Wednesday, August 12, 2009

History of the Marvel Universe: January 1964, part 2


Well, Thor may be wanted for bank robbery (due to Mr. Hyde’s impersonation of him last issue), but Don Blake is still free to take Jane Foster out for a nice dinner.

But the dinner is rudely interrupted by Hyde, who ties up Blake in a remote location next to a ticking time bomb—an extra incentive to force Jane to cooperate with him as only Hyde knows how to disarm the bomb. Then it’s off with Jane to hijack a Polaris submarine.

But Blake manages to stretch out his bound hands far enough to grab his cane. He becomes Thor and zips off to confront the villain.

Unfortunately, Jane thinks poor Dr. Blake is still a hostage next to that bomb, so (though Thor saves the sub) Jane helps Hyde escape.

Odin, who’s been watching the whole thing from his throne on Asgard, thus decides Jane is too wimpy to be a deity’s wife and firmly denies Thor’s petition to marry her. Poor Thor—he lets the bad guy slip through his fingers and apparently loses his shot at the girl.

The story is too carelessly plotted in several ways to be successful. First of all, Hyde (like Cobra two issues earlier) is too under-powered to be a real threat to Thor. In both these cases, Hyde and Cobra are perfectly acceptable second-string editions to the Marvel stable of bad guys—they just need to be matched up against a hero closer to their own power levels to keep things interesting.

Also, a cop just shows up at the end and tells Thor they now know Hyde had impersonated the Thunder God at the bank robbery, so Thor is now in the clear. But it’s never explained how they found out. I think Stan Lee nearly lost track of this plot thread and threw this panel in near the end of the story to explain it away.

Finally, the art for the two Hyde issues is by Don Heck. He’s certainly a competent artist, but the Tales of Asgard stuff Kirby is doing in each issue is really overshadowing him. His ability to choreograph a cool fight simply never reaches Kirbyesque proportions.

This issue’s Tales of Asgard does indeed outshine than the main story. A young Thor (not yet equipped with his hammer) and his step-brother Loki are sneaking into a castle belonging to some storm giants, intent on recovering some stolen golden apples. The ensuing fight includes Thor knocking a huge pepper shaker into a giant’s face to distract him only to be blown across the room by the sneeze this causes. Loki causes a distraction of his own—his intention is to save himself, but this helps Thor get away as well. The two escape from the castle on the back of a giant eagle, taking the apples with them. It’s all a bit silly, but Kirby makes it look really cool.


Note to any millionaire playboy industrialists who might be reading this blog: If you ever set off any small nuclear explosions in the middle of your weapons factory, post a few warning signs around the place, would ya?

If Tony Stark had done that, perhaps the X-Men’s Angel wouldn’t have been flying over at that moment, been infected by the radiation and turned from good to evil. Then perhaps Iron Man would not have had to engage the rogue mutant in an aerial dogfight over Manhattan, with the Angel’s better maneuverability balancing out Iron Man’s greater strength. And perhaps Iron Man wouldn’t have to purposely allow his jet boots to run out of fuel, causing him to plummet to seeming certain death, thus shocking Angel back to normal and forcing the mutant to save him in the nick of time.

This issue exists primarily to plug the still-new X-Men book, whose third issue was also published in January 1964. The Avengers get a plug thrown in as well. That’s fine—because it’s not a bad story taken by itself. And as long as the story is good (and doesn’t cross-over directly into another title, thus forcing you to spend your hard-earned twelve cents on a book you otherwise might not want to buy), Stan Lee is welcome to plug away all he wants.

It can’t help but suffer from the silly opening, though. I’m willing to accept that comic book science allows countless things to happen that wouldn’t be possible in real life, but a test nuclear explosion in the middle of a busy factory is far too contrived.

Oh, well. It’s nice, all the same, to see the various characters within the Marvel Universe continue to interact with each other.


Giant Man and the Wasp have been training for a re-match with the Human Top, but he makes them both look silly yet again when they make another try to catch him. Even if Hank gets hold of the villain, the Top’s ability to spin makes him impossible to hold on to.

But Hank lays a trap, having the cops cordon off an entire neighborhood to confine the Top to a relatively small area. Giant Man then manages to tire the Top out before grabbing him with glue-coated gloves.

A simple but fun story with some pretty good action sequences. The best stuff is at the beginning. As with last issue, Jack Kirby seems to be having a good time making Giant Man look silly. Hank dives over a truck to try to catch the Human Top, only to miss and crash through the pavement. A minute later, he gets his foot stuck in an open manhole.

Next week, we’ll check in with the Avengers and the X-Men.

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