Shiny Shelf


Marvel Team-Up #1&2

By Mark Clapham on 28 November 2004

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

The Marvel universe is a busy, complicated place. Some examples: this is the third title to use the name ‘Marvel Team-Up’ in recent years, and one of those is still going on under the ‘Marvel Age’ imprint. Then there was ‘Ultimate Marvel Team-Up’ a few years ago, which kicked off by partnering Spider-Man with Wolverine. This incarnation does the same, and just to add to the confusion it arrived only a couple of weeks after the two teamed up again in ‘Ultimate Spider-Man’. Of course, that was all in another universe, under another imprint…

Then again, this is probably the 86th comic review I’ve written to start with a baffling mess of continuity references, so I probably shouldn’t be lecturing on matters of originality. Nevertheless, my point remains – the Marvel U is pretty baffling. Who will show us a safe way in?

Writer Robert Kirkman and artist Scott Kolins, apparently, the creative team behind this latest ‘MTU’. This is clearly an attempt to create a fun, entry-level book to the wider Marvel universe for readers only really familiar with the big characters who get their own blockbuster movies. Hence Spidey, hence Wolverine, hence the two of them together. The obvious comparison is with DC’s similar ‘Superman/Batman’, which acts as a great way into the DC Universe for semi-casual readers, featuring two very famous characters and with a top notch creative team (a role ‘S/B’ inherited from ‘JLA’ when Joe Kelly drove that book off a cliff).

However, there are fundamental differences. Kirkman and Kolins are rising stars with a solid track record, while over at DC Jeph Loeb and his rotating team of artists are all bona fide mega-selling superstars. A more fundamental difference is that the combo of Superman and Batman, and their involvement with the wider DCU, feels natural, the two heroes twin, complementary icons who effect all the other heroes. Throwing Wolverine and Spider-Man together is less natural, motivated by a sickly kind of commercial sense, but lacking any organic connection. Spidey is an urban loner, while Wolverine is part of the morass of X-continuity, and neither inspires the awe that Superman or Batman do.

Nonetheless, money says it’s worth doing, so Marvel keep sticking them together. Kirkman does it better than most, writing the two with a simple buddy movie, chalk and cheese relationship, only slightly caricaturing each character to fit the form. Kirkman is matched by Kolins, who’s traditional but smooth artwork is reminiscent of John Romita Junior, stylised without being overly flashy. It’s a fun story, brightly coloured with lots of jokes and fights. It almost screams ‘I’m what a Marvel Comic should be, aren’t I fun?’, which is exactly the point of this kind of book. It doesn’t quite go far enough – the glimpses of wider events don’t lead one to want to read more Marvel books, but then when you include cameos from Nova and the like the best you can hope for is for people not to throw up.

Time will tell. These first two issues feature the two big hitters, but other characters will take the top-spot going forward, starting with the Fantastic Four and Dr Strange for #3. This may seem like an anthology, but it isn’t – the story from these first two issues – something about a powerful mutant teen and a villain manipulating him from behind the scenes – carries on for the next few issues, with different heroes playing a role. Presumably we’re supposed to be hooked by now, and will take the regular cast changes in our stride.

‘Hooked’ isn’t the word, but for now I’m intrigued enough to keep reading. A formulaic plot and deadeningly obvious choice of lead heroes may have made these early issues a bit less special than they needed to be, but Kirkman and Kolins do entertaining work and the premise of a sweeping epic plot taking in all sorts of characters across the Marvel range is still a good one. Whether the wider comics audience will go for such an idea, and whether it will lead to them picking up more Marvel books, remains to be seen.


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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named markclapham.com.




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