Wednesday, March 17, 2010
History of the Marvel Universe: November 1964, part 3
TALES TO ASTONISH #61
Hank’s arch-enemy—the mad scientist Egghead—using “living cell beam” to turn a store mannequin into a giant, indestructible android. Then, while mentally controlling the android, he uses it to attack Giant Man.
But when Giant Man realizes that Egghead feels whatever the android feels, he’s able to defeat the thing by grabbing it by the feet and spinning it around. This makes Egghead dizzy enough to break contact with the android
It’s an okay story, but—as I’ve mentioned before—it’s really too bad Giant Man and Wasp never got a good Rogue’s Gallery. None of their villains come close to the level of visual coolness enjoyed by—say—Spider Man’s enemies.
Meanwhile, the Hulk is still tussling with the robot that was captured by the commie spy last month. The robot is indestructible, but Hulk manages to knock it into a bottomless pit (and save the military base from a missile launched by the spy). But he’s knocked out and captured by the army. The issue ends with Hulk in chains, straining to break free before he transforms back into Banner in front of everyone.
This issue also introduced Major Glenn Talbot, who will be a regular supporting cast member (and an occasional rival for Betty Ross’ attentions) for some years to come.
As with the Giant Man tale, this is a good but unexceptional story. Steve Ditko is still doing the art and—as wonderful as his work is on Spider Man and Dr. Strange—his style just doesn’t seem to work for Hulk at all.
The Masters of Evil are still plotting against the Avengers when a being called Immortus pops into Zemo’s castle and offers to help.
Immortus is a master of time and space and the ruler of Limbo. His powers are very similar to Kang and—in fact—he’ll eventually be retconned into a future version of Kang. As the character is developed in later appearances, he’ll turn out to be a sort of guardian of the time stream. But in his debut here, he wants to destroy the Avengers pretty much because he “craves adventure.”
So he captures Rick Jones—confining him in the Tower of London in the 18th Century—to lure the rest of the Avengers into a trap. He summons up Goliath to fight Giant Man, Merlin the Magician to fight Iron Man and Hercules to fight Thor. He also zaps Cap back to 18th Century London to force him to fight an army of guards in an attempt to free Rick.
The Avengers manage to defeat their respective opponents, only to then get attacked by Zemo, Executioner and Enchantress immediately afterwards. Cap manages to get back to the present in time to turn the tide of battle.
The ending is a little unsatisfying. When it’s obvious the bad guys are going to lose, Enchantress uses a spell to zap them back in time a few days, where they then ignore Immortus’ attempts to contact them and prevent the entire adventure from actually happening. Without a strong plot-driven reason for such a resolution, it really takes some of the fun out of an otherwise entertaining issue.
Also, Cap at one point thinks (just because Immortus tells him so) that one of the Avengers sold out Rick to the villain. So Cap gets in a fight with his teammates. This is simply too contrived to work. No way a smart cookie like Cap is just gonna trust the bad guy about something like that.
Another interesting point: the “Hercules” that Thor fights is a completely different visual from the Hercules who becomes a regular part of Marvel continuity a few months later. (The new Herc will debut in the 1965 Thor annual.) I’m pretty sure that there is an eventual retcon in which the Hercules fought in this issue turns out not to be the “real” one. If anyone remembers for sure if this was the case, please post a comment and let me know. My copy of the Marvel Universe Handbook doesn’t clarify this.
A couple of fairly important events take place in this issue. First, Bobby Drake learns to increase the coldness of his body when he becomes Iceman, changing his appearance from a snowy look to his more familiar translucent icy look.
Also, we get the first real example of anti-mutant feelings among the common folk of the Marvel Universe. When Beast risks his secret identity to save a child from danger, the crowd gets worked up about a “dangerous mutant” hiding in their midst. Beast and Iceman barely escape the suddenly violent mob. And Beast is so angered, he figures human beings aren’t worth the effort of saving and he quits the X-Men. He pops up soon afterwards as a pro wrestler.
But he comes back to the team when they need him. The main villain in this story is Unus the Untouchable, who can’t be touched by anything that might hurt him. Unus wants to join Magneto’s group, but must prove himself first by defeating the X-Men.
His first battle with them is a draw. Hank returns to rig up a secret weapon—a ray that increases Unus’ power. Now nothing can touch the poor guy, including food and drink. He’s forced to surrender and give up being a super villain before Hank zaps him again to turn him back to “normal.”
Unus will eventually return to crime, though, becoming another of the Marvel Universe’s growing cadre of second string villains.
Finally, there’s a scene with Professor X, who is lowering himself into a deep abyss with a hoverchair. His mission? That will be clarified next issue.
That’s it for November. In December 1964, the FF will team up with a former opponent; Spidey will prove he’s not chicken, then teams up with the Avengers; Ben and Johnny fight a “mystery villain”; Dr. Strange and Thor both continue the fights they started this month; Iron Man encounters some old enemies; both Henry Pym and Bruce Banner get impersonated; and Daredevil fights an annoyingly silly villain.