Wednesday, December 30, 2009

History of the Marvel Universe: August 1964, part 2


This has been a banner month for the introduction of second-tier villains. We've already seen Kraven and the Beetle put in their first appearances. Now the Grey Gargoyle--who has the ability to turn anything he touches into stone for one hour--makes his debut.

Or is it turning stuff into stone for one day? The duration changes halfway through the story. Stan and Jack lost track of one of their plot points somewhere along the line.

But no matter. It's a good story nonetheless. And the Tales of Asgard back-up story is pretty gosh-darn cool as well. In this one, Loki enlists the help of the Norn Queen to assassinate Balder the Brave. But the plot fails when the Norn Queen switches sides at the last moment.


Another new villain. But the Unicorn, a commie spy who wears a "Unicorn Power Horn" atop his helmet, isn't as visually interesting as the other bad guys we've met this month. Nonetheless, his fight with Iron Man is a pretty good one all the same.

The important thing about this issue, though, is the characterizations. Thus far, Tony, Pepper and Happy have all been fairly one-dimensional. But this story starts out with Tony Stark pretty much throwing a snit. Sick of the fact that he has to wear a chest plate 24/7 to keep his damaged heart beating, he snaps at everyone; decides to quit being Iron Man; ignores a call-to-arms from the Avengers; and calls up a hot chick out of his little black book for a night on the town.

But in the meantime, the Unicorn attacks his factory. Happy Hogan is seriously hurt trying to take on the bad guy himself. That brings Tony back to earth and leads to the climatic battle.

We also get the first hint that Pepper Potts, who has been so contempteous of Happy, actually kinda likes the "big lug."


In a gratuitous but harmless cameo, Captain America stops by Hank's lab to tell him and Jan about a giant man in Africa who is demanding human sacrifices from the natives. Our heroes fly out to the Dark Continent to investigate. A pretty good fight leads up to a fairly predictable twist ending.

The most important detail from this story is that Hank has figured out how to change sizes by thought--making the capsules he used to use unnecessary.

A short back-up story has the Wasp taking on the Magician, the fairly lame crook she and Hank fought a few issues earlier.

That's it for now. Next week, we'll visit both the Avengers and Daredevil in order to finish off August 1964.

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