Wednesday, June 2, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: March 1965, part 2


I would pick this issue as the point at which Thor really takes off into true greatness. From here on in, the book achieves a sense of non-stop action and Kirby’s artwork goes from merely awesome to cosmically awesome. Major storylines will take on an epic feel and the overall lightning-like rhythm of the storytelling never lets up.

To start, Loki slips a potion to a brutal criminal named “Crusher” Creel. Creel becomes the Absorbing Man, having the ability to gain the properties and abilities of whatever he is near. So if he’s near a steel wall, his body becomes steel. When he fights Thor, he gains Thor’s strength and invulnerability. The ball and chain he carries (a brilliant visual touch) takes on the properties of Thor’s hammer.

Thor and Creel go one-on-one in what amounts to a destructive stalemate. Then Thor is summoned to Asgard by Balder and told that Loki has kidnapped Jane Foster. So the issue ends with Creel still loose on Earth and Jane a prisoner of the god of mischief.

The Tales of Asgard back-up feature involves the Asgardian version of Little Red Riding Hood, with the first comic book appearance of Fenris the giant wolf. Describing it as “Little Red Riding Hood” makes it sound light-weight, but Kirby gives us a short but cool fight scene between Fenris and an Asgardian hunter.


The “Tony is dead” storyline comes to end a little abruptly. Tony comes up with a way to redesign his chest plate so that he doesn’t have to wear his full armor all the time. Then he pops up in his office, saying that he was on a yacht trip without newspapers, so didn’t know he’d been reported dead.

He also makes up a story about being engaged, so that Pepper will give up on him and start seeing Happy. But he still spends far too much time secretly mooning over Pepper and wondering if he’s done the right thing.

It's a pity. The whole "Tony is dead" story line (and the distrust this was generating about Iron Man) was generating some good drama and probably could have gone on another few issues before it ran out of steam.

In the meantime, a saboteur is running amuck in Stark’s factory. Iron Man manages to run him down and discover it’s a disgruntled employee. It’s an okay story, but the luckless saboteur really doesn’t present that much of a threat to Iron Man.

There's a few nice touches, though. I like the reaction of one nameless employee to the announcment that Tony Stark is still alive: "I knew he was too rich to die." And a scene in which the acts of sabotage gets Tony into hot water with a workers' union rep over safety issues adds a dollop of realism to the story.

Meanwhile, the Captain America feature takes us back to World War II in a representation of Cap’s origin, then telling us how he ended up with a teenage sidekick named Bucky. The two heroes even have time to take out a Nazi U-boat before the story ends—not bad for a 10-page story.

It’s the first of what will be an extended series of World War II tales. It’s a great idea, reviewing Cap’s heritage for a new generation of readers, giving us page after page of Kirby fight scenes and telling strong, fast-paced tales.

That’s it for now. Next week, we’ll drop in on the Avengers, the X-Men, Hulk and Giant Man.

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