Superhero team-ups are an institution in superhero comics with deep roots that run not only through the Big Two, but can occasionally give rise to intercompany crossover events between the various superhero publishers. From Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man in 1976 to 2018’s Transformers vs. Star Trek, there’s a time-honored tradition of heroes from different universes meeting and teaming to battle the forces of evil. A hidden gem of the genre is easily 2006’s Marvel Team-Up Volume 3, #14, in which Marvel’s resident wall-crawler crossed paths with Image’s superhero scion Invincible.
While most commonly known for his undead epic The Walking Dead, writer Robert Kirkman worked with artist Cory Walker to create another long-running series over at Image Comics in the form of Invincible. The series tells the story of Mark Grayson, an ordinary high school kid balancing classes and a minimum wage job when he finds himself inheriting the powers of his superhero father — the world’s greatest hero, Omni-Man.
To go further into the details of the story would run the risk of spoiling an incredibly fun series, but sufficed to say that Invincible is Kirkman’s take on the superhero genre with a deft mix of high action, humor and even horror. The series itself is at once a celebration and an examination of the superhero genre as a whole and the initial premise may feel familiar, but the story diverges quickly.
Marvel Team-Up was a venerable title in the Marvel stable, but one that had been dormant for several years. The book initially featured several different heroes teaming up with Spider-Man and its original volume ran for 150 issues between 1972 and 1985. In 2005, Kirkman was hired by Marvel as writer on Marvel Team-Up, so naturally the idea of bringing his own superhero into the Marvel universe was a natural fit. Bringing in Cory Walker for the art, the pair told a done-in-one tale in the classic Marvel Team-Up style starring Spider-Man and Invincible.
Spider-Man finds himself battling Doctor Octopus when an interdimensional portal opens and Invincible is hurled into the middle of the fight. With his greater strength, he makes short work of Doc Ock and the two heroes have a chance to bond. Invincible is being hurled through dimensions during the events of this story by one of his enemies, who hopes to exhaust him before finishing him off. Mark and Peter initially have some friction, but the two heroes figure out how to get along and part company on good terms.
The story is a chance for Kirkman and Walker to have their hero meet one of the classic superheroes, while at the same time making a bit of meta-commentary on how far Spider-Man has come from his humble beginnings to being married to a supermodel and living in Avengers Tower. The team-up is fun on all on its own, but it was also part of the longer Invincible arc involving Mark Grayson and the villain hurling him through dimensions.
Concepts from the team-up with Spider-Man (multiple dimensions and parallel earths) played a significant role in Kirkman’s Invincible War arc, in which Angstrom Levy (the man responsible for Mark’s cross-dimensional crisis) recruited an army of malevolent, other-dimensional counterparts to Invincible and loosed them on Mark’s earth.
Marvel Team-Up #14 is at once a breather for Mark’s current woes and setup for further problems in the hero’s life down the road. It’s an underrated gem that gets even better when placed in context.
Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker brought the Image Comics superhero Invincible to the Marvel Universe for a team-up with Spider-Man. Here's how.