Marvel Team-Up was a title that rapidly settled into complacent creative mediocrity, but the bulk of the series’ opening ten issues are of a slightly higher standard.

The best of them is Spider-Man and the Human Torch teaming to track down Sandman in the opener. It’s the only chapter written by Roy Thomas and together with then regular Spider-Man artist Ross Andru he supplies a sentimental Christmas story that plays against type. There are continuing elements throughout these issues, and Gerry Conway picks up the plot threads, and writes the remainder of the book bar the final chapter.

On the basis that they were both younger heroes, there’s a forced attempt to foster a friendship between Spider-Man and the Human Torch, who guest stars in four of the eleven chapters. The banter is batted back and forth, but there’s never any real sense of comradeship supplied to a greater degree than there is with other guest stars.

Artists Andru and Jim Mooney supply solid storytelling for their contributions, but it’s Gil Kane who stands out as a step above on stories featuring X-Men, the Vision and the Thing. His layouts strive for something beyond standard, he makes good use of montages, and there’s a greater dramatic flair to his pages.

By the later issues collected here it’s clear Conway is losing interest, and what had the potential to be an exciting glimpse into the future with two would-be world conquerors is a plodding, by the numbers three chapters, the last written by Len Wein who would continue into Volume Two.

In addition to the superhero stories, this collection also serves as a cultural primer for those who didn’t live through the era. Check out Peter Parker’s shoes and flares in the Thor chapter, or the decidedly shaky gender politics when the Cat drops by, also commended for possibly the most over the top and illogical motivation for becoming a villain ever seen.

Those curious, but not wanting to pay premium prices can find the same content in black and white on pulp paper in Essential Marvel Team-Up Vol. 1.