Marvel Team-Up #5-6
Issue(s): Marvel Team-Up #5, Marvel Team-Up #6
Spider-Man takes the Vision to a hospital where he performs some super-science...
...and determines that the Vision currently has "two sets of brain waves", the second of which is coming from an external frequency. He is eventually able to trace the Vision's problems to an external interference, currently coming from the Baxter Building. Expecting to find one of Reed Richards' machine's on the fritz, Spider-Man and the Vision find that the Puppet Master has invaded the building while the FF are out.
The Puppet Master had previously found a UFO complete with a robot. He crafted a puppet to control the robot that calls itself "Ballox", although the Puppet Master prefers to call it his "Monstroid".
Spidey keeps Ballox busy while the Vision slips into the building and defeats the Puppet Master.
According to the Vision, the robot was "a Skrull scout - an experimental model used during the Kree-Skrull War". We didn't actually see such creatures then (and if the Vision did, they weren't operating at the same frequency as this one or he would have experienced a similar problem).
In the next issue, after the Vision has left, Spider-Man is still at the Baxter Building looking over the body of the unconscious Puppet Master when the Thing returns home with Alicia.
The Thing is initially hostile towards Spidey...
...until he sees the Puppet Master. Then when he realizes what had happened, he takes the Puppet Master into another room to "interrogate" him.
This is the first meeting between Spider-Man and Alicia, and it's always cool to see those little scenes. Spidey first assumes that Alicia wouldn't know anything about the Puppet Master, but then he learns that he's her step-dad.
The Puppet Master tells the Thing that he might have a possible cure for Alicia's blindness. It's a weird thing that keeps coming up (as we'll see again in FF #126); it also seems like a weirdly irrelevant thing to come out of the interrogation. The Puppet Master is here because he was going to use Ballox to defeat the FF; there wasn't really anything more to learn in the interrogation.
But it works out because the cure idea is really just bait for a trap.
As the Puppet Master leads Spidey, the Thing, and Alica to the trap site, we learn for the first time the origin of the Puppet Master, and Alicia. It turns out that the Puppet Master used to be a colleague and friend of Alicia's real father, Jacob Reiss. They worked together on a science experiment trying to discover "the so called building blocks of life".
But the Puppet Master also had a thing for Reiss' wife and was jealous of his happy family. Eventually the Puppet Master murdered Jacob and Alicia was blinded in the explosion.
Alicia and her mom weren't aware the the Puppet Master deliberately killed Jacob, and eventually he managed to marry the wife (never named in this story). However, she died later anyway, leaving the Puppet Master with Alicia. The chemicals that were part of the experiment became the clay that the Puppet Master uses to build his puppets.
The trap that the Puppet Master brings the heroes to is at the site of the explosion, but it's now been converted into a secret lab by the Puppet Master's partner, the Mad Thinker. The Thinker isn't too happy about the Puppet Master luring the heroes there...
...but the place is full of enough death traps and killer robots to keep them busy.
However, when the Thinker also sends an android after Alicia, the Puppet Master nearly turns on the Thinker...
...although he's not quite able to do it. Spider-Man finishes the job, but it's an interesting turning point for the character. In his earlier appearances the Puppet Master showed no love for his step-daughter. Maybe with the retelling of his origin he had a minor breakthrough.
Just a quick reflection on this series after having been through a few early issues in sequence: as far as a team-up book goes, this is relatively sophisticated. References to actual events in other books, a connected two-issue story, some new and non-fluffy revelations about the Puppet Master and Alicia. This book could have been a much more kiddie-oriented, self-contained, and simple series, but it's not; it's a regular Marvel book.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The Vision appears here prior to Avengers #105, per a footnote in that issue (but see the reference below). The Index has the Thing here between FF #125-126. The Index places Spidey's appearance here during Amazing Spider-Man #107 thanks to a long string of continued stories in the ASM issues; i've placed this after ASM #115 when there's finally a break.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Marvel Team-Up vol. 1
gotta love the kung fu kick the puppet master uses to take out the Vision. Who knew?
Posted by: kveto | February 21, 2016 4:17 PM
The Thing is missing from the list of characters appearing. BTW this is an amazing site!
Posted by: Tor | November 27, 2016 4:29 AM
Added the Thing. Thanks Tor.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 28, 2016 8:17 AM
Comics fans in the UK and Ireland would have been sniggering at the name "Ballox."
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 11, 2017 4:26 PM
Small Lebowski, I am now!
Posted by: Benway | December 13, 2017 1:03 AM
I remember reading the story in Marvel's UK reprints and wondering if the writer knew what the word sounded like to British ears. Having the Puppet Master say it wasn't a name to conjure with suggests so. I seem to recall Ballox appearing in another story too.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 13, 2017 5:43 PM
He was in Marvel Premiere 24-25.
Posted by: clyde | December 13, 2017 7:24 PM
I'm surprised none of the British writers who've worked for Marvel have thought to revive ol' Ballox. I could imagine Garth Ennis having a ball (pun intended) with a story in which the generic war robot visits Belfast and tries to menace people who keep collapsing in giggles when they hear his name.
Ballox will rise again.
Posted by: The Small Lebowski | December 14, 2017 5:44 PM
I would have been interested to learn more about how Alicia Masters became a famous sculptor. Did her parents put her through art school before she was blinded? If not, did Philip Masters contribute anything to her education? He was after all a bit of a sculptor himself. Did she only become a sculptor after she was blinded? Had she previously been a painter? An artist? What was her last name before Philip married her mother? How old was Alicia at that time? Was her real father also named Masters, and if not, why was her surname changed if Philip didn't adopt her? Or did Philip adopt her? Or marry her? How long had she been living in that apartment with her step-father before she met the FF? Was she already famous before she met the FF, or did she only become famous afterwards?
By putting the words in her mouth that she loved Philip "just as" she loved Ben, was Conway trying to imply some hidden psychological weirdness? How long did it take for her to learn how to sculpt by touch alone? What was her life like before she was blinded? Didn't she have any friends? Did friends ever try to come visit her after she moved into that small apartment with Philip? Wouldn't he have weirded them out? What was her mother like? She looked young and healthy enough, so how did she die? Was she fatally injured in the explosion, or did Philip kill her? Why hasn't Alicia had her own mini-series yet?
Posted by: Holt | January 19, 2018 11:41 AM
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