Wednesday, June 23, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: April 1965, Part 2


Thor chases Loki to Asgard to rescue Jane and the two go toe-to-toe (enchanted sword vs. hammer) for a few pages before Odin breaks it up. Loki claims Thor brought Jane to Asgard (therefore violating a “no mortals allowed” rule), so Odin declares a “Trial of the Gods” to figure out who is telling the truth. Thor asks for a 48-hour continuance to return to take Jane back to Earth and catch the Absorbing Man.

There’s yet more great action before Thor defeats the Absorbing Man by spinning his hammer at “cyclotronic speed” and converting everything around the villain into helium. Crusher then himself changes into helium and floats off into space. The issue ends with Thor returning to Asgard for his trial.

There are several notable elements to this story:

1) By now, the speech patterns of the Asgardians have fully evolved into the faux-Elizabethan style that will be standard for most Marvel deities for decades to come. It makes no real sense, but it “sounds” right.

2) A character introduced last issue—a reporter named Harris Hobbs—continues to help Thor out. He’ll be around a few more issues, then pretty much disappear. I think he was meant to be another regular supporting character, but he just didn’t catch on.

3) Jane is freaked out by Asgard and the sight of Thor and Loki fighting. When Thor takes her back to Earth, he causes her to forget what she’s seen so she doesn’t have to deal with it. This (intentionally or not) foreshadows the eventual reason for the two breaking up.

4) Kirby’s art is typically excellent throughout, but one particular panel--involving the Absorbing Man taking on the aspects of the ground and trees and growing to gigantic proportions—looks particularly cool.

5) Crusher Creel breaks into a house and takes a married couple hostage at one point. This leads to another example of Stan Lee portraying a regular guy thrust into a dangerous situation but acting with courage.

The Tales of Asgard back-up tale involves Thor leading some soldiers against a Storm Giant. Loki uses some magic to help the giant escape, earning him an ally in his plans to eventually do away with his brother. More great Kirby artwork. Even small details like the design of an Asgardian catapult look nifty keen.


When we last saw the Black Widow, she’d been kidnapped back to the Soviet Union for failing at—well, pretty much everything she’d done so far. She refuses to work for the Soviets any longer, but they change her mind when they threaten to off her parents. She then agrees to make one more try at killing Iron Man.

It’s here that she gets a slicker costume (not quite yet her modern costume, but closer) that is more action-oriented, including a wrist mounted cable shooter that allows her to swing from building to building. She returns to the U.S. and vamps Hawkeye into helping her again.

It’s obvious that there are definite plans to turn both Hawkeye and Black Widow into heroes by now. The Widow is still only working for the bad guys to protect her parents, while Hawkeye balks at betraying his country (and agrees to help when he’s assured he’s “only” helping to destroy Iron Man).

The two kidnap Pepper and Happy, using them to lure Iron Man into a trap. Artist Don Heck’s work never equals Kirby in power, but he does choreograph a pretty good fight scene. Happy and Pepper are rescued, while the Widow and Hawkeye escape. The next time we see Hawkeye, at least, he’ll be solidly in the good guy camp.

We’re still jumping back to the World War II home front for Captain America’s adventure. A mystic is predicting acts of Nazi sabotage before they actually happen. Cap, Bucky and a pretty lady secret agent known only as Agent 13 investigate and end up beating the snot out of a band of Bundists who were using the fake psychic to spread fear among the populace. As usual with these early Cap stories, they exist primarily to allow Jack Kirby to choreograph extended fight scenes. Which is just fine by me.

That’s if for now. Next week, we’ll look at Giant Man, Hulk, the Avengers and Daredevil.

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