A Brief History of Team America, Part One
Back when I did my two-part review of US 1, the single greatest trucking-based adventure comic Marvel ever published, there were requests--nay, demands--from my loyal readers that I take on another of Marvel's automotive masterpieces. So now, and this may be the first time this has ever been written, because you demanded it...
Because no other comic book quite captures the uniquely American fascination with off-road dirtbike super-villain fighting.
Originally created by Jim Shooter and featuring scripts from Denny O'Neil and Steven Grant, the bulk of the series was written by none other than Boisterous Bill Mantlo himself, including #3, which may actually be the Bill Mantloest Comic of All Time. But more on that later. What's important now is that this is a comic book about a crime-fighting psychically linked motorcycle team, and that's the kind of sentence that brings a tear to my eye.
Leading the team, we have former CIA agent and all-around Hannibal Smith simulacrum James McDonald, also known by his old secret agent nickname, Honcho. After discovering the psychic link between himself and the other members, he forms and initially finances Team America as a front to cover his freelance espionage operations.
Because, you know, Unlimited Class Dirtbike Racing in matching red, white and blue leathers is the height of being inconspicuous.
Filling out the role of tough-guy loner, as mandated by the Logan Act of 1980, we have the ex-motorcycle gang leader known only as El Lobo, or, to his gringo teammates, Wolf. He's a firm believer that it's the man who wins races, not the machine, and is characterized as the fastest racer on the team. Oddly enough, the fact that he displays mild super-strength on a number of occasions (including bending a giant steel wrench in his bare hands and flinging a four hundred pound oil barrel at his teammates) is rarely brought up and, to my knowledge, never really explained. Even so, Team America becomes the family he never had, except that he constantly talks about how much he hates being around them. Which, in my experience, is a lot like the family you do have.
For the last member of the initial team, we have disowned rich kid Winthrop Roan, Jr., alias--get ready for it--R.U. Reddy, which has officially beaten Taryn "Down the Highway" O'Connel for best worst pun name ever. Apparently, it's his old stage name from his time as an alleged "rock star" before the psychic link drew him to Daytona and the first Unlimited Class Racing event. He's in it purely for the money, which he intends to use to pay back his "miserable fatcat jerk" father for all the money he squandered before he was cut off.
So, to review: Out of the original three members from Team America #1, we have a former secret agent, a former millionaire rock star, and Wolf, a former gang member who ends up in what essentially amounts to a slightly more legitimate motorcycle gang. Charming!
Rounding out Team America in #2, we have...
Slack-jawed rodeo champion Luke Merriwether, alias Cowboy, who makes his first appearance by literally lassoing Honcho away from a young lady and informing her that Honcho's going to be busy for the rest of the night--a scene tha involves no untoward subtext whatsoever, I assure you--and...
...Genius mechanic Len Hibbs, who, despite being the incredibly talented engineer behind Team America's vehicles, is first seen living in his Winnebago with his girlfriend Georgianna. Admittedly, it's a tricked out RV, but you'd think a guy who could build super-motorcycles could at least get a job where he could afford an apartment.
Finally, we have the mysterious sixth member of Team America: The Marauder!
The Marauder, who has all the skills of Team America and more, appears seemingly out of nowhere during times when the memmbers of Team America find themselves in trouble, which, considering the Mantlo Factor, happens about every two days and generally involves being tied up and left to drown in a flooded office building that is also set to explode.
Clearly, Bill Mantlo is the single greatest comics writer to ever put pen to paper at the House of Ideas.
So there you have it: A group of hard-riding motorcycle champions, traveling around the country tearing up tracks and rightin' wrongs. And who better to serve as their arch-enemies than an international neo-Nazi terrorist organization devoted to nothing short of world domination.
And thus, the law of proportionate response is immediately chucked out the window.
Yes, it's HYDRA, rising to the challenge presented by a reasonably talented group of motorcycle racers with their attempt to steal a prototype motorcycle designed by "Pops" Kuramoto which has, like most irreplacable prototype vehicles, been entered in an almost completely unregulated race in order to test it out. And of course, it happens to be the race featuring the debut of Team America.
In typical HYDRA fashion, they plan to steal Kuramoto's cycle (and its advanced computer guidance system) from the winner's circle after the race, rather than, say, any other time, and in order to accomplish their goal--which, again, is to steal one motorcycle--they employ, by my count, six tanks, eight helicopters, two dozen plainclothes and uniformed foot soldiers, and a zeppelin armed with an anti-gravity tractor beam.
And in typical HYDRA fashion, this plan completely falls apart when Wolf wins the race instead of Pops, ending up in the winner's circle himself. What follows, as pictured above, is the kind of utter chaos that puts Baron Strucker's troops roughly in the same league as Batroc's Brigade. Fortunately, they've still got that blimp.
Of course, that begs the question of why they didn't just use the anti-gravity dirigible in the first place, but who am I to comprehend the workings of HYDRA?
Then again, maybe a Zeppelin wasn't such a good choice, for as these things are wont to do...
...it immediately explodes as they start to make their getaway with Pops and Reddy aboard. This is, of course, due to the sudden and remarkably mysterious appearance of the Marauder, who--in the most awesome thing you're likely to see today--stands amid the flaming wreckage of a zeppelin and flips the fuck out on nine HYDRA soldiers... at the same time:
Team America: 1
And that's just the first issue.
Next Time, on the ISB!
Bill Mantlo Unleashed!
Iron Man! The Ghost Rider!
The Terrifying Secret of the Marauder!
If you miss this one, everyone you love will hate you!
Because I know at least some of you want to.