Wednesday, December 22, 2010
History of the Marvel Universe: December 1965, part 3
JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #123
Thor continues to be super-awesome in storytelling, themes and visuals. Stan and Jack’s work here and on Fantastic Four will (for the next several years) be consistently incredible.
Thor takes reporter Harris Hobbes to Asgard, where he finds Loki and the Absorbing Man apparently about to take down Odin himself. But the ruler of Asgard surrenders his scepter rather than see Asgard torn apart by a massive fight.
It’s just a trick, of course. Loki and Crusher immediately start to argue over who gets the scepter—then Odin casually sends them zipping away into space, permanently exiled into the interstellar vastness.
Odin really shines in this issue. He’s haughty and proud, but has the chops to back this up with decisive action. In previous issues, he sometimes had moments that seemed less than “all-wise.” But now he’s portrayed exactly as he should be--powerful and decisive.
By the way, Harris Hobbs’ camera breaks, Odin kicks him out of Asgard before he can make a pencil sketch and he gets his memory wiped anyway. So he pretty much has the suckiest day ever and (if I remember correctly) pretty much disappears from Thor’s continuity anyways.
In the meantime, a witch doctor finds the Norn stone Thor dropped three issues ago. This gives him the power to single-handedly fight off some Communist troops. That’s a good thing—but his decision to conquer the world is a bad thing. Thor will very soon have some work to do.
The Tales of Asgard back up as the ship and crew getting past a huge dragon after Balder destroys it with a magic trumpet blast. That brief description, though, doesn’t do the short story justice. Jack Kirby’s art makes every panel look breathtaking.
TALES TO ASTONISH #74
In the Sub Mariner story, Stan Lee once again manages to squeeze in a boat-load of action into a relatively few pages. The scene switches back and forth between Namor as he fights hordes of Faceless Ones to save Dorma; Krang has he seals himself up in Atlantis’ palace and sics a robot tank on the rebelling citizens; and an old guy who volunteers to find Namor and tell him he’s wanted back home (whether he finds Neptune’s Trident or not). Adam Austin’s art continues to be eye-catching and dynamic. It ends in an appropriately cliff-hanger fashion with Namor holding an unconscious Dorma as the Faceless Ones regroup to attack him anew.
While Namor is still having adventures deep undersea, the Hulk is still on the Moon, fighting the alien creature that’s also after the Watcher’s Ultimate Machine. (One of the reasons I love doing these reviews is that I get to write sentences like that.)
The Watcher doesn’t want his house trashed, so he teleports the two combatants to a remote location (it’s never made clear where—it doesn’t seem to be on the Moon.) What follows is a pretty nifty fight, with the Hulk coming out on top. So the Watcher zaps Hulk back to his home and lets him take the clear sphere identified as the Ultimate Machine. The Leader then zaps the Hulk home.
There was an interesting bit of characterization when all this was going on. The Hulk realizes that even though he now has Banner’s brain, his driving emotions and desire to fight are the Hulk’s. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always wondered how much of the Hulk’s constant evolution was planned by Stan Lee and how much he just made up as he went along. I think maybe Stan was still experimenting with the character, trying to find the right Jekyll/Hyde balance in personality and rules of transformation that made for the best dramatic fit.
Anyway, back on Earth, the Leader snatches the Ultimate Machine from the Hulk and uses it to download all the knowledge of the universe into his own mind. This proves to be too much for him and he falls over dead. Of course, he’s not actually dead—he’ll be back soon enough as a regularly appearing villain in the Marvel Universe. But for now, the Hulk is back on Earth and free from his arch enemy.
TALES OF SUSPENSE #72
A playgirl jilted by Tony hires the Mad Thinker to find out who Iron Man really is as part of her plan to get revenge. It’s a silly motivation, but it leads to some pretty good action scenes. The Thinker sends his android to kidnap Tony, intending to force Iron Man’s identity from his “boss.” Tony manages to escape long enough to get his armor on and manages to outfight the android, blow up the Thinker’s lab and take the villain to prison. The playgirl has to walk miles to get home. Not much of a punishment after funding kidnapping, but boy were her feet sore.
Artist Don Heck does a pretty nice job on the fight scene. A new and interesting sub-plot in which Senator Byrd wants to force Tony into revealing Iron Man’s identity (in the interest of national security) begins in this issue as well.
In the next issue, Gene Colon will begin doing the art for Iron Man, staying on the book for a couple of years and really amping up the stories visually. Colon never drew an uninteresting panel of comic art in his life and he’ll be giving Shellhead a really dynamic look.
Captain America, it turns out, has been recounting all the World War II stories we’ve been reading to his fellow Avengers. He has one more war-time memory—that of beating the Red Skull a final time. Just before the Skull’s apparent death, the villain claims that in exactly 20 years “The Sleepers will awake!”
Well, it has been 20 years, hasn’t it? And the Sleepers do awake. They’re giant Nazi robots that have been buried while awaiting activation—Kirby gives them a clunky, retro design that seems appropriate for the time period in which they were built.
The first one pops up in Germany. Cap fights it, but it pretty much just brushes past him, intent on rendezvousing with the other two Sleepers.
That’s it for now. Next week, we enter 1966 as the FF try to find out what’s up with the Inhumans; Spider Man tries to find out who’s running the high-tech thieves’ gang; the Avengers continue to battle Kang in the far future, while the Hulk does some time traveling of his own; Nick Fury blows a bunch of stuff up; Dr. Strange goes one-on-one against Dormammu; Daredevil fights pirates AND dinosaurs (how cool is that?); the X-Men and Captain America both fight giant robots; Thor goes after the lost Norn Stone; Namor returns to Atlantis; and Iron Man confronts an old enemy to save an old friend.
It was a good time to be a comic book fan. And you could have bought every single one of these comics for a total of $1.08, plus maybe sales tax. $1.08 for a months’ worth of time travel, pirates, dinosaurs, giant robots, battles both in the ocean and on the Moon, and lots of superheroes. I really need to get to work on my time machine.