Wednesday, February 2, 2011

History of the Marvel Universe: February 1966, part 3


This, by the way, is the last ever issue of Journey into Mystery. Next issue, it’ll be renamed The Mighty Thor (though it will retain the same number sequence). Stan Lee or someone else at Marvel finally realized that the Thunder God had completely taken over what was once an anthology book.

But on to the good stuff. This story begins an arc that rates a 9.9 on the Bogart/Karloff Coolness scale. Though it’s a very close call, I might have to go with the next six issues as being the best ever Thor story. Kirby will be at his most awesome. The plot will be bizarre but follow its own Marvel Universe logic from start to finish, allowing for both characterization and action. It’s graphic storytelling at its best.

It begins with Thor managing to take down the Demon, disband the Demon’s army and recover the Norn Stone. But when he brings the stone back to Asgard, he discovers Daddy Odin is most displeased that Thor has revealed his secret identity to a mere mortal.

Thor is banned from returning to Earth, but he refuses to forsake Jane and fights his way to the Rainbow Bridge, plowing through a gazillion or so Asgardian Red Shirts, then outfighting Heimdall to make good his escape.

But once back on Earth, he discovers that Hercules has arrived in town and is—GASP—buying Jane an ice cream soda. Jane, miffed at Thor for leaving her after he promised to stay around—gives him the cold shoulder. Thor has words with Hercules and the two gods square off to fight.

It all just looks so…. COOL. Even the kinda silly stuff—such as two all-powerful immortals going at each other over a pretty girl at the soda shop—looks great. And it’ll look even better next issue, when Thor and Hercules have one of the best fights ever. (Only the Hulk/Thing match from FF #25 beats it out.)

In the Tales of Asgard, we have Thor trying to talk peace with the flying trolls. Loki will have none of that and takes out the trolls with a poison vapor. This brings on a bigger troll contingent that captures Loki. Once again, Kirby makes it all look breathtaking.


Namor finally gets back his throne by pretty easily beating the snot out of Krang. It’s actually a bit of an anti-climax. After all that effort, I think a more extended knock-down, drag-out between the two enemies would have been appropriate.

Anyway, Dorma is saved by Atlantean science, Krang is exiled and goes away muttering threats of vengeance and all seems right with the underwater world. Until an earthquake rocks the city. Namor realizes it was caused by surface world nuclear tests. He vows to return to the surface world and deal with it somehow.

One thing of note—there’s still no mention of the fact that Dorma originally helped Krang depose Namor. She’s returned to her status as Namor’s eye candy. As I mentioned last time, I really think that, with all the stories Stan was juggling at the time, he just plain forgot about that plot thread.

The Hulk, meanwhile, discovers he’s in the 25th Century. A king tries to capture him to use him in a war, but he just gets loose and wrecks lots of stuff. Then a rival force attacks and the issue ends with Hulk confronting the other leader—who happens to be the Executioner. The two square off to fight.

Back in the 20th Century, Thunderbolt Ross is in hot water for “losing” the Hulk—no one has any idea that the T-Ray displaced him in time. So Ross and Talbot head off to question Rick Jones to see if he can help find the Hulk. That’ll lead to Rick making an important revelation next issue.


Iron Man is still weak and out of power, but he manages to send off a distress signal to Pepper Potts, who plugs him into an electrical outlet so that he can power up again.

In the meantime, Shellhead gets a phone call from Senator Byrd, who is threatening to issue a subpoena to force Iron Man to unmask for national security reasons. It’s a sub-plot that’s been going on for a few issues now, with usually just a few panels per issue given to it. It’s a proper rhythm for an interesting but non-action plotline and it’ll continue to be interesting in issues to come.

Anyway, Iron Man can’t catch a break on any front. The doctors use an experimental procedure to save Happy’s life, but it turns him into a mindless, super-strong brute. Iron Man is left with the task of subduing his best friend without hurting him.

It’s an okay story, helped along by Adam Austin’s dynamic art.

Captain America isn’t getting much rest, either. The last Nazi Sleeper robot turns out to be a giant skull that Cap deduces is really a planet-cracking bomb. Cap quickly recruits an army unit to help him and ends up getting airdropped on to the combined Sleeper robots with a flamethrower attached to his back. He uses this to sabotage the robots, getting them to detonate harmlessly in the upper atmosphere.

It’s a satisfying ending to this lastest serial.

That’s it for February. In March 1966, both the Fantastic Four and Thor are running with their respective Best Stories Ever; Spidey has a rematch with Kraven; the Avengers get a visit from a former member; Nick Fury gets his brain zapped; Dr. Strange almost gets blowed up; the X-Men tussle with an old enemy; Namor tussles with some soldiers; Hulk tussles with an Asgardian; Iron Man tussles with his best friend; and Captain America tussles with an annoying Frenchman.

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