Cover Price: $.25
Value: $7 (Near Mint-)
"Anybody Here Know A Guy Named Meteor Man?" - 18 Pages
While the Meteor Man probably wouldn't make
anyone's list of Top 10 Spider-Man villains, he is arguably one of the
Web-Slinger's most underrated foes. Originally billed as the Looter, part of
this villain's charm is his sheer goofiness. Norton G. Fester (what a great
name!) was a wanna-be scientist who believed that microscopic life exists in
meteors. His experiments exposed him to a strange gas inside one of those
meteors, which gave him superhuman strength. Fester decided to try his hand as a
costumed crime-fighter. So he called himself the Looter and came up with a nifty
purple-and-white costume, complete with a large helium balloon on his back which
he uses to glide around town. However, he ran into more than he bargained for
when he tangled with Spider-Man. All of this happened in
Amazing Spider-Man #36, by the way.
This time, Fester is back and calling himself the Meteor Man, although with the same costume and powers. It's a definite change for the better. Nighthawk, a member of the Defenders, returns to his home thinking about a recent brush with death at the hands of Egghead (in Giant-Sized Defenders #4). He is surprised to find the Meteor Man in his study rummaging through his belongings. Before he can react, the Meteor Man punches him out, steals a meteor specimen from Nighthawk's study, and floats away on his balloon. "I should never have checked out of the hospital!" Nighthawk jokes. After doing some research, he learns that the Meteor Man was last seen with Spider-Man. But since he's reading the Daily Bugle's account, they conveniently left out the fact that Spidey and the Meteor Man were fighting, not working together.
Speaking of Spider-Man, he's in a terrible mood as he swings around town. He is still reeling from having met the Gwen Stacy clone in Amazing Spider-Man #145. Of course, the real Gwen died in the landmark Amazing Spider-Man #121. "That's cruel. That's really cruel...and I intend to find out why that girl's doing it -- and who she really is." He senses Nighthawk coming up behind him and reacts with a kick and a punch. The blows knocks out the Defender, but Spider-Man catches him before he can fall. Nighthawk isn't exactly pleased at being sucker-punched. "You jumped me, fella -- not the other way around. All I wanted from you was some information -- and that's still all I want." Spider-Man agrees to help Nighthawk find the Meteor Man and bring him in. Spider-Man goes to check Fester's old laboratory, while Nighthawk goes up to the prison where the villain had been held after his initial battle with the Web-Slinger. Nighthawk meets with the prison warden, who tells him Fester had been a model inmate, until he was assigned a new cellmate named Bill Gordon. Gordon goaded Fester, calling him a "two-bit phoney" and "a nobody." Fester snapped at the verbal abuse and used his super-strength to smash his way out of his cell. The warden also tells Nighthawk that the Meteor Man was never treated by a psychiatrist, even though he obviously was mentally ill. "You just keep the men caged, right warden?" Nighthawk says as he flies away.
Spider-Man has a much tougher time of things. When he goes to Fester's lab, he encounters none other than the Meteor Man, who gets the drop on Spidey thanks to his balloon. "In honor of my new-found freedom, I've rechristened myself the Meteor Man! You have to admit, my friendless foe -- it does have a bit more flair than my previous pseudonym." I'll say. The two trade blows until the Meteor Man simply drifts away on his balloon. "If I had time, I'd destroy you -- but I've got far more important matters to attend to." Nighthawk returns with a surprising bit of news: he doesn't plan to send the Meteor Man back to prison. "He's a sick man. He needs help," Nighthawk says. Spider-Man can't believe what he's hearing. He says the Meteor Man is too dangerous to be allowed to roam free (an undeniably true point). He points a finger at Nighthawk and yells "Are you just another costumed coward?" That's more than the Defender can take - he slugs Spider-Man and leaves, but not before he makes a point. "Something's eating you -- and you want revenge, maybe for something Fester hasn't even done." After Nighthawk leaves, Spider-Man realizes that Nighthawk has a point. "Oh, that's simply well, isn't it hero? You're so terrific you alienate everyone -- especially your friends."
We also got a teaser of a new villain named Jeremiah, the leader of a violent religious cult. Jeremiah will tackle Dr. Strange and the Human Torch in Marvel Team-Up #35, one of those rare issues that doesn't feature Spider-Man.
This is a fine, well-written story on many levels, but it's also a case of the writer wanting to make a political statement (in this case, about prison reform) at the expense of the characters. Spider-Man, here the voice of conservative "law and order," acts like a complete jerk toward Nighthawk, the voice of prison reform. Sure, Spider-Man is angry about the Gwen clone and, yes, he regrets his actions at the end of the issue. But Spider-Man isn't supposed to be this angry and spiteful.
I do like how Gerry Conway, who also was writing Amazing Spider-Man at the time, tied this issue into the character's flagship title. Too often, Marvel Team-Up existed on an island with no connection to the other Spider-Man titles. However, you don't have to read Amazing Spider-Man to understand this story, which is as it should be.
Next issue: One of Nighthawk's Defenders teammates, Valkyrie, joins Spider-Man for a rematch with the Meteor Man!
Reviewed by Bruce Buchanan.
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