Wednesday, July 8, 2009

History of the Marvel Universes: November 1963--Part 2


As this issue opens, Thor is throwing a temper tantrum because Odin has forbidden him to marry a mortal. What’s more, Jane has quit her job with Dr. Blake and gotten a job with another Doctor.

But the Thunder God’s personal problems take a back seat when the Cobra arrives in New York. A villain who got enhanced speed and agility when bitten by a radioactive cobra, the Cobra tries to take over a chemical factory. He intends to produce enough “cobra serum” to create an army of loyal snake-men.

This leads to a running battle with Thor. Eventually, Cobra takes Jane and her new boss hostage. Jane’s boss turns out to be a craven coward, which convinces Jane to return to her job with Donald Blake.

But, of course, that doesn’t happen until Thor rescues her from Cobra. Cobra himself escapes, but he’ll be back before too long.

It’s a pretty good issue. Cobra is probably too underpowered to really present Thor with a serious enough threat, but he’s visually interesting and will make for a solid if usually second-string addition to the Marvel Universe.

The real treat in this issue is the “Tales of Asgard” back-up feature. This time around, we see Odin battle some Frost Giants. It’s the sort of uber-powered battle scene that Jack Kirby excels at and his design for the Frost Giants is downright awesome. A few panels of Odin flying into battle on a chariot pulled by winged horses only adds that much more awesomeness to the whole thing.


You know, over the years, Marvel Comics really has developed a large stable of reasonably interesting second-string villains who can be plugged into a story as needed. In Journey into Mystery, we’re introduced to one of these guys: The Cobra.

Now, in Tales of Suspense, we meet the Melter, an embittered former business rival of Tony Stark’s who invents a ray gun capable of instantly melting iron.

This, of course, is a weapon that works pretty well against Iron Man. But, after one disastrous encounter with the Melter, Tony rebuilds his armor out of a tough aluminum alloy. The Melter flees in panic when his weapon fails to work.

Interestingly, the Melter escapes—just as the Cobra escapes Thor. It’s a good month for stopping evil plans, but a bad month for actually catching the bad guys.

Steve Ditko did the fun art work and there’s some funny banter between Happy and Pepper. Iron Man still isn’t as good as it will be, but it’s slowly getting there.


Henry Pym takes another step forward as a viable character when he finally realizes he can use his reducing/enlarging formulae to become Giant-Man as well as Ant-Man.

It’s a new power that comes in handy when he (and some other scientists) are kidnapped into another dimension by cranky aliens who want the humans to make atomic weapons. The Wasp (who secretly tagged along when Pym was snatched) helps Hank get loose and he uses his new Giant-Man ability to make mincemeat of the alien military. He and Wasp get hold of the dimension-hopping device used to kidnap everyone and use it to get themselves and the other hostages back to Earth.

Jack Kirby has some fun with the battle scenes (including a King Kong homage when Giant-Man stands atop a tower to fight alien aircraft), while the banter between Hank and Janet is actually quite clever. I like one line when Hank replies to Janet’s statement that she loves him: “Honey, you’re just in love with the idea of being in love.”

“Even when you call me Honey,” she replies, “you make it sound so… medicinal!!!”

Not Nobel Prize-winning dialogue, perhaps, but it succeeds in giving the protagonists some personality. As I’ve said before, this series will never come close to the level of quality we’re finding in FF and Spider Man, but it still—from time to time--does okay for itself.

Next week, we’ll finish up November 1963 with a look at the Avengers and the X-Men.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...