It’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle a second time. That’s just a sad truth of creating art: no two pieces are alike. Such is the case of Marvel Team-Up: The Golden Child.
Marvel Team-Up was, in essence, the first secondary Spider-Man title. Every issue, Spider-Man would team-up with a different Marvel hero and fight a different foe with them. There were rare exceptions of issues that didn’t involve Spidey, but they were few and far-between.
The series lasted for 150 fondly-remembered issues, and there have been a few attempts to revive it since. Once during the Ben Reilly era of Spider-Man, and again here, with the Golden Child.
But now there’s a new obstacle: modern graphic story-telling favors decompressed six-to-nine issue arcs that can be packaged as a graphic novel. How do we fit the premise of a new cast every issue into that premise?
That is Robert Kirkman’s dilemma here.
The solution… well, we don’t really get one. The attempt is to have the villain, the titular Golden Child, be the overarching constant that bounces from one heroes life to another, thus facilitating the change in cast. But even then… it doesn’t really work.
The Fantastic Four team-up with Iron Man… but not really, they’re fighting an alternate universe version of Iron Man who is that issue’s villain. Then another issue hypes a team-up between that Iron Man and the Hulk, but there share not one panel together in the whole book.
It takes the notion of a team-up and stretches it to try and make it fit the new norm. Breaks it, actually.
But all that is the WAY the story is told. It’s the framework Kirkman is forced to operate within, but that isn’t the story itself: that’s the situation that created the story. So: how is the story?
Well: it’s quite good actually.
It tells the story of a young boy in Peter Parker’s class, who is being bullied and defends himself with new-found super-powers as the titular “Golden Child.”
As a theme, the story is about per-judging situations and things not always being what they appear to be. At first the child seems like the put-upon victim, but it turns out he’s actually a sociopathic murderer. We think Wolverine is attacking, when he actually knows about the murder. We think the time-traveler is Doctor Doom, when he’s actually Tony Stark. We think Stark is good, when in fact he’s a violently evil doppelganger. Even the title of the novel THE GOLDEN CHILD evokes banal, almost Biblical imagery, and it is anything but.
I wonder then if the playing-against-type with the team-up is intentional then, another red-herring misnomer.
As implied above, Wolverine shows up to deal with this new mutant. He and Spider-Man have the standard — but understandable — misunderstanding and fight, until the Golden Child is revealed to have killed his father. They then both try to apprehend him, and during the scuffle Wolverine’s claws puncture him and he vanishes.
The story then shifts to the Fantastic Four encountering the supposed Doctor Doom, who turns out to be Stark and takes over as the villain of the piece until the story dovetails into Stark using the Golden Child as an energy source to get back to his home dimension, while also teasing an upcoming event labelled “The Titanus War.”
In the end most is resolved. I didn’t mention everything here: X-23 and Doctor Strange are also prominently featured. It’s passable and entertaining and rarely dull. The stakes never feel dire, yet its theme and use of that theme elevates it. All in all, a very interesting, experimental outing from Robert Kirkman.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
“It’s hard to catch lightning in a bottle a second time. That’s just a sad truth of creating art: no two pieces are alike. Such is the case of Marvel Team-Up: The Golden Child.”