Most issues of Marvel Team-Up featured Spider-Man teaming up with some other fairly random denizen of the Marvel Universe. This was fine--since Spidey's personality made his interactions with other characters a lot of fun.
But all the same, it was nice to get an occasional departure from this formula with a story that tossed two pretty much randomly chosen characters together for an adventure. One of the advantages of a large and vibrant comic book universe is that it produces these opportunities.
This is what we get with Marvel Team-Up #104 (April 1981, with script by Roger MacKenzie & art by Jerry Bingham). We get a few pages of Ka-Zar hunting a misbehaving T-Rex, then encountering some mercenaries who are scouting out the Savage Land for as-yet unknown purpose.
MODOK's plan is to set up shop in the Savage Land (those were his agents who got beat up by Ka-Zar earlier), capture a bunch of dinosaurs and subject them to the same procedure that made him Big Head Guy with vast mental powers.
Next week, we will look at a Gold Key Star Trek story written by Len Wein that was a lot of fun, but depended on a contrivance near the conclusion to set up the final confrontation. Here, we have the exact same situation. The story as a whole is a lot of fun and it is well worth reading. But towards the end...
I'm not bothered by MODOK tossing the two heroes to the dinosaurs rather than just killing them. That fits his personality--as the concept of death traps fits the personality of any egotistical and arrogant super-villain. But Banner is supposed to be sedated. To be fair, there is narration explaining that Banner's pure fear made him Hulk-out despite the sedation, but that's something MODOK would have known to guard against. Give him an extra dose of sedative, MODOK. Shut down his brain with a mental blast. You still get to watch him being eaten alive, so it doesn't spoil your fun.
Also, though he is chained at first, Ka-Zar still has his knife.
That's what makes the opening scenes a sort of Catch-22. Giving Ka-Zar and Hulk their own brief stories was a great way to introduce the characters to any reader not familiar with one of them. Both sequences really are well-written.
But losing those pages meant that MacKenzie had to rush through the ending, forcing him to put in several contrivances to set up the finale. As is the case with the Star Trek story we'll be looking at next week, it doesn't ruin it and we still have a good time, but its not quite as good as it might have been.
I suppose that having a specific page requirement is both a blessing and a curse for a talented writer. It would train a writer to be concise in his plot development, but there would be occasions when fitting a particular story into 22 pages would have forced a little bit of cheating on proper story construction.
In this case, if the opening scenes had been dropped or shortened, there might have been time to flesh out the ending. But then we would have lost some strong action sequences and a look at the Hulk that generates sincere emotion. Catch-22. There's no right answer.
Oh, well. We still get to watch Hulk slug a tyrannosaur. That's always worthwhile.
Next week, it's Captain Kirk vs. Space Pirates.