THIS REVIEW OF ‘MARVEL TEAM-UP’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.

Cover to ‘Marvel Team-Up’ #1. Art: Stefano Caselli/Marvel

by Clyde Hall. The original Marvel Team-Up was a valuable utility player for the company. Probably inspired by a braver and bolder title published by their Distinguished Competition, Marvel exhibited flattery of the sincerest form with a title reserved for their best-selling character, Spider-Man, to hang with others in their pantheon.

The story usually featured stand-alone issues, though as a platform it could further an ongoing plotline from the book of either character—provided that co-star had a book. Giving exposure to headliners of new titles such as The Claws of the Cat might help their sales, or an appearance in Team-Up for a character under consideration for a new title could gauge the level of fan interest, before a launch ‘go/no go’ call. Some characters alongside the Friendly Neighborhood One simply brought great chemistry. Others were so diverse from Spidey’s usual circle (cosmic, magic, alternate futures) that this was their only shot at a teaming. These often featured unique co-stars. Frog-Man. Doc Savage. Killraven. Red Sonja. The Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time-Players.  

Even manufacturing reasons for these clashes of titans were tenuous sources of entertainment. Spidey and the month’s guest happened by a crime scene independently. They were coincidentally attending the same rock concert in their secret identities. More logical, insightful reasons might arise, cementing a cohesion to the Marvel Universe. Some tales smacked of gimmickry, others relayed memorable stories likely not possible in any other Marvel book.

How’s the new Team-Up compare? Turns out, it plays very well. Much of the original charm is intact but enhanced by incredibly good storytelling from writer Eve L. Ewing. She brings amazing focal balance to both feature heroes, Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel, in an unexpected but completely natural manner.

There’s viable reason for these superheroes to collide thanks to Ewing, and the focal point is Empire State University. Using an established villain from Spider-Man’s college days there dovetails with the crafted narrative. Where Ewing transcends her beautifully accomplished “How do we get these crazy kids together?” requirements is in fully exploring the perspectives of both.

Pete the alumni, recalling halcyon college days full of promise and potential, then wondering how the years since might have been better if not for certain choices. Kamala the High School student, vying for credibility as a youth becoming a young woman and as a superhero still proving herself, promise and potential waiting to be realized. He’s wall-climbed a mile in her spandex by the time he was Kamala’s age. She marvels at Pete’s proven Spider-sona, and she aspires to the same, but Kamala can only imagine a day when her own such legitimacy as a hero is attained. Then these oddly parallel viewpoints achieve an even greater equity.

Ewing tips her hand slightly, perhaps earlier than necessary, regarding the main payoff of the issue—but that provides killer motive for our specific villain to show interest. (I’ll admit the hand-tip registered only slightly during my first read-through, but not enough to sour the crescendo end note of issue #1.) Joey Vazquez has a light and breezy style which fits this very character-driven adventure. Except he also manages a need for reproducing previous panels to exhibit another character’s POV. It’s a more challenging feat, and he juggles the concept’s complexity with jolting virtuosity. Colorist Felipe Sabreiro matches the imagery with a blithe palette scheme of everyday tones—until it’s Hero Time. That’s mostly when the vibrant primary colors kick in, and it’s a thoughtful, well-executed way of dividing the mundane from the superheroic. VC’s Clayton Cowles turns in another fine lettering job, and one that could, depending on how the final reveal is approached next issue, be only the iceberg tip of what’s going to be required.

And that brings us to the finished product. Such quality is only possible when a creative team is united in focus and harmony with each other’s contributions. There’s no pretense of a Big Event, only the joyful celebration of an interesting teaming. No cosmic balances are struck, no universe-ending threat lurking in the wings. Instead, there are very winning and satisfying moments of characterization. It’s pronounced that, despite any ‘light and breezy’ exterior, abundant thought and care was invested exploring this team-up potential. In trends both tried and lemon-fresh, the first issue excels beyond expectations and well past any lingering legacy of sales-boosting chicanery. This isn’t Spider-Man slumming with whatever character in hopes his popularity will rub off. Or for secondary character exposure as directed by Management to galvanize a premiere.

It’s a well-tailored exploration of two feature superheroes sharing a call to action, then finding symmetry in coordinating their efforts. Meanwhile, we’re treated to vicarious shares of what’s going on behind those masks, and that makes for a smart and superlative brand of team-up.

Marvel / $3.99

Written by Eve L. Ewing.

Art by Joey Vazquez.

Colors by Felipe Sobreiro.

Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles.

8 out of 10

Check out this 3-page preview of ‘Marvel Team-Up’ #1, courtesy of Marvel!

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