Wednesday, October 7, 2009

History of the Marvel Universe: April 1964, part 2


Odin really, really, really needs to stop taking advice from Loki. This time, the God of Mischief suggests sending the beautiful Asgardian goddess known as the Entrantress down to Earth to hit on Thor, thus causing him to toss aside that mere mortal Jane Foster.

The Entrantress gives it her best shot, but Thor remains faithful to Jane. This tees off the goddess, so she recruits an 8-foot-tall, battle axe-wielding Asgardian called the Executioner to whack Jane. In the ensuing battle, Jane is saved and the two villains forced to return to Asgard. But the issue ends with Odin vowing to take action against his disobediant son.

It's nice to have a couple more Asgardians added to the supporting cast, as well as see there are some bad guys amongst the Norse gods other than Loki. Entrantress and Executioner will become regular members of Thor's rogue's gallery and, in fact, we'll see them going up against the Avengers in just a few months.

The Tales of Asgard back-up story shows us a young Thor on a quest for Odin. As usual, the art work is fantastic--I don't think Jack Kirby had a single weak story in the entire run of this series. Particular visual delights include a flying ship and a creepy looking half-boar, half-man creature.


In this issue, we meet the Black Widow--the beautiful Russian spy who will one day defect to our side and take up super-heroing.

But at the moment, she's still working for the Commies, dressed in a swanky, femme fatale outfit so as to distract Tony while her partner does the dirty work.

The dirty work is kidnapping Professor Vanko (the original Crimson Dynamo, who defected to the U.S. 6 issues ago) and take the Dynamo armor for himself. This all culminates in a battle that Iron Man appears about to lose. But Vanko sacrifices his life to destroy the villain and save Tony.

The Black Widow, in the meantime, is left on the run from her own people--knowing the price of failure is death. She'll be back next issue, though.

It's interesting to compare the original design of the Black Widow with the more action-oriented garb she'll wear when she turns hero. She pretty much gets turned into a completely different character in later years. But for her next few appearances, she'll continue to wear that mink stool as she attempts to vamp the good guys.


A rigged election in a small South American country puts a Communist dictator in power. Hank and Jan are asked by the State Department to travel there and look into it. Once there, though, Jan is arrested and Hank is stuck in his giant size (Jan had all the size-changing capsules in her purse when she got busted.)

The fun part of this issue is the sequence in which Giant Man--unable to change size--blunders around the city trying to stay ahead of the police. He runs into telephone wires, gets wrapped up in an awning and generally has an entertainingly awkward time. Eventually, he manages to spring Jan and they get the evidence they need to prove the election was rigged.

The plot does have a few obvious cheats in it--probably a result of having to fit the story into it's usual 13-page format. Jan still has the shape-changing capsules with her when Hank rescues her--you'd think the bad guys would have taken away her personal items even if they didn't know what they were. Also, the story ends a bit abruptly and perhaps too easily--yes, they find proof that the dictator rigged the election, but by this point he controls the police and the military and thus seems to give up too easily. This story actually might have been better as a two-parter.

But the sequence in which Hank is stuck at giant-sized (as well as a sort-of "fight" Hank and Jan have at the beginning of the story) that sells this story. It's not a great or in most ways memorable story, but it definitely is fun.

Next week, we'll finally get around to seeing what the Human Torch and Dr. Strange are up to this month. We'll also take a look at the premiere of Daredevil. (Get it? "Take a look?" Blind superhero? ........ Oh, never mind.)

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