Review by Frank Plowright
When handed the reins of the Marvel Team-Up title in 1979 Chris Claremont and John Byrne immediately circumvented one of the major problems. Editorial policy demanded Spider-Man be featured with a guest star, but the problem with co-starring the more prominent Marvel characters was that little could be done to impact on them. They had to remain the same at the conclusion as they were at the outset.
The way of constructing a story with genuine tension was to include characters that had fallen into disuse, or those minor elements of team title. Of the guest stars utilised here only Thor and the Human Torch could be considered major players at the time, although Ms Marvel’s solo title was limping to conclusion. Around the remainder Claremont and Byrne constructed largely light-hearted and still very readable stories, connecting from one to the next and actually moving many of the guest stars forward. The format equally worked well on the creators, demanding a story that was relatively rapidly concluded (nothing over two chapters here). As the only constant feature was Spider-Man, whose soap opera elements occurred elsewhere, there are no pages of soul-searching to slow the plot.
Claremont’s touch with Spider-Man is spot-on, combining the wise-cracking superhero with the extremely capable scientific and problem solving mind. Many other cast members, though, are those that Claremont had written elsewhere: Ms Marvel, Power Man, Captain Britain, Man-Thing, and his familiarity presents well-rounded characters. He took the opportunity to present an extremely satisfactory conclusion to his and Byrne’s Iron Fist series, but read from the perspective of the 21st century the undertones of the Tigra story are decidedly dodgy.
This is the first colour reprinting of this material since the publication of the original comics, although they can be found in black and white in Essential Marvel Team-Up volume three. Byrne was at a career peak here, his dynamic widescreen layouts imaginative and thrilling, and even the relatively primitive colouring of the era does nothing to diminish this. In the U.K. this volume is also available in hardback as part of Hachette’s Ultimate Graphic Novel Collection.