Wednesday, March 13, 2013

"A Debt Repaid..." in Marvel Team-Up #147

Analogy Time:  The Human Torch was to Marvel Team-Up what Green Arrow was to The Brave and the Bold, only more so.
You could say, as I once did about Green Arrow and The Brave and the Bold, that Marvel Team-Up was almost as much the Human Torch's book as it was Spider-Man's.  Like GA in B&B, Johnny Storm appeared in MTU more times than any other hero, save for Spider-Man, of course.  In fact, the Torch showed up in MTU more frequently than GA in B&B.  Whereas GA appears in 11 of the 151 issues between the initiation of the team-up format in B&B #50 and  the series' end with #200, MTU was graced with the Human Torch's presence 16 times in its 150 issues run.  Two of those appearances were as a member of  the Fantastic Four, while six of them were as the star of the book, teaming up with other heroes while Spidey took an issue off.  The tradition of teaming Spider-Man and the Torch predates MTU, of course, going back to their friendly rivalry in the early days of The Amazing Spider-Man.
So when I tracked down  Marvel Team-Up #147 for my ongoing series of reviews of 147th issues, I was not at all surprised to find that the web-slingers co-star for the issue was none other than the Human Torch.
"A Debt Repaid..." is written by Cary Burkett, with art by Greg LaRocque and Mike Esposito.  This is one of only a handful of stories Burkett wrote for Marvel, primarily in MTU.  He spent the bulk of his career at DC, where he wrote a few issues of The Brave and the Bold, including, not surprisingly, a Batman/Green Arrow team-up.  
This issue is the middle part of a trilogy of sorts, teaming Spidey with Nomad (in #146), the Torch, and Thor (in #148) against a new villain called the Black Abbott.  The Abbott has set himself up in a base located off the shore of New Jersey where he is using his hypnotic powers to recruit scientific wunderkind to help him build a device to amplify his psychic powers enough to allow him to control an entire city.  He is also planning an assault on the prison at Ryker's Island to free the prisoners there to act as an army to carry out his dreams of conquest.
One of the science prodigies the Abbott, wearing the psychic disquise of a seemingly harmless old coot calling himself Mr. Abbott, recruits is none other than Peter Parker.  Thanks to his Spider-Sense, Peter is able to resist the Abbott's mental control, but he goes along with him to find out what his scheme is and to perhaps a rescue an old friend of his whom the Abbott also claims to have recruited.
Earlier, the Torch and Spidey had rescued a defector from Abbott's organization from other agents of the Abbott seeking to kill him for his betrayal.  However, the man's injuries were too severe to allow him to survive for long, but before he died, he spilled the beans about the Abbott's plans to the Torch.  Thus, shortly after Peter arrives at the Abbott's base, the Torch shows up as well.  However, Torchy gets himself captured pretty quickly and ends up under the hypnotic control of the Abbott, unable to flame on or fight the villain in any way. 
Switching to Spider-Man, Peter finds the mesmerized Torch and attempts to snap him out of the Abbott's spell by hurling insults at him in an effort to make him angry.  One particularly cruel and totally inappropriate remark finally manages to piss Johnny off enough to snap him back to reality.  Infuriated with Spidey, he and the wall crawler have a brief fight---because this is a Marvel comic, after all, and such is expected--before teaming up to take down the Black Abbott.  Even though his current plans are thwarted and his offshore base abandoned, the Abbott himself escapes to regroup and face off against Spidey and Thor in the issue following.
The title of the story, by the way, comes from Spidey feeling that his motivating the Torch to fight back against the Abbott's mental control is repayment for the Torch unknowingly inspiring him to get back in the game and defeat Doctor Octopus way back in Amazing Spider-Man #3.
All in all, this is a pretty typical meeting of two Marvel heroes, playing out as so many others did during the Silver and Bronze Ages.  Nonetheless, its an enjoyable little story, and I'll be keeping an eye out for a reasonably priced copy of #148 so I can find out how the saga of the Black Abbott plays out.

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