As mentioned in the recap of Marvel Team-Up 8, last issue this title was made into a regular monthly. This decreased downtime between issues naturally allowed for greater flexibility in storytelling. This issue begins our first full blown, multi-issue story arc, as we begin the three-issue chronicle of? The Tomorrow War!!
Continuity sticklers take note, the events in Marvel Team-Up 9,10 & 11 take place before Peter's trip to Canada and fight with the Hulk shown in Amazing Spider-Man 119-120.
|Cover Art:||John Romita, Sr.|
New York City, Park Avenue, a quiet Sunday morning. Avengers Mansion, home of Earth's Mightiest Heroes, sits on the corner. Suddenly the idyllic scene is shattered by an Earthquake!** "It's impossible" one citizen notes, "Manhattan Island is set on solid bedrock, we can't have an earthquake!" One cop on the scene agrees, and deciding that the Avengers must be involved in this unnatural disturbance he draws his gun and heads to investigate. He doesn't get far, though, as Avengers mansion shimmers in front of him and blinks out, then back into existence.
**Trivia maniacs take note: the license plate on the sedan shaken by the 'quake is FB20
As our officer begins to realize he's in over his head, Iron Man lands on the street next to him and offers to take over. The Golden Avenger heads towards the mansion, stubborn cop following behind, but they're both repelled by a force field surrounding it. Iron Man is determined to continue trying to get in.
He won't have to try alone for long. At that moment, in his apartment, Peter Parker is watching coverage of Shell Head's efforts on TV. He's decided that it's not worth getting involved in. "Let the Fantastic Four play good Samaritan?" he muses, "?me, I'm fagged out." Good luck writing that bit of dialog today! Anyway, Pete's roommate Harry Osborn (son of Norman Osborn, the original Green Goblin) comes busting in carrying on like a jerk about how loud the TV is, and yells at Pete that if he can't be considerate he should get out. In contemporary issues of Amazing Spider-Man, Harry has been acting progressively more odd since he relapsed and had a bad reaction to some LSD, and this outburst is the most recent symptom of it. Given a choice between listening to Harry's crap and getting some action, Pete decides to throw on the webs.
A short time later we see Spidey as he swings in next to Iron Man, who's still slamming away with his repulsor rays at the force field surrounding Avengers Mansion. "I don't need your help, web-head?" is how Iron Man greets him, "...this is my concern, not yours." (I really find this reaction somewhat silly. Why wouldn't Iron Man want all the help he could get?) As the heroes stand there discussing the situation a hole mysteriously opens in the force field, and seizing the opportunity both heroes leap through. The find themselves falling through a multicolored limbo, until they finally hit the featureless bottom, a blank floor floating in space.
Iron Man immediately begins to scan the area, trying to get a feel for what power source was able to teleport them this way, but Spidey thinks they'd be better off directing their attention towards the futuristic attack craft headed right at them! When Iron Man wonders where the ships could be from, it gives Spidey the opportunity to give us a Cultural Time Capsule? "Haven't you heard, Bunkie? Star Trek Lives!" Now, here in 2002 we are accustomed to the idea of Star Trek as a media juggernaut, but things were different in 1973. The one and so-far only Star Trek show had been cancelled in 1969, and "Star Trek Lives" was the defiant boast that Trekkies used to help keep things going. This motto was on t-shirts, hats, belt buckles, it was everywhere!
Ok, back to the action. Iron Man blasts off with his boot jets and heads towards the biggest ship, but he's grabbed by a "strange, inexplicable force", a tractor beam of some kind. Spidey is about to help, but the ship settles into a hover and a loudspeaker assures Spidey that he means them no harm. He's their ally, not their enemy. Spidey is dubious, but the ship lands anyway and frees Iron Man. The hatch opens to reveal the master of this vessel, Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man! Zarrko's a real old timer, last seen in Thor #102 back in 1964. He's sort of a poor man's Kang, traveling through time and causing mischief. Bidding the heroes to join him onboard, he explains to them that his home century, the 23rd, has been invaded and conquered by an army from the distant future. Since all weapons have been outlawed in the 23rd century, they were easy prey. He claims that he came back to the 20th century to seek the aid of our super powered protectors, but his adversary beat him to it, and kidnapped the Avengers before he could reach them. Spidey and Iron Man agree to help him, and Zarrko engages the time drive to take them to the 23rd century.
They re-materialize above a citadel in 23rd century New York, which Zarrko tells them is the lair of the invader and the holding place of the other Avengers. Spidey and Shell Head jump out of the craft and start to kick a little butt! Using his great speed and agility Spidey bounces in and out of the crowd, knocking heads as he goes. Secure in his armor (my favorite of all his armor, by the way, the Bronze Age red & yellow) Iron Man simply wades through them, swatting aside soldiers and crushing guns as he goes. These soldiers may be well trained, but on this day they
The guards having been swept away, the heroes have to figure out a way into the fortress. A single huge door blocks their way, easily 20 x 20 feet. Spidey braces the door with some webbing, and Iron Man cuts around the edges with a powerful laser in his gauntlet. Now that the door has been cut, Spidey points out that it will take a tractor to free it from the webbing he has bracing it, but Iron Man puts the lie to that when he knocks the door in with a single kick. Proceeding down the hall they encounter "Security Force Three", a team of soldiers on one-man armed hover-sleds. Spidey is able to spin a wall-to-wall web, snaring the lot of them. They're about to proceed when a titanic fist knocks Iron Man right out of the air! "My heart!" he exclaims, as he falls to the floor. The batteries to his life sustaining chest plate have been damaged, and he's out of the fight until he can fix them. Spidey bobs, ducks and weaves around the 20-foot robot, and finally lands on it's shoulders. Once there Spidey cuts loose and slams the monster full-strength in the back of the head, knocking him down and out! This is a rare display of spider-strength for this time, and I must say it's nice to see our guy get his due as a powerhouse.
In the time it's taken Spidey to take out the competition, Iron Man has effected partial repairs on his armor and made himself mobile. As the pair head deeper into the complex, we cut outside to a disturbing sight. Zarrko is about to enter the breached citadel, and we hear him gloating that blazing a path to the invader was the only reason he brought our heroes here in the first place. Rather than save his own century, however, he intends to capture the invader's weapons and use them to conquer others!
Back inside Spidey and Iron Man are busting down the last air-lock and gaining entrance to the invaders command center. There, held in stasis chambers lining the wall, are the captive Avengers. In a display of amazing thoroughness, we see the invader has even captured Jarvis! I guess he didn't want the world's mightiest butler foiling his scheme.
Now our invader reveals himself, rising from his controls and turning to face us. It is none other than Marvel's premiere time traveling menace, Kang the Conqueror himself! Spidey doesn't recognize him, and so leaps instantly to the attack before Iron Man can warn him of the danger. Catching them flatfooted, Kang fells both our heroes with blasts from his gauntlets. "When you awake?" he promises, "?you'll be slaves serving in the army of Kang!" Of course, Zarrko might have something to say about that, as he confronts Kang with a drawn pistol and promises to use Kang's technology to establish a beach head from which to invade 1973!
As our two would-be temporal conquistadors stand there, facing each other down, a paralyzed Spider-Man can only wonder "What do we do now?" But the answer to that question will have to wait for our next issue, as Spidey and the Human Torch star in "Time Bomb!"
Thoughts on this issue: I'm always leery of time travel storylines, because it's extremely difficult for even the best writer to keep the inconsistencies and silliness from piling up. Why, for instance, would one need a "beach head" in one era to invade another? Well, this story is so far as good as any and better than most involving time travel, so for now I'll just sit back and enjoy it.
Elsewhere in Spidey's World: Spidey finishes up his battle with the Hulk in Amazing Spider-Man 120. Peter is unable to find out the reason behind Aunt May's mysterious telegram, as the sender is slain by an agent of Dr. Octopus before he can reveal anything.
And meanwhile, in the real world: The United States launches Skylab, it's first manned space station on May 14.
A strong start to this story arc, and I give Conway credit for resurrecting a blink-and-you-missed-him-last-time villain like Zarrko.