This issue of Spider-Man’s team-up book ties into the current storyline in the Captain America title even more than usual, thanks to J.M. DeMatteis having written both. Specifically, Cap has a heart-to-heart talk with S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Gail Runciter that will be referenced in his own book, making this comic an important part of DeMatteis’s run on the main book (although it was not included in the relevant Epic Collection for some reason).
We begin with Peter Parker, trying to enjoy a festival with his friend Roger and his girlfriend Mia while secretly obsessing over the Black Cat, when he sees famous freelance artist Steve Rogers, whom he always seems to run into before Spider-Man and Captain America have a crazy team-up.
Very smart, Bernie, mentioning the person you want to celebrate not mentioning. (And you fell for it, Steve.)
But it gets better, as Bernie almost says a four-letter word, which sends Steve down the ol’ memory hole, haunted by memories of a past love taken too soon.
Unlike his usual guilt over not endangering those close to him, Sharon was killed in the line of duty for S.H.I.E.L.D., but Steve does not acknowledge such nuances when wallowing in his own oversized sense of responsibility. (As we know, she wasn’t actually killed, but our hero won’t learn this for another twelve years in our time.)
Peter comes to Steve’s rescue just as Bernie thinks of a great name for a TV show, and the two visual artists catch up a bit…
…before a plague of rats signals the return of Vermin, a recent foe of Captain America’s.
The episode reminds both Steve and Bernie of the other perennial difficulty of superheroes’ romantic relationships: Even when they aren’t putting their loved ones in danger, they always have to put them aside when there are lives in danger (something the many loves of Peter Parker know all too well).
It seems there are at least two superheroes who realize that people can see you through the glass windows of the phone booth.
Then again, phone booths are usually less crowded.
The heroes engage, and Cap tries to talk some sense to Vermin…
…to no avail, though it does give Cap and Spidey a chance to show what a good team they make.
After Vermin gets away, Cap has some particularly harsh words about him, to which a new player in our story adds a thought.
Cap naively accepts Gail’s invitation to her place for coffee, unaware that she is on a special mission of her own.
Cap is tempted but turns away before he crosses a line, and then is very open with Gail—who should have realized that the “no one would have to know” argument would never work with a man who values his integrity above all else.
It’s good that he appreciates that Bernie loved Steve Rogers long before she knew he was Captain America—something that could never have happened had he not started embracing his civilian identity in Captain America #237.
Vermin next shows up at D’Agostino’s grocery store in Greenwich Village, where Cap learns that his battle-honed strategy is no match for spidey-sense.
Cap and Spidey’s teamwork continues…
…although when Spidey tries to wax poetic like his older partner, he becomes a clean-up on Aisle 7 instead.
Cap starts to realize that Spidey was on to something…
…which works against Vermin, especially when his little friends abandon him.
Our heroes ponder the night’s events in silence for a moment…
…before sharing their thoughts on a nearby rooftop, with Cap giving Spidey some advice from experience facing the worst humanity has to offer, as well as dealing with his own flaws.
Marvel Team-Up #128, April 1983: J.M. DeMatteis (writer), Kerry Gammill (pencils), Mike Esposito (inks), Glynis Wein (colors), Joe Rosem (letters). (More details at Marvel Database.)
Not yet collected—although, by all rights, it should have been included in Captain America Epic Collection: Monsters and Men, given that it is by Cap’s regular writer at the time and it references his current storyline so closely (and will be referenced in upcoming issues of Captain America).