Wednesday, December 9, 2009

History of the Marvel Universe: July 1964, part 2


Last issue ended with Thor losing his hammer. So this issue beings with Thor losing himself--in a crowd, that is. He ducks into a panicky crowd so that no one will notice when he turns back into Dr. Blake.

Then, to get his hammer (now reverted into a walking cane) back, he has to pretend to be willing to sell Thor out to Cobra and Mr. Hyde. His plan works and--turning into Thor again--he manages to capture Cobra. A little later, Hyde manages to disarm Thor again, but the Thunder God decides he doesn't need his hammer to defeat Hyde and proceeds to use the sixty seconds he has before turning into Blake to pretty much beat the snot out of the bad guy.

But there's no happy ending for Thor. Jane Foster is now ticked off at Blake for apparently turning coward and offering to sell out Thor to the bad guys.

The Tales of Asgard back-up story gives us a little background information on Balder the Brave--who, we find out, is as famous for his compassion and kindness as for his mercy. As with the Heimdall story last month, it's a pretty quiet story--mainly serving just to highlight Balder's personality. But starting next month, the Tales of Asgard will return to giving us lots of awesome Kirby action.


Let's get the silly part over with first. The Mandarin has Iron Man captive, wrapped up in super-strong cables. The villain asks the hero: "Are you mad? You dare smile in the face of death?"

What I wanna know is how the heck Mandarin knew Iron Man was smiling. He wears an iron helmet that covers his face, for gosh sakes.

Oh, well, once we get past that bit of absurd dialogue, the story is actually pretty good. Iron Man breaks loose and the two foes continue their battle. The interceptor ray that Mandarin was using to sabotage U.S. missles is wrecked and Iron Man manages to escape the castle soon after.

One of the failings of the early Iron Man stories was that he often did not go up against bad guys who could match him in pure power. But Mandarin, with his weapon-equiped rings and martial arts skills, stikes a better balance. In fact, Iron Man can't defeat him in a straight fight this time around. All he can do is wreck Mandarin's ray machine, then run for the hills. Iron Man is finallly starting to build up a respectable Rogue's Gallery.


Evil scientist Egghead has what is actually a pretty good plan. He'll use a devise that allows him to communicate with ants to send a false alarm to Giant Man, convincing the hero that Spider Man is planning on attacking him.

So Giant Man and Wasp go out looking for Spidy to launch a pre-emptive strike. While the ensuing fight atracts a crowd and distracts the police, Egghead and some goons will be robbing a payroll truck.

The story is an excuse to put one of Marvel's most popular characters on the cover, but that's just fine. The story and the Giant Man/Spidey fight are good. We never get to see who might come out on top, though. Warned by ants, they figure out what's going on and team-up to foil Egghead's plan.

There is one important event in this story. Hank makes Janet a compressed air wrist gun--her "Wasp's Sting"--that greatly increases her usefullness in a fight. It's a good idea--something that will allow Janet to take a more proactive part in battles. In later years, the compressed air weapon will be replaced by a devise that allows her to amplify her own bio-electric energy and zap bad guys with that. But the basic idea is the same.

There's also a short back-up story in which Janet foils a jewel thief. Prior to this issue, there had been stories in which Janet is visiting orphanages and hospitals to tell stories. These were reprints of 1950s-era monster stories with a new framing sequence, so I haven't bothered reviewing them. But now, the winsome Wasp will get to go into action on her own. There will be one more Wasp story next issue, then the Hulk will be moving into Tales to Astonish and there will sadly be no more room for the poor little rich girl's solo adventures.

Next week, we'll finish up July with visits to the Avengers and the X-Men.

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