Spider-Man! Wolverine! Laser Robot Heads! The Most Ridiculous Team-Up of All!
Marvel Team-Up might just have the single greatest concept of any comic book in the history of mankind: Spider-Man and a guest-star meet up, exchange pleasantries, and then go beat the hell out of the Living Monolith or whatever. It's genius, and--as we all know--would later be refined in the pages of Marvel Two-in-One, where the whole bit about pleasantries was eliminated to make more room for rock monsters punching out super-villains.
Regardless, it's a formula that made for some highly entertaining comics, with the flipside being, of course, that it also provided some of the most outlandish premises ever written. Because really, when you've got to get Spidey and a third-string Defender like Devil-Slayer to the point where they're busting heads inside a forgotten temple to an ancient Spider-God, you just don't have time for a believable setup.
And that's pretty much how we end up with something like J.M. DeMatteis and Herb Trimpe's Marvel Team-Up #117:
Right from the cover, where Bob Layton attempts to single-handedly destroy the concept of perspective, this issue stands as the absolute craziest MTU issue I have ever read--and that's including the one where Spider-Man and Thor team up with a twelve year-old to fight the Black Abbot's devil-worshipping mind-control cult.
It also has the distinction, along with #128, of being the first issue of Team-Up that I ever bought, back in the seventh grade. So that may be why I think it's so awesome. You be the judge.
Our story opens, as you might expect from a two-fisted, action-packed mag like MTU, with Wolverine wandering through the woods of upstate New York, playing an exceptionally gentle game of tag with a deer.
So yeah. Not exactly what I was looking for either.
Fortunately, this less-than-pulse-pounding situation is immediately corrected with the arrival of--and this is where it starts to get awesome--a horse-riding Roman centurion with a laser gun. Because there is no situation that you can't improve by throwing in one of those.
Lazer Praetorius--as I have named him--launches into a Torgo-esque speech, informing Wolverine that he's trespassing on "The Master's property," pointing to a barbed-wire fence and a "No Trespassing" sign that, according to our short-tempered Canadian friend, totally wasn't there a second ago. And what's more, L to the P, along with a hundred more blaster-packing gladiators, is going to drag him to "The Master" for punishment.
And how, you might well be asking yourself, does Wolverine react?
He literally flips out and starts stabbing everyone.
At this point, I feel I should note that while I fully expect Wolverine to utterly decimate an army of nameless thugs, this comic features Wolverine having an absolutely insane amount of extra super-powers, including, but not limited to, 1) the ability to perform a standing 30-foot high jump, and 2) the ability to punch the ground so hard it explodes. Seriously, it's a plot point later.
Unfortunately, Wolverine's new litany of abilities doesn't involve an immunity to nerve gas, so the ersatz Romans are able to eventually overcome him.
Meanwhile, Spider-Man's also having some trouble with the Laser Centurions, this time in the form of a swarm of flying Jetsons cars which keep him from making it to a hot date with Marcy Kane at a science lecture. And that, along with the scene where Wolverine fights a hundred guys, means that Marvel Team-Up #117 has officially met its bare-minimum requirements for What You Want To See™ from those two, and it's time to get on with the punching.
To that effect, we now cut back to Wolverine, who wakes up in an arena populated by faceless mannequins and a knight in full plate armor on horseback who identifies himself as Sir Gawain before trying to run him through with a lance, and even for a guy who once found himself blackmailed into marriage by a green-haired terrorist assassin who was once possessed by the spirit of his ex-girlfriend's dead ninja father, that's pretty weird.
The knight, of course, presents no real challenge to Wolverine, who utilizes his new power of delivering twenty-foot dropkicks to deal with him pretty handily before ripping his helmet off to reveal that the knight is, in fact, a simpering old man who begs for help:
Unfortunately for the Old Man, Wolverine is a student of the Cobra Kai, and believes that if an old man confronts you in a mannequin-filled gladiatorial arena, he is your enemy. And an enemy deserves... no mercy.
Oh relax, it's just a robot.
Meanwhile, Spider-Man finally shows up in the woods, having avoided the initial assault and planted a tracer on one of the airships, only to be confronted with what might be the stranges plot point in the entire story:
A castle that bursts out of the ground in the middle of a state park. And oddly enough, that sound effect is exactly what I've been drinking to try to make sense of this thing.
Spidey takes the timely arrival of the castle as an invitaion, and is greeted with a series of traps that come straight out of the Dungeon Master's Guide: A sharpened portcullis that crashes down, a spiked pit trap, and, of course, the illusory floor that leads to yet another pit. Seriously, I expected him to land in a room full of Kobolds who were guarding a +1 Sword and a Potion of Cure Radioactive Wounds.
What he actually ends up with is even better: Wolverine battling a Bacchanalian robot orgy that turned into a roomfull of flying body parts that shoot lasers...
...and that might be the single greatest deathtrap ever.
Thus, on page seventeen of a 23-page team-up, Wolverine and Spider-Man finally meet up, briefly mistake each other for robots (as mandated by the Fight Then Team Up Act of 1972), and are then informed by a thirty-foot tall blue robot that "The Master" has sent a plane to bomb a nearby prison and--in the opposite direction, naturally--an army of former SHIELD and AIM Agents (!) to massacre a small town, which is a pretty big clue that the fun is now officially over. Spidey ends up disabling the plane, and Wolverine gets to beat up another army, but "The Master"--along with his entire castle manages to geta away clean.
And just who is this "Master?" Easy: It is, of course, Professor Power!
As to who that guy is, I have no idea. I never got to read the next issue. But I do know that he has an army of robotic laser centurions and a small squadron of flying robot heads.
And that means he's probably my new hero.