Wednesday, April 21, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: January 1965, Part 2


Thor overhears some kids arguing over who is stronger—the Thunder God or the Hulk. So he drops down among them (I love that they are so casual about a Norse god stopping by: “Hey, it’s Thor. He’ll tell us who’s stronger.”) and then tells them of a time he fought the big green guy.

We then go into a sort-of flashback to Avengers #3, when the Avengers fought Namor and Hulk at Gibraltar. But it expands upon the story, telling us about a Hulk-Thor match-up that we didn’t get to see the first time around.

Thor sends a sort of telepathic collect call to his dad in Asgard and asks to remain a god for five minutes without his hammer so that he can go toe-to-toe with the Hulk in a fair fight. Odin okays this.

Which all leads to an extended fight scene in which Jack Kirby shows us Hulk and Thor battling each other in the tunnels beneath Gibraltar. Which means, of course, that it’s a great issue.

The battle ends in a draw when a collapsing tunnel cuts the two combatants off from one another. Who’s stronger? That’s a question to be decided on another day.

The “Tales of Asgard” back up story takes us back to a time ages ago, when Odin was battling the giants of Jotunheim. We get more Kirby goodness, with Odin going one-on-one against the giant king, then their respective armies going at it. When the battle is ended, Odin adopts the giant king’s now orphaned (and non-gianty) son Loki. Boy-o-boy, I have a feeling he’s going to regret that in years to come.


Pepper and Happy still think Iron Man may have something to do with Tony Stark’s disappearance, so they quit. Iron Man can’t do anything to stop them without giving away his secret identity (something he’s hesitant to do because he feels it would put others in danger from his enemies).

The cops still suspect Iron Man as well. This all gets into the news, putting Tony in a more and more precarious position.

Then Happy breaks into Tony’s house to look for clues and nearly catches his “missing” boss in his Iron Man armor without the helmet on. Tony has to duck under some bed sheets then make up a story about being sick and needing rest.

So Happy and Pepper thought Tony was dead. Now they know he’s alive. Then they think he’s dead again when a mysterious laser beam totals Tony’s house. In the meantime, they are still suspicious of Iron Man. It’s all good character stuff—Tony planned his “disappearance” poorly and now his ad-libs to explain everything are continuing to work against him.

Anyway, that killer beam was fired from a satellite controlled by the Mandarin, who also thinks he’s killed Tony. And poor Tony is stuck in his Iron Man armor again, unable to tell anyone his “boss” survived without giving away his identity.

He travels to China to confront the Mandarin, but the issue ends when he gets captured.

There’s really only a little bit of action in this story. The whole “where’s Tony” bit carries most of the story. That’s just fine, because it’s a good and well-executed idea. As I’ve mentioned before, the series is now getting the support from believable and likeable supporting characters that it needed to really elevate it above its somewhat mundane beginnings.

Captain America, in the meantime, takes a trip to Vietnam to rescue a captured American helicopter pilot. The pilot’s brother had saved Cap back in World War II and now the Avenger is repaying his debt.

As is usual for the Captain America stories of the mid-sixties, the set-up is really just an excuse for Jack Kirby to show Cap duking it out with lots of bad guys. In this case, he takes out quite a few North Vietnamese soldiers and a giant sumo wrestler before he and the pilot can steal a jet and escape. Once again, Kirby’s kinetic layouts carry the action along quickly and logically, entertaining us enormously as we jump from panel to panel.

That’s it for now. Next week, we’ll finish up January with a look at Giant Man, the Hulk, the Avengers and the X-Men.


  1. I always loved Kirby's really cinematic stuff, but was much less excited about his post-Marvel work at DC (and all that came afterward). One thing about Lee's storylines was his use of humor and Bowery Boys-like jokes and camaraderie, setting up a fantasy world where super-beings lived among regular folks. Much easier to take and far less portentous and pretentious and violent than so many scripts these days. You know, it's a comic book, not a literary masterwork, which I hope some of the vaguely talented egomaniacs writing this stuff these days finally realize.

  2. "vaguely talented egomaniacs" may be the best description of many modern comic book writers I've every come across.

    I love much of Kirby's DC works (Kamandi), but I agree that his work on Thor and FF really has him at the top of his game.


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