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Marvel Team-Up #100 (1980, December)

April 13, 2013

This is a team-up between Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four (by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller – a hell of a team-up all its own). You may be wondering why I’d give that its own post. Well, that should become obvious with the title, “. . . The Reason Is Karma!”

. . . The Reason Is Karma!

It’s easy to forget how badass Spider-Man actually is.

Spider-Man’s swinging along when something attacks his mind. We see a silhouette of a young woman, who thinks about how she didn’t want to cause him pain, but she needs his mind. She takes control, and starts testing his capabilities. She’s already pretty interesting. She takes him to Freedom Tower, and a party being held by a Nguyen Ngoc Coy, a former South Vietnamese general. The party is attended by the Fantastic Four. Alicia doesn’t lik General Coy – that’s as good as having an arrow pointing at him declaring him a bad guy. Spider-Man, still under the girl’s control, sneaks in and knocks out a couple guards watching Leong and Nga, her brother and sister. The Fantastic Four catch him in the act, and assume he’s kidnapping the kids. The girl controlling him is shocked to learn Spider-Man’s actually a hero, not a criminal. Looks like JJJ’s editorials have caused another misunderstanding. Anyway, the fight is actually really cool to watch. Until Tran, the older brother of the two kids (and nephew of General Coy) uses his psychic powers against Spider-Man, ejecting the girl.

Spider-Man wakes up at the Baxter Building, where Reed uses a device to confirm that Spider-Man’s mind was turned off during the fight. Reed calls Professor X, who’s watching Storm, Colossus and Wolverine in the Danger Room. He gives them instructions while also telling Reed about a couple mutant signals Cerebro picked up. The FF track one of the signals to a church. Spider-Man busts in, finding a young Vietnamese woman with a priest. Spider-Man assumes the priest was in his head earlier. Until the girl – the priest calls her Shan – takes over Johnny. After a brief scuffle, Sue puts them both in bubbles, and Shan breaks down.

Now we get her story. Her name is Xi’an Coy Manh. During the Vietnam War, she and her brother, Tran, discovered they could take control of people. She hated her power, but Tran reveled in it. Tran went to their uncle, and when South Vietnam was overrun, arranged to have Tran evacuated. Xi’an and her family were less fortunate. She sued her powers to help her family reach a boat. They were attacked by pirates. The men on board, including her father, were killed. The women were raped (the book doesn’t say it outright, but it’s clear that’s what she’s saying). Her mother died the day they were rescued. Xi’an and her siblings were eventually sent to the US, and reunited with Tran and their uncle. Father Brown helped set them up with an apartment, but General Coy kidnapped Leong and Nga. He wanted her to work for him, and was willing to threaten the kids to do it. She took over Spider-Man to try to free them. Spider-Man and the FF decide to help her.

On a pier, General Coy is having the kids brought onto a boat. They’re grabbed by Spider-Man, and Coy’s guards are taken down quickly. Tran uses his powers to stun Xi’an, then takes control of the Fantastic Four. Spider-Man has to fight them, until Xi’an recovers. It’s a great fight, as Spider-Man uses all his speed, strength and wits to stay ahead of them. Finally, Xi’an uses her powers against Tran. But instead of trying to take control of him, she absorbs him – body and soul – into herself. As she walks away with Leong and Nga, she tells Spider-Man and the FF they can call her Karma.

It’s a great story, and a great introduction for the criminally underused Karma. The characters are all written well. The action is all excellent – Spider-Man is well-suited to action scenes, and Claremont, during his time on MTU, always made good use of Spidey’s abilities. And as dark and tense as the story is, it still includes some humour. And a nice happy (more or less) ending. I’m surprised more hasn’t been done with Tran over the years, but I suppose that’s a result of so little being done with Karma. Father Bowen (called Brown a couple times – either Claremont or the letterer couldn’t seem to decide what his name was) is actually Dagger’s uncle.

But we’re not done yet! That was only the first story. The second, by Claremont and Byrne, teams up Storm and the Black Panther. It starts with Ororo walking down the street when some South African guy with a rifle tries to kill her. The bullet only creases her head, and she switches to Storm to deal with him, learning he was hired by Andreas de Ruyter. Then we get a flashback, of young Ororo walking across Africa. She was near Lake Rudolph, in Kenya, when she heard a gunshot. She saw a young black man being attacked by whites. She helped him out Using her recently-discovered mutant powers to create a wind strong enough to fly her over so she can hit the men with strong winds. Their leader, a large man named De Ruyter, says nothing can stop him from capturing T’Challa. De Ruyter pulled a gun, but Storm blasted it with lightning. The two traveled for a while, before splitting apart. (Side note: This is covered more fully in the 2006 Storm series, by Eric Jerome Dickey and David Yardin. But for some stupid, incomprehensible reason, that mini suddenly makes it T’Challa saving Ororo, rather than the other way. That retcon may be one of the most idiotically and needlessly sexist things I’ve read in a comic in a long time. How the hell is a comic that came out in 1980 so much more progressive than a comic that came out in 2006? I honestly don’t know why Dickey felt the need to make Ororo into the Distressed Damsel for T’Challa to rescue, rather than just leaving it as it was. It’s just offensive. I’m a guy, and even I find it offensive. I don’t know if it was his idea or if editorial told him that Ororo couldn’t rescue T’Challa, but either way, that series deserves to be ignored. No one should read it, for that little piece of character assassination.)

Anyway, rant over. In the present, Ororo goes to the Wakandan Embassy to tell the Black Panther what happened. We get some very strong hints of what happened between them, and it’s really nice chemistry they have. The two track De Ruyter down, and sneak into the mansion he’s in. They encounter a giant robot. Storm’s lightning doesn’t affect the robot, so she goes after the floor instead. There’s another door. Inside is De Ruyter. Dead. He only died a minute ago, when the robot fell through the floor.

After the cops arrive, Storm and the Panther go their separate ways, wondering at what might’ve been, but knowing they can only ever be friends. Until 2006, that is. But that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, this story’s good. It’s a nice flashback to their youths, and the chemistry between them works well. There’s a real sense that these are two old friends meeting again after too long a time. The fact that young Ororo saved young T’Challa life is also a nice touch, subverting the usual approach of the man saving the woman. A shame that Marvel tried to retcon that away, the jerks. Ugh. Whatever. At least this was a really nice story.

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