Wednesday, August 4, 2010

History of the Marvel Universe: June 1965, part 2


Loki seems to have won the Trial of the Gods and now he teleports the Norn Stones to Earth, thus hiding the evidence of his cheating. Odin, though, gives Thor 24 hours to find the Stones and prove Loki did indeed cheat.

So it’s back to Earth, where he pauses briefly to help Balder run off Enchantress and Executioner, thus saving Jane. Jane gets her second mind-wipe (sorry—“spell of forgetfulness”) in as many issues, then Thor is off after the Norn Stones.

His hammer works as a sort of magical dowsing rod, allowing him to track the Stones to Vietnam. But he’s distracted from his mission when he gets involved helping some oppressed villagers against the Viet Cong.

Stan and Jack inject some human tragedy into the story. A Viet Cong officer ends up killing his own mother and brother. Repentant, he blows up both himself and his base.

This issue is a change-of-pace from the cosmic-level stuff that’s been going on before this, but the issue is actually an effective (if a little heavy-handed) condemnation of totalitarianism.

The “Tales of Asgard” feature enters the realm of serial storytelling as well with this issue. We get our first look at the Odinsword, the giant sword located in Asgard which, if ever unsheathed, would destroy the universe. Some unknown evil force is causing the sheath to crack. Odin appoints Thor and Loki to lead an expedition to find this evil force and save all of existence. It’s the prelude to a truly epic narrative.


Happy is unhappy, quitting his job because he feels useless and can’t get over the fact that Pepper still likes Tony. Blah, blah, blah. Eventually, Pepper and Happy will fall in love, get married and move the series away from this tiresome trope. But until then---more about Happy next issue.

It is interesting, though: Stan Lee handles romantic woes with real humor over in Spider Man, but in many of the other books he’s often been caught up in the “I love him/her but can never tell him/her” trap that got old real fast.

We also meet the perpetually grouchy Senator Byrd this issue, who is on hand to watch Iron Man test a new one-man sub that Tony just invented. Byrd will be around for awhile—distrustful of Stark’s playboy reputation and a perpetual thorn in Tony’s side.

Once submerged in the sub, Iron Man stumbles upon Attuma, who’s about to fire a whopping big cannon and change the Earth’s atmosphere so that the Atlanteans can breath out of the water.

The fight scene that follows is pretty good—much of it built on the fact that Iron Man only has a limited oxygen supply. He finally wins by ramming the cannon with the mini-sub. He saves mankind, but has to tell Byrd that the test is a failure. He can’t tell what had really happened because “No one would believe it!” Faulty reasoning there. Tony lives in a world were stuff like that happens all the time.

We now jump back a couple of decades to visit Captain America. This issue marks the beginning of this series also adapting the serial format that Stan is using so effectively in Hulk, Thor, Dr. Strange and Tales of Asgard. Cliffhangers will abound and each adventure will merge into the next without pause.

It starts out pretty dramatically. Cap has trailed the Red Skull back to Germany, but he’s been captured. So we start off with Cap tied in a chair in a dungeon, surrounded by Nazi goons and being questioned by the Skull.

We learn of the Red Skull’s origin. He was a put-upon stooge who came to hate everyone and everything. When Hitler spotted him working as a hotel bellboy, he exclaims “The sheer blazing hatred? I know those emotions! You TOO hate all mankind… I shall make a perfect Nazi of you!”

So the Skull is trained to be an expert fighter and leader, given his Red Skull mask by Hitler himself. He begins a career of terror and mass murder in the name of Nazism. Soon, he was second only to Hitler. It was one of his personal U-boat wolf packs that sank the ship Cap and Bucky were on, allowing him to capture them.

The issue ends with a chemical that’s been injected into Captain America taking effect. He is now apparently the mind-slave of the Red Skull, now assigned to kill General Eisenhower.

That’s it for now. We’ll finish June 1965 next week with visits to Giant Man, Hulk, the Avengers and Daredevil.

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