Wednesday, August 25, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: July 1965, part 2


Thor has recovered the Norn Stones, but Loki arranges a trap before the God of Thunder can return to Asgard. He lures a human into an ancient ruin that contains a robot called the Destroyer. A nifty addition to the Marvel Universe version of Norse mythology, the Destroyer was build by Odin to be indestructible. It can only come to life by taking the life force of a living being and is meant to be used only if Earth is in terrible danger.

Of course, in a comic book universe, the Earth is pretty much always in terrible danger, but never mind that for now. Loki lures a human to the Destroyer, which grabs the guy’s life force and then goes after Thor. He’s so powerful, he manages to cut Thor’s hammer in half and the Thunder God is soon on the defensive.

Loki belatedly realizes that if the Destroyer kills Thor, he (Loki) will eventually be discovered as the instigator of the whole thing. He rushes to Odin to get Thor some help, but Odin is taking a nap and Loki gets tossed in the dungeon for trying to disturb him.

Taking a nap? This is the first time we see the Odin Sleep—the All-Father has to sleep undisturbed for one day every year to retain his immortality. It’s something that becomes the most convenient dues ex machine in the history of fiction. For years to come, every time Asgard is in danger and only Odin is powerful enough to stop the threat, it turns out to be time for the Odin Sleep.

I’m not being critical of this, by the way. It’s yet another nice addition to Marvel’s Norse mythology.

Anyway, the issue ends with Thor trapped and about to be whacked by the Destroyer.

In “The Tales of Asgard,” Thor and Loki are preparing for their quest to find whatever mysterious force is threatening the Universe. They’ll be using Odin’s huge, flying galley (a vehicle that may be second only to SHIELD’s helicarrier for sheer visual coolness). Loki tries to sneak an assassin on to the crew, with plans to do away with Thor so Loki can take command and get all the credit. But a magic glove that forces men to tell the truth allows Thor to expose the guy. He can’t prove the assassin was working for Loki, but he knows now to watch his back.


The Iron Man story is a bit of a snoozer in more ways than one. Count Nefaria, the former leader of the Maggia (defeated by the Avengers a few months ago) uses a machine to get into Iron Man’s dreams and make him think he’s being attacked by a bunch of his old enemies. The plan is for Shellhead to realize it’s a dream and not bother fighting back, unaware that if he’s killed in the dream he also dies in real life.

But Tony’s a fighter no matter what and he manages to beat down the dream version of various bad guys. Nefaria’s machine shorts out from using too much power and explodes. The trouble is that Iron Man has such little trouble winning his dream fights that there is little real suspense generated.

In the meantime, Pepper calls up Happy and talks him into coming back to work. As annoying as the romance subplot in Iron Man has been, Pepper’s tearful listing of Happy’s good points is actually a nice moment for her.

Jumping back to World War II, Cap has been brainwashed by the Nazis and is sent (along with a squad of elite German paratroopers) back to England to whack Eisenhower.

But Bucky has organized a breakout at the prison camp he was sent to, then managed to do the old “knock out a German and take his uniform” trick, so he came along with Cap and the Krauts to England. The issue ends with Bucky fighting a couple of Germans in one part of Allied headquarters while Cap is holding Eisenhower at gun point in another location. When Cap hesitates to shoot, one of the Germans reaches over and pulls the trigger…

There’s a great scene in which the Red Skull brings a brainwashed Cap in to Hitler’s office and Hitler cowers in fear before he realizes Cap won’t hurt him.

I also enjoy the fact that Stan and Jack don’t forget that they are writing a war-time story. In comics set in contemporary times, superheroes avoid killing anyone. I appreciate and approve of this ethic.

But in this WWII Cap story, Bucky offs quite a few Germans. There’s a war on and there was no way the good guys were going to go easy on the Nazis. I appreciate this as well—it is appropriate within the context of one of history’s few examples of a Just War to allow even the superheroes to use deadly force.

That’s it for this week. Next week, we’ll take a look at Giant Man’s last solo adventure for awhile, then drop in on the Hulk, Avengers and X-Men.

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