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Christmas through the Decades: Marvel Team-Up #127, 1982

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Christmas 1982… and the amazing Spider-Man was about to find himself mixed up with some uncharacteristically cosmic forces when he “teamed up” with that omniscient observer known as The Watcher in the pages of Marvel Team-Up #127. The holidays had come to May Parker’s boarding house where, at the time, Peter Parker’s aunt was living with her then fiancé Nathan Lubensky and a house chock full of elderly residents, all of whom were part of the sprawling Spider-Man supporting cast of the day.

One of those houseguests, the lonely Mr. Chekov, was hoping for a Christmas visit from his estranged granddaughter Bette. Little did he realise that Bette had become caught up in a petty drug dealing scheme gone awry and was now fleeing for her life from underworld figures. As Peter/Spider-Man does his bit to help reunite the Chekovs, he is aided by a mysterious, unspeaking figure who appears and disappears at whim, guiding him in his quest with almost supernatural powers…

This issue was published at a point in Marvel’s history that was very unlike their current crossover-intensive and rather homogenised output; when most characters existed largely in their own little pockets of the Marvel Universe. In that respect, at the time of publication, Spider-Man running into The Watcher (someone he doesn’t recognise) ranked up there in the unlikely MT-U guest-star stakes with the likes of Killraven, the Frankenstein Monster, the Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time-Players and Red Sonja.

Throughout, the characterisation is absolutely spot-on: the self-doubting Spider-Man, the paternal and reliable Captain America (who pops up briefly to give Spidey a pep talk), and Uatu the Watcher as unable as ever to avoid interacting with the humanity he has clearly grown to love over the long, silent centuries of his enforced duty. J.M. DeMatteis’s run on this book took that most difficult of formats – the “team-up title” – and, instead of churning out the usual contrived encounters between heroes, provided instead some clever, imaginative and playful meetings. Finding the promise in such a forced premise was no mean feat at all!

Marvel Team-Up #127 remains a fitting tale of Christmas redemption that echoes back to certain other classic seasonal stories with a similar theme, and one which highlights not just the importance but the necessity of family and loved ones at this time of year. With a rousing and poignant concluding speech from The Watcher – has Uatu’s raison d’etre as a character ever been better captured than on the final page of this issue? – this rather beautiful issue is still my very favourite festive super-hero offering, and a suitable closing entry for this series of Yuletide flashback blogs that we’ve been running here at BF over the last few weeks.

From all of us at Broken Frontier a very, merry Christmas to you all!

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