Marvel Team Up #127
December 13, 2010
Let's watch the Watcher waste our time!
Linkara: (wearing a Santa hat on top of his normal hat) Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. You know, in this holiday season, it's important to do what you can to help people however you see fit.
(Footage of Jingle All the Way is shown (showing Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad competing with each other and crazed shoppers in a toy store to find a Turbo Man doll (of which the store is out)), but the video is flipped (that is, the image is reversed), while covered over it is a message saying that this is because this is an attempt to hopefully keep the video from being flagged)
Linkara (v/o): Maybe you can just be polite to an overworked retail worker that's had to deal with rude jerks all day who want a Turbo Man doll. Maybe it's giving to a charity or hopefully making people laugh through reviews of bad comic books on the Internet, despite your crappy production values and your inability to say the word "room" due your Minnesotan roots. And while, of course, there are always going to be Scrooges and jerks during the holiday season, sometimes it's worse to have the indifferent: the people who don't care about the suffering of others, even if they have the power to make a difference.
Linkara: But let me be clear here: I'm not talking about regular everyday people. People have enough on their plates already without having to be constantly reminded that the world sucks. No, I'm talking about douchebag fictional characters that are supposed to be supremely powerful.
(Cut to a montage of clips of sci-fi shows that feature such characters, including Doctor Who and Star Trek)
Linkara (v/o): These self-important pricks think that just because we are "unto an amoeba", that somehow gives them the right to stand by while bad crap happens to people. It's a recurring trope in science-fiction: beings that are more advanced technologically or have powers and abilities beyond ordinary humans. They think that inferior races should just be observed or that they should never get involved in affairs of lesser beings. I understand stuff like polluting a culture or accidentally bringing disease or war. Hell, it's happened time and again in human history. But I just want to punch these dickheads who think that lives aren't worth saving because of "nature running its course" or "you don't know what might happen", or just that we're somehow not worth saving because we haven't evolved to the point where we can see the color "purporange". Maybe it's just me, but it seems like if you really were like a god or something, you'd at least try to make people's lives better. It's probably why I like superhero comics so much; we have these beings of immense power and ability, and they use their abilities to help people. Sure, if you suddenly jumped from ordinary schlub to pure energy, you might screw around for a while, but eventually you'd try to do something good. (beat) Unless you were just an asshole.
(Cut to a clip of The Wizard of Oz)
Dorothy: (to the Great and Powerful Oz) If you were really great and powerful, you'd keep your promises!
Linkara: We've already seen an example of this kind of dickery on this show. Remember the Monitors?
(The Monitors from "Countdown" are shown)
Monitor 1: We should do something!
Monitor 2: Should we do something?
Monitor 1: We should do something!
Monitor 2: Should we do something?
Linkara (v/o): However, before the Monitors could bore us to death in DC's "Countdown"...
(Cut to shots of another, similar group called the Watchers)
Linkara (v/o): ...Marvel managed to have an entire race of nonintervening jerks for decades. Say hello to the Watchers, who do exactly what their name implies: they watch. "No, we can't stop beings from committing genocide or keep races from extinction. Let's just watch them die. We'll make popcorn!" One of the few who actually does get involved, however, is Uatu, who actually did break his vow of nonintervention. Several times, in fact. However, his most famous intervention would probably be his first appearance...
(The title for said first appearance is shown: "The Coming of Galactus!")
Linkara (v/o): ...where he warned the Fantastic Four of the coming of Galactus, destroyer of worlds. Usually, he only gets involved in the big stuff...
Linkara: ...buuut then there's this comic. Let's dig into (holds up comic of review for today) "Marvel Team Up #127".
(Title sequence plays, with the Twilight Zone theme playing over the title card; cut to the cover for this comic)
Linkara (v/o): Yeah, I know I originally solicited the Howard the Duck holiday special for this, but since I'm not as well read on Howard the Duck as you'd think I'd be, I decided to go with this instead. (low voice) Plus, I couldn't find the issue again. (louder again) This comic at first glance isn't all that bad, but really, its crappiness comes the more you think about it, but we'll get to that later. Anyway, our cover. This is "Marvel Team Up", which is pretty much exactly what you'd expect it to be: two Marvel characters teaming up for an issue or two. Most of these were Spider-Man and another character. In this case, it's the Watcher. The cover has nothing to offer: Spider-Man swinging and the Watcher [Uatu] holding out this arm. Huzzah.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): We open to Spidey doing what he does in pretty much every Spider-Man story I'd ever reviewed: swinging through New York.
Spider-Man: (thinking) Boy, do I love this time of year! It's enough to make your average web-spinning, wall-crawling super hero forget his troubles and smile--
Linkara: (as Spider-Man) Almost makes me forget that almost every significant person in my life either dies horribly or turns evil.
Linkara (v/o): He arrives at Aunt May's house, who's throwing a party with a bunch of other old people who were supporting characters in Spidey's book at the time.
Peter Parker: ...Good grief! Are my eyes deceiving me--or is that Elizabeth Taylor over there, serving cake and coffee?
Linkara: (as Peter) And is that a Communist spy she's dating? Oh, for fun!
Linkara (v/o): After some Christmasy antics with old people, Peter notices one of them, an old beatnik named Mr. Chekov, is looking at the window with a sad look on his face. He talks about his granddaughter, Bette, and how she's his only family left.
Mr. Chekov: ...I don't think I've seen her five times since Walter and his wife were killed in a plane crash a few years back. Is that any way for a family to be?
Linkara: (as Peter) Yeah, that's just rude! She needs to die to inspire you into action! (as Mr. Chekov) I don't think you're the person I should be talking to about this.
Linkara (v/o): So yeah, Mr. Chekov is upset that his daughter won't be showing up for Christmas. And that he can't find any nuclear wessels. Peter tries to cheer him up and encourages him to start doing his beat poetry. Because if there's one thing the elderly cling to for entertainment, it's beat poetry.
Mr. Chekov: I call this, "Dancing Toward Bethlehem"-- with apologies to William Butler Yeats.
Linkara: You're gonna make me start rhyming again, aren't you?
Linkara (v/o): Peter's Spider-Sense starts going nuts, and he runs outside.
Aunt May: Peter, dear-- what is it?
Peter: Uh...nothing, Aunt May. I just realized that we're...uh...all...out of ice cream and I...uh...had my heart set on a midnight sundae! I'll go get some!
Linkara: (as Aunt May) Well, that sounds suspicious and unconvincing. Plus, you're gonna miss Mr. Chekov's beat poetry. (as Peter) Oh, no! No, no, it's fine. I'm gonna go out and get some ice cream. Lots of ice cream.
Linkara (v/o): A blizzard suddenly hits Peter, and his clothes change into his Spider-Man suit, much to his shock. However, the bigger shock is the appearance of the Watcher! Spider-Man asks the big, bald-headed dude who he is, what's the story, etc., etc., but the Watcher remains silent, handing him a jewel.
Spider-Man: You want me to take this jewel-- is THAT it? But, why do you--
(Suddenly, the jewel, through the magic of Photoshop, is turned into the infamous eye from the Lord of the Rings movies)
Sauron: (audio) I see you.
Linkara (v/o): No, the jewel reveals the face of Chekov's granddaughter. And of course, instead of explaining what the hell he's supposed to do, the Watcher just vanishes.
Spider-Man: Whatever the case, there seems to be only one logical course to follow-- if logic applies to this situation at all-- and that's to find Bette Chekov!
Linkara: Actually, there are a few logical courses of action. You could just go home. Maybe you were meant to give the jewel to Chekov. Maybe it's the Watcher's equivalent of a framed photograph, and he felt bored and stalker-ish. Logic's funny like that.
Linkara (v/o): Oh, yes, it's time to show you the other thing that Watchers do: narrate to themselves. The Watcher uses this to great effect when he played the role of Rod Serling in The Twilight Zone to Marvel's "What If?" series, where if storylines were given a different resolution than the one in continuity.
Uatu: Since time's dawn, my people have played their role in the drama cosmic-- bearing witness to the eternal pageant of interstellar life, in every corner of creation! But of all the myriad wonders I have ever witnessed, few mean more to me than that which unfolds-- tonight!
Linkara: (as Rod Serling, holding a lit cigarette) Submitted for your approval: Spider-Man, a superhuman searching for a lost woman, but instead will find himself swinging right into... the Twilight Zone.
Linkara (v/o): The Watcher, continuing to speak into his diary on tape, shows the image of Bette Chekov running through the snow, no doubt late for the party in catching the New Kids on the Block outside a costume shop.
Uatu: Too often in the past have I violated my sacred trust--and interfered in Earth's affairs--so that this planet I have come to love... could live!
Linkara: And yet, the other Watchers still have not yet fired your ass.
Uatu: (narrating) ...But now, I find myself again drawn to help! For the threat is no less deadly than the Over-Mind! No less awesome than Galactus!
Linkara: Spoiler alert: Turns out Bette's involved with cocaine and drug dealers. Yeah, sorry, drugs are bad and all, but no, devourer of worlds – more awesome.
Uatu: (narrating) This woman--this child--is the focal point.
Linkara: This child in her 20s...
Linkara (v/o): Meanwhile, Spidey remembers that Chekov once said that Bette lives in Brooklyn... despite the fact that their conversation was clearly the first time she had ever been mentioned and Brooklyn was never brought up once.
Spider-Man: (thinking) If there's one impression that big, bald mystery man left me with-- it's a sense of incredible urgency!
Linkara: He stood there, said nothing, and handed you a Magic 8-Ball with her picture in it! What exactly about that yelled "urgent"?
Linkara (v/o): Our wise protagonist decides to check with his most useful resource: directory assistance. Yes, you're seriously reading a comic book where Spider-Man needs to phone directory assistance to find someone's address. Oh, what makes it better is that he hits the phone booth to take some change out to make the call. Our hero, ladies and gentlemen. And the person he talks to just misinterprets the name in a not-funny sequence. And by the way, this entire thing could've been avoided if Chekov had just mentioned the area she lived in, or if the Watcher's jewelry bleeped when he got close to her or something. Anyway, Spidey gets the address from directory assistance and arrives at Bette's apartment building, which has cops surrounding it. The police are wheeling away a dead body, and Spidey suddenly goes nuts about it.
Spider-Man: Look, I haven't got time for this. Who is she? TELL ME!
Linkara: (as Spider-Man, pretending to shake someone's shoulders, as Spidey does in the panel) I'M ABSOLUTELY HYSTERICAL ABOUT THIS UNKNOWN PERSON I'VE NEVER MET BEFORE!
Linkara (v/o): The detective explains that it's Bette's roommate, and inside of her room were several thousand dollars' worth of cocaine.
Linkara: Clearly, they were simply celebrating the holiday season by giving an offering to their own god... SNOWFLAME!
(To an angelic choir, a shot of Snowflame is displayed)
Linkara: (as Snowflame) Snowflame feels no pain!
Linkara (v/o): Spidey swings off, trying to find any sign of Bette, but he fails.
Spider-Man: (thinking) And even if I did find Bette-- what would I do? Say, "Excuse me, but a giant appeared to me and showed me your face in a crystal ball. Perhaps you could help me figure out what it all means?"
Linkara: Well, when you say it like that, it's almost like this entire premise is silly or something.
Linkara (v/o): And then, all of a sudden, Captain America is there! Yep, no warning, Captain America is just now in the story. Okay.
Captain America: I thought it was you sitting here--but I couldn't figure out what in the world Spider-Man would be doing on a Brooklyn Heights rooftop on Christmas Eve!
Linkara: Here's a thought: what's Captain America doing on a Brooklyn Heights rooftop on Christmas Eve?!
Linkara (v/o): Spidey explains the situation, and Cap gives him a pep talk, which is, of course, all he needs to get out of his existential angst about not being able to find some random woman that the Watcher just showed him a picture of. Hell, Cap even offers to help find her, but Spidey turns him down, since he has a feeling he needs to do this alone. And this is why Captain America is awesome and Spidey is, well, an idiot, sadly. The Watcher, still narrating to no one, observes Spider-Man.
Watcher: And so the strands of fate draw tighter--each seemingly random element forming a more purposeful whole!
Linkara: (holding up index finger) Uh, no, I'm sorry, but unless you're telling me that you arranged to have Captain America on that rooftop, this is just random coincidence.
Uatu: Spider-Man has found new strength within himself-- and such strength shall ever be rewarded.
Linkara: So, what this comic is telling us is that Spidey lacks any form of inner strength, unless someone gives him a vote of confidence and encourages him. Who knew Spidey was actually Shinji Ikari?
Linkara (v/o): The Watcher shows him another image, this time of a sleazy bar where he can get some information. Spidey goes to the bar and beats up some people who have no idea what he's talking about. Our hero is convinced and just runs outside, not sure why the Watcher showed him that. Here's a thought: maybe he's just screwing around with you. No, of course, the real reason is that in the apartment right behind the bar, Bette is arguing with her boyfriend. The two are on the run from the mob, whom they stole the cocaine from, and were responsible for Bette's roommate's death. The boyfriend decides to kill Bette to shut her up, but fortunately, Spider-Man arrives, despite not knowing that they were in this particular apartment. Oh, he says Bette's boyfriend was so loud that he could hear it. I call bullcrap on that. Why would they have the window open on a late December night?! Bette, scared for her life, runs out of the apartment, but right into the view of the mob. Oh, and for some bizarre reason, she's carrying the cocaine with her. Smooth. The mobsters chase her and prepare to kill her, but Spider-Man arrives along with his Spider-Signal! Yeah, it's not used very much anymore, but back in the day, Spidey used to surprise his enemies with a flashlight in his belt in the shape of his mask.
Linkara: Because when you're fighting your enemy, you want to give them a nice, bright target to shoot at.
Linkara (v/o): Spidey beats up the mobsters, one of whom manages to get a shot off at Bette. He finishes off the rest of the thugs and yells at the Watcher, 'cause Bette is dying. Enraged at all of this, he tosses the jewel at the Watcher, and it explodes, the energy then coming down and healing Bette enough to keep her alive long enough for Spidey to get her to a hospital. Of course, the Watcher could just teleport him there, but no, he needs to do this on his own, or some crap like that, I'm sure. So Bette makes it, Chekov is reunited with her granddaughter, and Spidey gives a silent thanks to the Watcher, who finishes off his narration.
Uatu: ...To stand, eon after eon, bearing mute witness to the flow of life, shrivels the heart... desiccates the soul. So enwrapped are we Watchers in matters of cosmic import that we have lost touch with the ordinary, the mundane-- the day-to-day trials of the beings we so dispassionately observe.
Linkara: (as Uatu) You can read more about it in my upcoming book, "The Watching Hour: The Uatu Story".
Uatu: Can I be blamed, then, for setting aside one night--a night so precious to the children of Earth--to remind myself that creation knows no great or small? One night to reach out, however indirectly, and touch but a few of these strange and magnificent beings called men.
Linkara: (frustrated) Yes! Yes, you can! (closes book and holds it up) This comic sucks!
Linkara (v/o): Some may call humbug on this one, but this is a terrible holiday miracle. Oh, Chekov gets reunited with his granddaugther, and Spidey managed to save her life. Yes, Uatu, I commend you for that. You know what would have been better, though? If the woman who was killed by mobsters HADN'T BEEN KILLED BY MOBSTERS!! According to Bette's dialogue, Sheila wasn't an innocent in all of this, but neither was Bette! She freely admitted to stealing the cocaine! She only regretted that she unknowingly stole it from mobsters! Yes, I treasure all human life, even drug addicts, and I'm happy she's alive, but she didn't learn anything from the experience, and I doubt it will really change anything. Plus, what about the millions across the world dying of starvation, disease, or just the people left out in the cold on Christmas Eve? No, Uatu, you don't get a free pass on this crap! A woman is DEAD because of these events that you could've stopped! Many more will die for any other reason, but no, this event was somehow enough to get your attention! And don't even DARE give me any nonintervention bullcrap. The only reason Spider-Man got involved in all of this was because you intervened and gave him a Magic 8-Ball. YOU INTERVENED, and you could do SO MUCH MORE with your power, but instead, you just sit on the Moon and make your stupid freaking vlogs that nobody else ever sees. Up yours, you sanctimonious, balding jackass! Oh, and to add insult to injury, THE TITLE'S A LIE!! The two didn't "team up"! Uatu doesn't say one freaking thing to Peter, who does all the work! For crying out loud, there was more of a team-up with Captain America, and he was only on for, like, two pages!
Linkara: I'm sorry if it seems like I'm being a bit of a Scrooge this season, because I'm not trying to be, but there's no real joy to be found in these last two weeks. I need something that gives me warmer, something that's just fun and a bit nostalgic for me. (holds up index finger) And you know what? I know just what that is... (puts down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll, to The Police's "Every Breath You Take")
You'd think any advanced alien race whose only purpose is to watch stuff would find more interesting things to watch than us.
Yeah, I know, I picked this song because of the lyric "I'll be watching you." Some times it's hard to find good ending songs.
Stay tuned for a special at the end about MagFest in January!*
- NOTE: The stinger for this ad has been removed because MagFest happened long ago and is no longer relevant.