Comics : Marvel Team-Up #75

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Totalistic Team-Ups

This review was first published on: 2007.

In Detail...

"The Smoke Of That Great Burning!"
Marvel Team-Up #75
Nov 1978 : SM Title
Summary: Spider-Man & Power Man
Editor:  Bob Hall
Plot:  Chris Claremont
Writer:  Ralph Macchio
Pencils:  John Byrne
Inker:  Al Gordon
Cover Art:  Bob Hall
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Review
 Reprinted In: Marvel Tales #207 (Story 1)
 Reprinted In: Essential Marvel Team-Up #3
 Reprinted In: Giant Sized Spider-Man (One-Shot Reprint)
Articles: Mary Jane Watson-Parker

In an attempt to salvage his relationship with Mary Jane, Peter has agreed to accompany her to Studio 13. She is there at the request of Andre - a very popular hairstylist - who greets them at the door. As MJ tries to introduce Andre to Peter, Andre kisses her deeply on the lips and quickly escorts her to the dance floor for "a quick hustle" without acknowledging Peter's existence. MJ assures Peter that she'll be back in a moment. Initially disturbed by Andre's behavior, he regains his composure as he tells MJ that he'll be over at the bar. As he orders his beer, he notices Luke Cage in a three-piece suit a few feet away. Cage doesn't see him, nor would know who Peter is when not in costume.

It's at this point that the Rat Pack, a local gang, announces their intention to rob every patron in the club. Peter slips into the bathroom to change into Spider-Man. This does not go unnoticed by the leader, Sparks, who instructs Stitches to go get the "dude who just snuck inta the can". As Stitches enters the bathroom, he is met by an angry Spider-Man who punches him through the door. He stands in the doorway looking out at the club and quips "If there's one place you oughtta leave a fella alone, it's here" (one of my all-time favorite lines).

Sparks is caught off-guard by Spider-Man's sudden appearance. Cage uses this to his advantage and knocks him out. When the rest of the Rat Pack realizes that they have no chance against both of them they take a hostage. Cage prevents Spider-Man from trying any crazy rescue attempts. He knows they'll let the girl go and the location of their home base. They'll just have to wait this out.

Three hours later Spider-Man and Cage are on the roof of a tenement building off Willis Avenue in the South Bronx. Cage is updating his temporary partner about the Rat Pack. They extort protection money from businessmen. If they don't comply, they burn down their buildings. Through his contacts, Cage has learned that tonight's arson job is this building.

Once the Rat Pack have arrived and are in mid-felony, Spider-Man and Cage confront them. Spider-Man deals with the gang members outside the building while Cage handles the ones in the basement. Sparks grabs the nearest can of gasoline and throws it at Cage, saturating his clothing and temporarily blinding him. Sparks then begins to taunt Cage with a lighter. Cage tells him to stop playing with the lighter; there are gas fumes around. His warning comes too late as the basement explodes, propelling Cage through the wall toward the street. Seeing Cage fly through the air, Spider-Man catches him with his webbing to prevent any collateral damage.

At this point the fire engulfs the building. Cage intends to check the building for any residents that may be trapped; Spider-Man offers to do it for him since Cage wouldn't stand a chance in the crumbling building. Spider-Man quickly finds himself a victim of his own best intentions and is pinned under flaming debris. Cage realized he's been gone too long and begins searching for him, knocking down walls until he finds him, pulling him out of the inferno. He then hands him over to the waiting fire department for some much needed oxygen.

One firefighter attempts to save a mother and child trapped on an upper level of the building using a hydraulic platform (a "cherry picker"). As he approaches their window, part of the wall collapses, setting him on fire. A revived Spider-Man runs up the cherry picker and pulls the firefighter out, lowering him to the ground with the last of his webbing. Another firefighter successfully saves the mother and child.

When the unsecured cherry picker begins to move toward the flames, Spider- Man leaps to the safest section of the roof, barely managing to grab the ledge. He finds the fire chief has been trapped there as well.

On the ground, another firefighter tells Cage that if the building doesn't come down, the fire will spread, taking out the whole block. Cage doesn't like being put into this position, but he agrees that too many lives are at stake. He just doesn't look forward to facing himself if this causes the deaths of Spider-Man and the fire chief. He frees the cherry picker from its foundation and uses it as a makeshift bat, demolishing the building.

On the roof, Spider-Man feels the tremors caused by Cage and realizes that he and the fire chief have one chance. Instructing the chief to hold on to him, Spider-Man gets a running start and leaps across the street to safety (we will assume walls of flame prevented him from hopping to an adjacent building). They reach their destination in enough time to see Cage bring the building down on himself.

Spider-Man jumps down to the street and orders everyone to stay back since he can dig through the rubble faster than anyone else. As he frantically digs through the remains of the burning building, someone taps him on the shoulder. He turns around and looks at Cage, who has already freed himself.

As they watch the EMS load the injured fireman into the ambulance, Cage wonders what kind of man (without powers) lays their life on the line everyday. Spider-Man responds very simply "A better man that you or me. [They're] the real heroes."

In General...

As of this writing, I have never read any of the Luke Cage or Power Man/Iron Fist series. I would venture a guess that this is probably the best use of the Luke Cage character up to this point. Cage is actually portrayed as a three- dimensional character instead of the one-and-a-half dimensions he exhibited during their first meeting.

This is one of the best Spider-Man issues I have ever read. It takes the basic elements of the MTU formula: Spider-Man plus another hero has to beat "the enemy". Add to it an "offbeat" tale which was believeable in this case. And top it off with great interaction between the characters.

If Marvel decides to publish a "Spider-Man In The 70s" trade (much like DC has done with Superman and Batman) this story would be a very strong candidate.

Overall Rating...

5 webs. Overall, this was a great stand-alone issue. The best qualities of Spider-Man and Luke Cage were used to tell an interesting story that ended with a tip of the hat to the New York Fire Department. I would go one step further and extend that to all firefighters everywhere.

The dialogue was sharp, the jokes were well-timed, and the story holds up very well since it was published in the late 1970s.

Footnote...

Peter proposed to Mary Jane in Amazing Spider-Man #182 and was rejected the next issue. Peter's last venture into the world of disco occurred in Spectacular Spider-Man #24 with my favorite Z-list villain: the Hypno- Hustler. Things have been a bit rocky for the two lately.

Peter last met Luke Cage in Amazing Spider-Man #123 when J. Jonah Jameson hired Cage to bring Spider-Man in for his involvement in the death of Norman Osborn.