on Earth to feed to her master, only to find that his hunger is more bottomless than tubular pastries impregnated with lard.  Galactus then sends her off to find a world for him to devour.  Like Nova before her, May tries to temper Galactus by searching for uninhabited planets, but instead finds… a Giant Twinkle (complete with wrapper) in orbit somewhere in deep space, and it’s enigmatic creator ready to protect it…

Golden Oldie’s suggestion turns out to be a good one:  Take the Doughboy on as the new herald of Galactus, and have him bake more of his peculiar worlds to keep the world-eater’s hunger at bay…

Returning home, May amazingly finds that the circus hasn’t ended yet (how fast IS the power cosmic, anyway?)  Franklin absorbs all her cosmic power just as the FF and Spider-Man return from San Diego Comicon, just in time for another flash of energy to reveal the return of Galactus…

Well, they did tell us up front that it wasn’t a hoax or a What If? story…  Most of the time the “It was all a dream, a horrible dream!” routine would annoy me, but here it actually works, especially within the madness that was Assistant Editor’s Month at Marvel in ’84.  A lot of craziness went down that month (including a another recent Retro Review) but this book was one of the most memorable stories of the batch.  Given that Aunt May is apparently indestructible and immortal, though, you have to wonder if maybe there isn’t a little something to this whole ‘power cosmic’ thingy, though.  Marvel Team-Up #137 takes a joke a little bit too far, but ends up giving us insights into Peter Parker mother-figure that the in-continuity comics seldom have, earning a fun-but-offbeat 2.5 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  If Twinkies and Fruit Pies are the only thing that can stop all crime in its’ tracks, what happens when someone robs the Hostess Factory?