Wednesday, July 13, 2011
History of the Marvel Universe: March 1967
FANTASTIC FOUR #60
It’s been a few years since I last looked at this issue and I’d forgotten how magnificent is the extended fight scene between the FF and Doom. First Johnny alone, then all four, team up to fight a desperate holding action while the army finishes building Reed’s new super-weapon. Both Ben (who manages to deck Doom for a moment despite being literally tortured by comic energy) and Sue (who gets Doom to slam into the side of a cliff by making it invisible—I love that) get Crowning Moments of Awesome.
This is one of the fastest paced issues in the Lee/Kirby run, moving at breathless speed from cover to cover. There is a brief pause for a couple of pages as we are updated on the Inhuman royal family that is probably necessary to keep that story arc progressing, but it’s a scene that perhaps would have been better to leave for another issue than to interrupt the faster-than-light action.
Anyways, Reed’s weapon turns out to be a decoy that tricks Doom into trying to follow it into space. This activates Galactus’ defenses (set up to keep the Surfer from leaving the planet) and Doom is zapped away--- somewhere. Reed says its probably better if we never know where.
So the threat of Doom is ended, as is one of the best Dr. Doom story arcs ever. Kirby’s visuals, a strong plot and some great character moments all come together to make for a great issue.
SPIDER MAN #46
Spider Man meets the Shocker, a crook with enough mechanical know-how to build a device that sends out destructive vibrations and a shock-absorbing suit to protect himself from feedback.
He’s definitely a second-stringer, but he’s interesting enough to make an occasional issue interesting. Spider Man gets knocked out the first time the two fight—he’s still has an arm in a sling at the time. In a nifty little bit of business, the Shocker ignores Spidey after knocking him out. He just wants the money he’s stealing and could care less about killing or unmasking the webslinger.
In a rematch at the end of the issue, Spidey beats Shocker by the simple expedient of webbing his thumbs so he can’t press the triggers for his vibration weapon.
In the meantime, Harry Osborne gets an apartment and asks Peter to room with him. Aunt May, at the same time, is asked to move in with Anne Watson. This frees Peter up to accept Harry’s offer and finally move out on his own. Also, Peter is gradually deciding he likes Gwen better than Mary Jane.
There’s also a fun scene in which Bugle reporter Foswell follows Peter, hoping to get a line of Pete’s connection with Spider Man. He nearly tumbles to the whole secret identity, but Peter manages to pull an off-the-cuff con that convinces Foswell that Peter and Spidey are two different people (who work together to get Peter photo opportunities).
But the issue ends with Peter feeling depressed and homesick, wondering if he can ever be happy. One of the strengths of Spider Man is Stan Lee’s success in giving Peter believable problems that can generate real sympathy, but I have to say Stan drops the ball a little this time around. Peter actually has some good stuff happen to him this time out and he’s got no reason to be whining about it.
Oh, well, it’s still a good issue overall. Even the Spider Man issues from this era that aren’t classics are still good, solid fun.
While the trolls invade Asgard and threaten to overwhelm the kingdom through sheer force of numbers, Thor is on Earth looking for Sif. He and Ulik have a rematch—another outstanding Kirby fight scene that ends in another draw. The trolls manage to trap Thor’s hammer inside a magical device that nullifies the “only Thor can lift it” spell. They head back to Asgard, leaving Thor and Sif trapped on Earth—with Thor due to change back into Donald Blake in just a few seconds.
That’s a pretty short summery, but the flow of the story is once again constructed around opportunities for Kirby to really go to town with his visuals. Like this month’s Fantastic Four, its non-stop action that moves along from one “Wow—that’s awesome!” panel of art to another.
The Tales of Asgard entry finds Thor and the Warriors Three (well—the Warriors Two while Volstagg is taking a nap) fighting a giant cyclopean creature in order to gain access to Wazir the prophet. Wazir tells them where they can find the Mystic Mountain so that they can fulfill their quest to take out Mogul. What with this fight scene and the visuals from the main story—this issue is in danger of putting readers into a sort of sensory overload. How much cool artwork can one comic book contain?
That’s it for March 1967. Next week, we’ll pause from Marvel to take a look at two different instances in which Turok, Son of Stone was forced to hunt down a particularly nasty dinosaur.
In two weeks, we’ll cover April 1967, in which the Fantastic Four get ambushed in their own home; Spider Man fights Kraven the Hunter yet again; and Asgard teeters on the brink of troll-induced destruction.