Marvel Team-Up #48-51
Issue(s): Marvel Team-Up #48, Marvel Team-Up #49, Marvel Team-Up #50, Marvel Team-Up #51
This story introduces a minor villain called the Wraith, but it's actually his sister Jean DeWolff, also introduced here, that becomes the more significant character.
The story begins with Spider-Man spotting a bomb dropped by a toy plane into a Stark fuel tank, and causing an explosion. Iron Man shows up looking for a Misunderstanding Fight, but Spider-Man is having none of it, pointing out that he's worked with Iron Man before, and there are also other Avengers, including Vision, Scarlet Witch, and Moondragon, that will vouch for him. He complains that Iron Man and Thor are always so arrogant. Cool little panel.
Police Captain Jean DeWolff is there as well, and she ensures the fight doesn't go any further.
She brings the heroes back to her precinct, and we get to check out her cool car...
...and the way she handles sexism from her underlings.
She gives the heroes info on previous plane attacks, but then her office is attacked by one of the planes. DeWolff's tough persona cracks a bit...
...but Iron Man gets the plane-bomb out of the office while Spidey tracks the person who sent it, and it's the Wraith.
While Iron Man recovers from a fall after the plane-bomb exploded, Spider-Man finds that the Wraith's powers include illusionary mind-manipulation (Spidey notes similarities to Mysterio and Mirage).
When Iron Man joins the fight, the Wraith flees, and then Jean DeWolff's father, Phillip DeWolff shows up at her office. It's not a friendly visit.
The reason for her father's visit is that he's received a note in the handwriting of his supposedly dead son (Jean's brother), signed "The Wraith".
Since there is now potentially a ghost involved, Spider-Man contacts Dr. Strange for additional help.
They go to the site of Brian DeWolff's supposed death, and find that he was carried off from the scene by Phillip. The trail then leads to the DeWolff crypt, where they find a comatose Brian controlled by the elder DeWolff.
It turns out that after Brian was involved in a shootout, his father took him away and had some wealthy friends turn him into the Wraith. He intended to use the Wraith as a force for justice, but his friends turned out to be corrupt criminals, and the Wraith's first few targets were about getting rid of them. It's not clear why they then attacked a Stark fuel depot, but the point is made that the father is stark raving mad at this point and not really rational.
That may also explain a discrepancy between his statement here, where he claims that Jean and Brian's mother is dead, and a later flashback in the story where Jean DeWolff dies, where she remembers her mother still being alive.
Spidey and Dr. Strange are captured thanks to the Wraith's mind control powers...
...and tied to a slate. Dr. Strange is conveniently experiencing one of his weak periods in this story, as seen in recent Defenders stories.
However, Strange is able to utilize his cloak of levitation and get himself and Spidey free. Meanwhile, Iron Man has been re-purposing an old SHIELD ESPer helmet...
...and while Spidey and Strange fight the Wraith, Iron Man shows up and plants the helmet on Phillip to block his ability to control the Wraith.
Three of these four Marvel Team-Up issues officially guest-star Iron Man, but plenty of additional heroes are present in issue #51 for the trial. That includes Iron Man and Strange, but also Nick Fury (observing the proceedings remotely), Professor X and Moondragon (both testifying on the feasibility of mind control), and Matt Murdock, also remote and on call for additional legal advice.
Emerson Bale, normally the Champion's lawyer, is the defense attorney for Brian DeWolff.
The defense is that Brian was controlled by his father. I don't know who is defending Phillip, but i can't believe he couldn't manage to get that helmet thrown out. Seems like an insanity defense might have been the way to go.
In any event, there isn't much in the way of an actual trial, because the elder DeWolff manages to override the mind-control helmet, and even gaining Brian's powers for himself...
...so there's another Wraith attack.
In the aftermath of the fight, Brian regains control of his mind, and the judges (a panel of five) make a snap ruling that Brian is innocent and Phillip is guilty.
The procedures in this trial certainly seem unorthodox, and part of the reason may be due to the fact that the judges are apparently mutants.
This little twist is what Mantlo "borrowed" from "Probable Cause". It's said in issue #56's lettercol that Mantlo couldn't remember where he got this idea and "he decided to go with it anyway, hoping that someone out there would remember the same story and recall where it had been printed". Pretty outrageous. This will not be Mantlo's last brush with plagiarism.
The sequence doesn't even really work well within the context of the Marvel universe. The judges "couldn't acknowledge the existence of telepathy or telekinesis"? I'll grant that Professor Xavier probably didn't reveal his abilities, but what about Moondragon?
The story ends with a sequence showing the Hulk jumping around in the desert. This was meant to be a lead in to the Woodgod story, but that won't be until issue #53; a Captain America team-up by Gerry Conway has been slipped into the schedule next issue.
Despite the wonky trial (i know not to expect a realistic trial in a Marvel book) and the weird plagiarized judges, this is an interesting arc. It's worth noting the slower pace; this story is developed over four issues without the usual contrived guest star switcharoo, and the time is spent to develop Jean DeWolff and her crazy family. She's not quite fully formed yet but you can see how she became an enduring supporting character.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Some time passes between the capture of the Wraith at the end of #49 and the beginning of the trial in #50. But since we already have the schedules free for Spidey, Iron Man, and Dr. Strange, there's no point in separating out the issue. The MCP places this arc between Amazing Spider-Man #162-163 and Iron Man #91-92. Since he's remote, i've got Matt Murdock here between Daredevil #137-138 (presumably Daredevil is in California, putting his investigation of Karen Page's disappearance on hold. Otherwise Tony Stark made that airplane in Iron Man #89 wait a loooong time.). Also between Uncanny X-Men #97-98, before Avengers #150, and preferably before Emerson Bale first appears in the Champions. I'm slightly out of sync with Dr. Strange's Defenders appearances, but the important thing is to place this after Defenders #36-37 when he starts having trouble with his powers. That also causes me to be out of sync with them on the Hulk, but the Hulk's appearance here is context free.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showDaredevil, Dr. Strange, Emerson Bale, Hulk, Iron Man, J. Jonah Jameson, Jean DeWolff, Moondragon, Nick Fury, Professor X, Spider-Man, Wraith
Nice little spin on the "misunderstanding fight" (a team up mainstay)
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | May 24, 2013 4:12 AM
Actually, I'm a bit surprised Spidey would throw Thor in with IM. of all the avengers, Thor has given spidey the fairest shake (even moreso than Cap). I've always assumed it had something to do with Thor's experience, he's able to ignore the flipancy and judge spider-man on his true character.
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | May 24, 2013 4:14 AM
Thor came on really strong in Amazing Spider-Man annual #3 and expressed disbelief that Spidey would hesitate at the chance to join the Avengers. I agree that Spidey's later encounters with Thor were more pleasant (e.g. MTU #7), but since Iron Man is bringing up loyalty/privacy issues it may have reminded Spider-Man of that.
Posted by: fnord12 | May 24, 2013 1:45 PM
In #51, Sal Buscema lapses into extreme garage-door mouthing.
Professor X's appearance here caused a number of problems for fanzine writers doing chronological X-Men histories, and many of them just threw in the towel and gave up. I distinctly remember one writing "It doesn't make any sense for Xavier to take time out from[whatever big event he was involved in] to testify at a trial".
Posted by: Mark Drummond | May 25, 2013 3:44 PM
I always thought Phillip DeWolff was a much more engaging villain when he was just Jean's disapproving father. All of the Wraith stuff, coupled with making Phillip a typical raving supervillain by the end, really killed a lot of the drama and tension of this story.
Posted by: TCP | October 3, 2014 3:36 PM
With the central conceit of a supposedly dead policeman operating as a vigilante out of a graveyard, I always figured this story started out as a spin on Will Eisner's Spirit, but grew into something else entirely.
Posted by: Andrew | February 22, 2015 9:24 PM
I really like that first panel and wish it were bigger (in the comic, not on this page). I agree with Spidey; the presumptuous arrogance of Thor and Iron Man (and Captain America often as well) about any super-heros that don't full under their purvey is pretty irritating. Reed Richards has it as well, of course, but Reed Richards and "presumptuous arrogance" kind of go hand in hand.
Jean DeWolff is a good character and it's a great intro, but she's really disappointing in the rest of the story after the Wraith appears.
Posted by: Erik Beck | March 15, 2015 5:05 PM
I agree with Andrew that Will Eisner's Spirit was probably a starting point for this--Phillip DeWolff looks very much like a better groomed Commissioner Dolan, and Jean DeWolff could sort of pass for Ellen Dolan. Unfortunately, that could leave Bill Mantlo open to a 2nd plagiarism charge in the same story; I think it was around this time that Michael T. Gilbert introduced a funny-animal version of the Spirit called "The Wraith" in Quack, a title published by Mike Friedrich's Star Reach. No way would Mantlo have not known about anything Friedrich published at that time; nearly every fanzine was covering him.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 21, 2016 11:51 AM
Another problem: during #51,Jameson yells about paying Peter Parker's salary, but Parker is supposed to be a freelancer.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | February 21, 2016 12:23 PM
I like the Wraith. I was a bit miffed when he was killed by Scourge, but I was happy to see him come back as a disembodied intelligence in MORBIUS. As far as I know, he's still that way, despite his resurrection by the Hood and subsequent (and foolish, since it happened so quickly) death once again by the Punisher.
Posted by: Andrew Burke | August 18, 2016 12:33 PM
As a kid, I thought Jean DeWolff was the coolest thing ever. Really she's Marvel's answer to Commissioner Gordon (or at least Maggie Sawyer), and for while had a similar prominence. I always hated that PAD killed her. And despite the fact that dead pretty much never means dead in the Marvel universe, she's never come back (other than a brief resurrection in the Clone Conspiracy and as an awful corrupt cop cliché in the Ultimate universe).
Posted by: Andrew | October 20, 2017 7:45 AM
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