Marvel Team-Up #52 (December 1976)

mtu 52 coverThis second issue of Marvel Team-Up to co-star Captain America alongside the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man actually provides important if not essential story details  between issues #203 and #204 of Cap’s main title, exemplifying what I explained in the post on Marvel Team-Up #13 regarding the impressive interconnectedness of Marvel’s team-up books, especially compared to those of DC Comics. This comic also ends with a fantastic character moment, but we have a lot of great action to see before we get to that.

Starting with the first page, we see the aftermath of one of Cap’s recent adventures show up in Spidey’s world: specifically, the handsome fella emerging from the portal at the bottom of the image.


After Spidey fights a different kind of green goblin for a page, most strange visitors come through similar portals… straight from the conclusion of Captain America #203. (This is interesting also because Jack Kirby’s Cap stories at the time seemed largely disconnected from the rest of the Marvel Universe, but we see here that other creators were still referencing it.)


In case you haven’t have a chance to read the post on Captain America #201-203: At the end of those issues, Cap, Falcon, and Leila, along with millionaire Texas Jack and many of the Night People, escaped from a strange dimension before it was overrun by monsters from another planet—a planet that Cap destroyed just before making it through the portal himself.

Falcon, however, did not come back in good shape, having been brainwashed into joining the cultish Night People in their dimension, which forces Cap to subdue his partner.


And this explains how Falcon ended up in the S.H.I.E.L.D. psychiatric facility at the beginning of Captain America #204. (Well that worked out nicely!) Note also how polite and patient Cap was with Spidey despite having just returned from a “dark dimension” in which he obliterated an entire planet before narrowly escaping, and then having to incapacitate his best friend. “But sure, webhead, we’ll grab coffee!”

The rest of the story deals with the one monster who did manage to escape the other dimension—our friend from page one—who is about to make un ami.


Batroc decides he can use the monster as muscle to pull off the heist of a lifetime: stealing something called “trans-uranium” from a S.H.I.E.L.D. hovercraft. But this does not go unnoticed for long…


I like Cap’s comment about winning taking precedence over style, although it’s strange to hear him focus on winning at all (as opposed to justice or honor).

And while Cap realizes where the monster came from, we find out that Batroc even thinks in a cartoonish French accent.


There are many “deaths of Captain America” to come, Batroc, but not today!

After Cap shows his appreciation for Spidey’s help, he turns back to the monster, fighting him while thinking through the ramifications of his appearance on Earth… including the slim odds of victory, which of course does not deter him in the least.


Below we see some basic yet effective teamwork between our heroes…


…which Cap acknowledges before the monster gets a glow-up (literally).


Cap wisely tries to get more info, but he asks the wrong homme. (And… “poor baby”? Really?)


Above we see Cap openly admitting his fear to both Spidey and Batroc, acknowledging that fear is natural and nothing to be ashamed of—more important is having the courage to overcome it, which he obviously does. (See pp. 46-50 in my book for more on Cap and courage.)

Cap and Spidey determine the monster’s intentions—which are apparently to take advantage of the Staten Island Ferry, a fantastic value to tourists from all dimensions—as well as the danger it poses, after which Cap crafts a plan while the other bridge-and-tunnel fella gets in a dig at Manhattan.


Below we see a common sentiment of Spidey’s in moral dilemmas, worrying that he’s doing the right thing, based on his pluralistic approach to ethics, appreciating multiple perspectives on an issue but finding it difficult to choose between them. (I explored this in the context of his role in the struggle between Captain America and Iron Man during “Civil War” in my book on the event story.)


The moral uncertainty Spidey feels is accentuated by his suspicion that their “monster” may not be really be one at all, which shows extraordinary sensitivity and sympathy. (I guess he was bitten by a really nice spider.)


The joke here is that Spidey rarely has a “crystal-clean conscience,” one of the elements of his character that makes him such a great point-of-view character in the Marvel Universe.

While Cap is rigging the ferry is explode, his thoughts reveal none of Spidey’s doubts regarding the nature of the creature, which he knows all too well from his adventure in its dimension.


Below, Spidey’s doubts are resolved as well…


…although that may have come too late: It’s not just a killer, but it’s a hugger too! (As Batroc would say, quelle horreur!)


I was going to say, allowing for nine seconds when the ferry was set to explode in ten may have been cutting it just a tad too close, but I guess it worked out. (But still, geez Louise.)

Of course, the budget-conscious Peter Parker thinks about the cost of the destroyed Staten Island Ferry to the city of New York, while Cap just wants to know why it hasn’t yet gone BOOM—or BARROOM, I guess. (Would SALOON have worked too? Sound effects are weird.)


Above we see that once this problem is resolved, Cap’s mind turns to his partner’s, which (as mentioned above) is dealt with at the beginning of Captain America #204.

The next morning, as Peter is picking up his Aunt May from the hospital with Mary Jane—with whom he is on the outs, if you can believe that—he happens to see Cap, head hung low, walking down the street in front of the same hospital. (Small town, New York is.) More important, though, is Peter’s assumption that Cap’s “got everything” and “best of all–no problems,” while we know better.


This is a poignant way to end an otherwise straightforward adventure tale, showing how one of Cap’s fellow heroes sees him, as well as Peter’s own self-pity, which makes it harder for him to appreciate the problems faced by others (although, to be fair, Cap hardly wears his heart on his sleeve).

And what was Cap doing there, anyway? I would guess that the S.H.I.E.L.D. psychiatric facility where Sam is being treated is nearby. (Do I get my No-Prize now?)


Marvel Team-Up (vol. 1) #52, December 1976: Gerry Conway (writer), Sal Buscema (pencils), Mike Esposito and Dave Hunt (inks), Don Warfield (colors), Joe Rosen (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)

As of the time of posting, the only place this comic is available, physically or digitally, is in the back-issue bins and the out-of-print Essential Marvel Team-Up Volume 3.

LAST ISSUE: Marvel Team-Up #13 (September 1973)

ALSO THIS MONTH: Captain America #204, Avengers #154 and Super-Villain Team-Up #9, and Invaders #11 (December 1976)

NEXT ISSUE: Marvel Team-Up #71 (July 1978)

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