Wednesday, April 22, 2009

History of the Marvel Universe: July 1963, part 1


The last time we saw Dr. Doom, he was hit by a shrinking ray and apparently shrunk down into nothingness. Now we find out he entered a sub-atomic world and managed to set himself up as ruler, imprisoning the rightful king.

Now he’s using his scientific skills to toy with the Fantastic Four, shrinking each of them down (then enlarging them again) at random moments. Unaware at first of who is behind all this, Reed calls on Ant Man for assistance. One thing leads to another and the FF (and Ant Man) soon find themselves also reduced in size yet again, prisoners of Doom on the subatomic world.

There’s several strong points to the story. It’s fun to see the Fantastic Four once again interacting with another Marvel hero. Lee and Kirby have fun with scale—the FF is shrunk down to enter the subatomic world, then shrunk again so that Doom and his guards are relative giants. This leads to a fun fight scene in which a tiny Fantastic Four is beating up some “giant” guards. Later, Sue gets yet another moment of glory in which she comes up with the idea for how to escape a death trap. These last few issues, she’s been doing pretty good.

There’s an interesting character moment for Ben during the story. At one point, Reed figures out a way to turn Ben human again, but Ben’s no longer sure he wants that. His girl, Alicia, likes him as the Thing and he may now be content with his lot in life.

At the climax, Doom’s power in the tiny world is broken and he enlarges himself to normal size to escape. So next issue, his latest battle with the Fantastic Four will continue.


The evil scientist Egghead is back to take revenge on Ant Man. He captures the Wasp in order to lure Ant Man into a trap involving—among other things—an anteater.

It’s not a bad story, though Egghead is still visually uninteresting and doesn’t really come close to being as cool as, say, Doctor Doom. Ant Man continues to suffer from a lack of interesting villains.


Tony Stark and a couple of his employees are kidnapped and taken to the underground empire of Kala, Queen of the Netherworld. This subterranean civilization, all that remains of ancient Atlantis, is planning an invasion of the surface world to reclaim it for themselves.

They want to force Tony to come up with a way to transport their super-weapons to the surface, threatening to kill the other hostages unless he cooperates. In a situation parallel to Iron Man’s origin, Tony pretends to help long enough to build an Iron Man suit.

This leads to a pretty good fight scene, though Iron Man’s victory over Kala’s super weapons seems a little too effortless to be truly satisfying. Also, this issue highlights the lack of regular supporting characters—the hostages are pretty much just nameless Red Shirts.

But, as usual, Jack Kirby comes up with some neato character and gadget designs to populate the underworld city. Well, actually, the device Iron Man uses to dig back to the surface is a rare case of a Kirby illustration looking silly—it basically looks like a pair of oversized hedge-clippers rather than some sort of cool piece of super technology.

Oh, well, some of these problems will be solved soon. Regular supporting characters will join the cast in a few months and Iron Man will gradually become much more visually appealing.

Next week, we’ll finish up July as we see what Thor, Spider Man and the Human Torch are up to. Also, we’ll meet yet another addition to the Marvel pantheon of heroes.

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