Wednesday, January 12, 2011

History of the Marvel Universe: January 1966, Part 3


Poor Jane Foster is on the verge of a breakdown, what with the man she loves vanishing for days or weeks at a time without explanation. So Blake—against his father’s wishes—shows her that he’s also Thor. This ticks off Odin—something that will have consequences next issue.

Also, Jane makes Thor promise not to leave her again. But that’s a silly promise to exact from a Thunder God. Soon, there are news reports of the Demon (the witch doctor who found the lost Norn Stone) using his newfound powers to raise an army and go on a conquering rampage. So Thor, despite his promise, is off to Asia, where he ends this issue by confronting the villain.

In the meantime, up on Olympus, Zeus is tiring of his son Hercules always getting into fights. So he sends him on a trip to Earth. This sets up a storyline that will begin next issue involving both the son of Odin and the son of Zeus—an arc that is my personal favorite from the Lee/Kirby run on this title.

The Tales of Asgard story gives us a little insight into Hogun the Grim—showing he’s quick to help friends despite his perpetual crankiness—and sets up a fight scene for next issue as the flying trolls of Queen Ula swoop down on the Argonauts.


Namor and the unconscious Dorma are surrounded by Nameless Ones and apparently doomed. But Neptune himself shows up; tells Namor he’s worthy because he acted bravely to save the woman he loved even though he risked getting his throne back; banishes the Nameless Ones; and gives Namor the Trident.

I’m not sure Neptune’s logic holds up. Basically, Namor had decided “The heck with the thousands of Atlanteans I’m responsible for who are being subjugated by a tyrant. I want to save the hot babe who is herself responsible for this whole mess by betraying me.” Namor really needs to watch Casablanca.

You know, with all the writing and editing chores Stan Lee was juggling at this time, I think he really might have lost track of the fact that Dorma committed treason a few issues back.

Oh, well. It works out all right in the end. And Adam Austin’s dynamic art still looks great. Namor heads back to Atlantis, smashes past Krang’s mercenary guard, wrecks the robo-tank that had stunned the rebelling citizenry last issue, gets Dorma into a revitalization tank to save her life, and confronts Krang in the last panel.

In the meantime, the Hulk is now free of the (supposedly) dead Leader and jumps off into the desert. He comments on how Banner’s thoughts and memories are fading, but he’s perfectly happy being the Hulk. But he now has nothing to do. He can’t even play with the Watcher’s Ultimate Machine, because the Watcher zaps it back to the Moon.

As for the other cast members—they all think Banner is dead; Rick is still locked up by the military for helping Banner (who, you’ll remember, was suspected of treason); and General Ross is building a weapon known as a T-Gun from one of Banner’s last designs. This despite no one having any idea what the T-Gun actually does.

Well, they find out. Or at least the Hulk does. When he’s spotted by the Army, he’s zapped with the gun and teleported forward in time. Now in a post-apocalyptic Washington DC, he’s jumped by an army of guys wielding high tech weapons.

I’ve really been enjoying these early Hulk stories. They have a fun rhythm to them—jumping without pause from plot point to plot point in a way that still makes “sense” in a comic book universe.


Adam Austin begins a short run as Iron Man’s artist. His vibrant layouts give the series a healthy shot in the arm right from the first panel, in which Iron Man marches down a hospital hallway to investigate Happy Hogan’s disappearance.

He finds a trail that begins with a hoof print on the third floor window sill of Happy’s room. Well, there’s only one guy Iron Man knows who has a horse that can fly up to a third floor window—that’s the Black Knight.

That’s why I love comic book universes. Someone finds a hoof print in a spot where (in real life) no hoof print could possibly be and can instantly make sense of it.

Anyway, Iron Man tracks down the Black Knight. There’s a fight that’s really a little too slow moving to be truly satisfying (much of it involving Iron Man feigning unconsciousness while he recharges his transistors); the Knight is defeated and perhaps killed; Hogan is taken back to the hospital; but Iron Man is now on the missing list, lying in a hidden spot in the Black Knight’s base.

Captain America is also pretty busy, fighting the giant Nazi Sleeper robot. This is soon joined by the second Sleeper, a giant flying machine. While Cap desperately tries to find a way to damage the Sleepers, they attach themselves together via magnetism and fly off—presumably to join up with the third and last Sleeper. Cap is pretty much having a non-stop bad day in this chapter, but we readers certainly have fun. The action is laid out with Jack Kirby’s usual skill.

That’s it for January. In February, the FF continue to learn more about the Inhumans; Spider Man has one of his finest moments; the Avengers confront Dr. Doom; Nick Fury discovers that telepaths are annoying, while the Hulk discovers the same thing about time travel; Dr. Strange wraps up his wrestling match with Dormammu; Daredevil does a lot of traveling; the X-Men encounter an old enemy; Thor begins his coolest story arc ever; Namor fights for his throne; Iron Man fights a friend; and Captain America continues to fight really big robots.

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