Wednesday, February 23, 2011
History of the Marvel Universe: March 1966, part 3
It’s the coolest fight ever. Seriously. The fight between Hercules and Thor—consisting of everything from trading punches while balanced atop a moving subway train to tossing multi-ton vehicles at each other at a construction site—represents Jack Kirby at his best. It’s pure fun from start to finish.
And it finishes when Odin, as punishment for Thor’s disobedience in returning to Earth, takes away half his power right in the middle of the fight. Though he never stops trying, the Thunder God is beaten down by the Son of Zeus.
Actually, Odin can’t bring himself to so this personally, so he gives the Odin-power to Seidring, one of his advisors. It’s Seidring who actually zaps Thor. Of course, the decision to basically let someone else borrow his omnipotence will come back to bite the All-Father in the butt next issue. Some “all-knowing” deities just never learn.
But it’s the visuals and the extraordinary fight choreography that makes this issue. There have been other great fights so far. Spider Man’s rampage against Doc Ock’s gang in recent issues of that book, for instance. The Hulk/Thing fight from FF #25. Daredevil vs. Namor in DD #7. Dr. Strange vs. Dormammu in Strange Tales. I could name others. It’s arguable, of course, because it’s so subjective. But this might very well be my favorite comic book fight of all time. It is an astounding example of how to move the action in an exciting yet still logical manner from panel to panel.
Anyway, it ends with Thor refusing to be comforted by a repentant Jane, while Hercules is offered a Hollywood movie contract. That contract is a trap, of course—the first step in one of the most bizarre supervillain plans ever.
The Tales of Asgard feature has Thor rescuing Loki from the flying trolls. Then Odin recalls the ship to Asgard, telling them their mission is over and that Ragnarok must be confronted there.
I’ve always wondered if Stan and Jack didn’t plot out the Tales of Asgard in stream of consciousness from issue to issue, because this really is an awkward jump. The Argo was supposed to be sailing off to discover the source of Ragnarok. They had a few visually awesome adventures, but didn’t really accomplish anything that related to their mission. Now Odin pops up and tells them their mission is over and that basically the whole trip wasn’t necessary.
Oh, well, it really does look awesome. That’s the whole point to the feature anyways.
Namor is off to stop whatever human activity is causing earthquakes in Atlantis. He finds an experimental drill being worked by Hank Pym from a floating sea lab. Namor breaks the drill. Soldiers on the lab shoot at him and the issue ends with Namor confronting Hank and Janet, with everyone talking tough to each other.
In the meantime, the quake is waking up a giant sea monster called the Behemoth.
Adam Austin’s art continues to make this serial look cool.
In the far future, the Hulk uses Jack Kirby layouts and John Romita pencils to look equally cool. Hulk fights the Executioner and his tripod fighting machines, smashing a bunch of the machines, before the effects of the T-Gun wear off and he fades out, returning to the present.
While this is going on, Rick Jones, thinking Hulk/Banner is dead, tells Major Talbot that Banner and Hulk were the same guy. The cat’s out of the bag now.
Both serials continue to move along from cliffhanger to cliffhanger in a fun and satisfying manner. Neither story is reaching the heights of greatness currently being achieved in FF and Thor, but it’s still good solid storytelling.
Iron Man fights the powerful creature that Happy Hogun has transformed into, but gets his butt handed to him. Happy shambles back to Stark’s factory, where Senator Byrd is yelling at poor Pepper and trying to serve his subpoena to Tony—who, as usual, is nowhere to be found.
In an interesting character moment, the arrogant blowhard senator risks his own life to try to save Pepper from “Happy.” He gets knocked out, but it’s a neat reminder that though Byrd might not be likable, he is an honorable man who really is doing what he thinks best for the country. He really thinks that the Iron Man armor should be turned over to the government and Iron Man’s identity revealed.
Anyway, Iron Man confronts Happy again and uses some sort of power feedback macguffin to attempt to revert his friend back to a normal human. The device catches fire and Iron Man is in danger of roasting in his own armor as the issue comes to an end.
Captain America, in the meantime, is mooning about the past when he runs into a girl who reminds him of a lost love from World War II. Though hinted at here, it’s only in later issues that we’ll learn that this girl is Sharon Carter, SHIELD agent and younger sister to that lost love.
For now, she’s trying to keep a cylinder of a new powerful explosive out of the hands of enemy agents. In this case, the enemy is represented by Baltroc the Leaper, an expert in the foot boxing fighting style called Savate. He makes for a visual fun opponent for Captain America in their ensuing fight, but he pretty much right away shows us his most irritating feature. He talks constantly in a really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really, really annoying French accent.
In the end, Baltroc and Cap are both chasing Sharon (who, remember, is still unnamed at this point). The pretty spy doesn’t realize her cylinder is cracked and that the explosive is threatening to detonate with enough force to destroy New York City.
Gee whiz, a few blocks away, Galactus is confronting the FF and threatening to eat the world while here a spy is carrying what basically amounts to a ticking atom bomb through some back alleys. Spider Man is causing a ruckus fighting Kraven while Thor and Hercules are tossing construction vehicles at each other at yet another location. And Attuma is trying to flood the whole city out.
Exactly why does anyone live in New York City? I mean, I know the Broadway shows are nice, but ticket prices are already high enough without adding the risk of having a bulldozer thrown by an ill-tempered immoral fall on top of you. Or have the world eaten before you see the last act of “Lion King.” It just doesn’t seem worth it.
Anyway, that’s it for March. In April, our reduced line-up will see the FF continue to urge Galactus to go on a diet; Spider Man causes a ruckus with Molten Man; The Avengers continue to battle Attuma; Nick Fury gets strapped to a bomb; Dr. Strange continues with his out-of-body experience; Thor saves his dad; Namor gets mind-controlled; Hulk gets captured; Iron Man gets kidnapped; and Captain America has to continue to listen to a bad French accent.
But before moving on with Marvel, we will take a week to look at a particular multi-part Sgt. Rock story arc from the 1970s. We'll return to the chronological Marvel posts in two weeks.