Spider-Man Team-Up #5
Marvel Comics (December, 1996)
COLORIST: Tom Smith
SEPARATIONS: Digital Chameleon
LETTERER: Bill Oakely
EDITOR: Tom Brevoort
Gambit: “Crescent City Memories”
WRITER/PENCILER: Darick Robertson
INKER: Jerome K. Moore
Howard The Duck: “Sideshow”
WRITER: Steve Gerber
PENCILER: James Fry
INKER: Chris Ivy
In our main story, Mary Jane convinces Ben Reilly (who was acting as Spider-Man at the time, as the Spider-Writers wanted before the Clone Saga was forced off the rails by management) to go to a new New Orleans themed club. He meets a pretty girl there, who is also being courted by Gambit of the X-Men. His old friend is the owner of the club, having gone legit for his family. However, his reputation precedes him as Tombstone wants to use his club to addict people to a new drug derived from a voodoo recipe, and the man with the recipe, Creaux, is a drug dealer Ben tangled with during his travels. At the time Creaux was a corrupt cop in New Orleans, but when he attacked a woman for protection money that Ben made friends with he attacked him, getting a face full of powder but saved by the New Orleans version of Internal Affairs. Now he’s in New York to push his drug with Tombstone, but Gambit’s friend is determined to say legit. Together, Gambit and Spider-Man defeat the pair and Spidey used the same remedy he learned when the woman saved him from the powder.
I enjoyed this story. Gambit and Ben make a good team in this story. It plays well off of Ben’s history, and he had some chemistry with the girl at the club (who turns out to be an undercover narcotics officer) that I hope they took advantage of but I’m not sure they did. But is her name DeWolff, as she introduces herself to Ben, or Dewitt, as she introduces herself to Tombstone? Good art, good story, Tombstone has a potty mouth for some reason. Worth picking up the comic just for this story.
But then there’s the second tale, and one with some behind the scenes I’ll get back to in a moment. Spider-Man (still Ben) and Peter Parker are both investigating a joking nod to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (considering IDW’s reboot the Daredevil crossover we still want to happen isn’t quite as interesting since their origins are no longer tied). They hear a gunshot and find the former Ringmaster, now a researcher for various law enforcement groups. An elf was after his old hypnotic disk but got some pocket-sized scimitar instead. He wants to take over Ringmaster’s old Circus Of Crime and when he gets the wrong device they turn him down. At least until he shoots them and restores them to life (although he does notes limits to his powers). After the officials make a similar goof, taking the desired disk in place of the scimitar, the Elf (who is seeking revenge for his uncle Melf, who was hit by a car…oh you wish this stopped being bizarre!) makes a deal with a green, fin-headed Chicago cop to trade the scimitar for the disk, but Peter and Spider-Man, joined by Howard and Beverly (who came to see the circus, not aware they were the Circus Of Crime), arrive and get in the way. Howard sees another duck in the darkened melee while fighting the Elf while Spider-Man and…yes, it’s the Savage Dragon from Image Comics. I’ll get back to that. Anyway, Spidey and Dragon exchange devices, the Circus is defeated, and Princess Python escapes with the Elf and I don’t know what the deal was with the scimitar. Maybe the Savage Dragon side of the story explains it.
And yes, this was an unofficial crossover with Savage Dragon, a sneaky ploy by Steve Gerber and Savage Dragon creator Eric Larson. SF Debris explained it better during his Rise And Fall Of The Comic Empire series (which is highly recommended you watch, but here’s the related episode for the purpose of this review, four minutes in, if you don’t have time for the whole series) but the short version is this: Gerber’s relationship with Marvel was…contentious. While there are some individual points I think Gerber handled wrong Marvel did screw him over badly, especially when it came to Gerber’s creation for them, Howard The Duck. So the reason for the second duck was (in Gerber’s mind at least) a switcharoo in which a “fake” Howard would now be the one Marvel is writing about. You wonder if at some point Marvel will realize this and “fix” that in-universe just to spite him? It wouldn’t be the first time.
As for the story itself, it really contrasts with the other story in this issue. It’s goofy, there’s the Ninja Turtles reference, the sort-of appearance by Savage Dragon, Bev hitting on Peter, Ben not knowing about the talking duck (I don’t know if they first met after the original Clone storyline or not), and maybe it’s just not my kind of goofy or maybe it’s just because the other story was so much better. Also, there’s this scene with some large woman chastising Howard for ordering a cheeseburger in a restaurant that comes off as some overblown commentary on the anti-meat crowd. I mean, yeah, the militant vegans (because everyone wants their own militants these days) get to me too but what was the point?
Luckily that first story is really worth buying this comic, and you might get a kick out the second one if the humor gibes with your, plus the meta history involved.