Cover Price: $.25
Value: $7 (Near Mint-)
"Murder's Better The Second Time Around!"- 19 Pages
Marvel Team-Up #39, we
saw the unexpected return of two long-forgotten villains from the Stan Lee-Steve
Ditko days of Amazing Spider-Man - the Crime-Master and the Big Man.
Unexpected because both are supposedly dead! The Big Man allied himself with
Montana and Fancy Dan of the Enforcers to capture the Human Torch. Spider-Man
freed the Torch, but before they heroes could defeat the bad guys, they were
confronted by the Crime-Master and his new ally, the Sandman (who is back to
wearing the same striped shirt and corduroy pants he wore back in the Lee-Ditko
days). Artist Sal Buscema gives us a great two-page fight scene to open the
issue. We learn that despite sharing common enemies, the Big Man and
Crime-Master don't exactly get along. It seems the Crime-Master wants to rule
the New York underworld, while the Big Man simply wants revenge on Spider-Man.
The odds are against our heroes, though, and the bad guys put aside their
differences temporarily. The Big Man catches Spidey with a blow to the back of
the head while Spider-Man is dodging the Sandman and Enforcers. The Sandman then
uses his powers to snuff out the Human Torch's flame.
In the meantime, Spider-Man is still fighting the various mobsters in the warehouse. "He's only one scrawny little guy!" a thug says. "Correction, cuddles! One scrawny little Spider-Man! There is a difference, you know." Spider-Man corrects the thugs with a few rights and lefts to the jaw. However, he gets distracted by the captive Human Torch and knocked unconscious by the Big Man (a little too easily for my tastes, but we'll let that go). "We have no quarrel, Crime-Master! All I want is Spider-Man! What you do with organized crime is your affair," the Big Man says. "We may have a problem, Big Man," the Crime-Master replies. " 'Cause, you see--I want Spider-Man, too!" Hmmm....
Next door, the martial artists known as the Sons of the Tiger are getting a workout. The Sons of the Tiger are Lin Sun, Abe Brown and Robert Diamond, along with Robert's girlfriend Lotus Shinchuko. The Sons of the Tiger appeared in the black-and-white Deadly Hands of Kung Fu magazine and were making their full-color debut in this issue. Clearly, this appearance was designed to promote the Deadly Hands of Kung Fu book, as they otherwise don't seem to fit into this story, which is a throwback and tribute to the Lee-Ditko era of Spider-Man. Lin saves Spider-Man from being shot by the Big Man and Abe sets the Torch free from his glass prison. ""I couldn't flame on as there was too little air inside the case to support my flame," the Human Torch says. "But there isn't anything holding me back now!" The Sons of the Tiger more than hold their own against the mobsters and even against the Enforcers. But the Sandman proves to be a bit out of their league. Thankfully, Spider-Man rejoins the fray. But just as the bad guys appear beaten, the Crime-Master produces a smoke bomb, allowing the villains to escape.
The Human Torch leaves the story at this point, as he he is needed in his own book (the Fantastic Four, of course). Spider-Man drops by to see Mosquito, the young boy he befriended in the previous issue. Mosquito is still upset about the death of his pet pigeon. As they are talking, Spider-Man sees the gang of bad guys emerging from a nearby manhole. "And though all of them are pretty unsavory--the one in the lead (the Big Man) is the same crumb that killed your pigeon!" Spider-Man tells the boy. The villains ambush the Sons of the Tiger in their own headquarters. "That ol' skunk foo don't amount to much when ya don't get the chance ta use it!" Montana brags. However, the Crime-Master and Big Man aren't getting along, as both want to be in charge. So the Crime-Master shoots the Big Man, who slumps to the floor. Spider-Man crashes through the window, knocks out Montana, and frees the Sons of the Tiger. All five heroes corner the Sandman and, even though the Sandman is powerful, he isn't able to withstand five blows at once! "I thought the Sandman was supposed to put you to sleep--not the other way around," Robert jokes.
The fight is over, but the mystery of the Big Man and the Crime-Master isn't. Spidey yanks their masks off, starting with the Crime-Master. "Just as I thought--I don't know you from Adam," he says. But they get a big shock when they take off the Big Man's mask. The Big Man is actually a young woman! And the Crime-Master obviously knows her, calling her "Janice." "Looks like he has a good idea who she is, Bro," Abe says. "Was, you mean! She's dead, Crime-Master--and you killed her!" Spider-Man says. The Crime-Master confesses that his name is Nick Lewis Jr., son of the original Crime-Master Nick "Lucky" Lewis. He had vowed revenge for his father's death. However, while in school, he met Janice Foswell, daughter of Frederick "The Big Man" Foswell. The two fell in love and Lewis decided to kill Spider-Man to avenge both of their fathers. He had no idea that Janice had the same idea. "You'll have a long time to figure it out, Lewis--a real long time," Spider-Man says. "Though in a way--I hope you don't! It isn't very pretty!" Just a great twist ending to this story; the ending and the Lee-Ditko nostalgia more than make up for any flaws this story may have. In a lot of ways, the ending reminds me of "The Gift of the Magi," the classic short story by American writer O'Henry. It's worth reading if you never have before.
Despite their role in this excellent story, the Sons of the Tiger don't become major players in the Marvel universe. However, when they break up, their amulets are found by Hector Ayala and transform him into the hero known as the White Tiger! He makes his debut in Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #9, also from the excellent Bill Mantlo/Sal Buscema creative team.
Next issue: The lengthy Marvel Team-Up time travel story begins, as Spidey teams up with the Scarlet Witch - in Colonial America!
Also This Month: