Wednesday, August 24, 2011

History of the Marvel Universe: July 1967


You know, for all the cool sci-fi imagery, exciting fight scenes, and sense of adventure contained in this issue, the adjective that best describes it would have to be “delightful.” Stan Lee’s dialogue continues to capture a sincere sense of family that gives the story a lot of humor and some honestly-won emotional moments.

The FF have been working hard cleaning up the messes left over from the last few issues and they’re all getting grouchy. (By the way, I’ve never been married, but even I would know not to say something like “For cryin’ out loud, Sue, use your head to for a change!” to my wife.) Reed realizes they need a vacation. Ben selects a random location (an island in the south Pacific) by throwing a dart at a map. So, Johnny hangs out at home with Crystal and Triton while Reed, Ben and Sue fly off to the island.

And, really, what are the odds of running into any trouble at a randomly chosen island? Well, since this is the freakin’ Fantastic Four, running into trouble is pretty much a certainty.

The island contains an ancient spaceport used by the Kree, who had come to Earth before mankind was around. A scientist had just discovered the remains of the base and inadvertently activated the Sentry, a fifteen-foot-tall guardian robot.

The Sentry is programmed to destroy any “intruders,” so the three vacationers are soon up to their eyeballs in a fight. They call for help; Johnny zaps over the island via Lockjaw and joins in. The base’s power source is damaged in the fight, so all the humans zap away just before the island (and the Sentry) blows up.

It’s a great fight scene in which each of the four get their moment to shine, but it really is the perfectly realized character interactions that make this story stand out.

It’s also the first mention ever of the Kree, who will (along with the Skrulls and the Shi’ar) turn out to be one of the more important alien races in the Marvel Universe. Eventually, it will be established that the Kree and the Skrulls are ancient enemies—something that will provide fodder for many a good story.


Peter is having a lousy day—the general populace is suspicious of Spider Man even when he saves someone; JJJ is ramping up his anti-Spidey editorials; Aunt May is sick (again) and Peter wasn’t around to be notified; his grades are slipping; and he hasn’t time for either Gwen or Mary Jane.

It’s all because of Spider Man. Deciding its just not worth it, he tosses his costume in a garbage can. (A kid finds it and brings it to Jameson, who hangs it on his wall as a trophy.

At first, it seems like a good decision—he finally has time to catch up on things in his normal life. But Spidey’s  disappearance from the scene allows a new crime lord—a fat guy named the Kingpin—to rise up and take over the various New York gangs.

(Frederick Foswell, the ex-crook reporter, turns back to crime with the intension of doing the same thing, but Kingpin just has him “put on ice” somewhere—a plot point that will come up again next issue.)

There’s some excellent characterizations and some great humor mixed in with all these shenanigans, all leading up to Peter being forcibly reminded just why he become a hero and realizing that he can never stop helping others.

This has always been considered a classic Spider Man story—not just because it introduces one of his classic villains, but also because of the expert way it combines plot, character and theme into one great story. It reminds us that Spider Man’s appeal and cultural longevity isn’t just due to a cool costume and powers, but to the fact that we always very much identify with; admire and just plain like Peter Parker.

Between this issue and this month’s FF, Stan Lee is really at the top of his game in capturing the personalities of his most popular characters.

THOR #141

One more filler issue to go Stan and Jack get back into multi-issue stories. But this is a pretty darn cool filler issue. Loki, who is still in exile in some lonely space-time continuum, can still use his mental powers. He sends out a telepathic prompt to the Super Skrull, telling the alien that he can redeem his lose to the Fantastic Four by defeating Thor and perhaps opening Asgard up to invasion.

There actually might be a continuity glitch here. The last time we saw Loki was in Thor Annual #2, which ended with Odin putting a spell of forgetfulness on the god of mischief, leaving him floating helplessly through space. But now, without explanation, Loki has all his memories and is on a planet somewhere. But then, I’m no longer reviewing every Marvel superhero comic, so I might have missed a story that explained this.

I kind of miss reviewing everything, but I’ve long since passed the point where I own reprints of everything, so there you go.

Anyway, this leads to another great Kirby fight, spoiled a little bit by Thor again pulling a new power out of his hat to toss Super Skrull back into space. (“By the power of my uru mallet, I do create an ANTI-FORCE!” Gee whiz, this is worse than Mort Weisinger’s Superman stories.)

Also, upcoming events are fore-shadowed when Balder and Sif are sent out on a scouting mission to checkout out some bad guys called the Enchanters. More on that next issue.

The Tales of Asgard feature is, sadly, coming to an end in a few issue, but it’ll be going out with a bang. In this issue, the invasion of Mogul’s fortress has put the tyrant in a nasty mood. In addition to the Forty Satan’s Horsemen he let loose last issue, he starts firing fire bolts and gets ready to release a plague across the land.

When Mogul has a bad day, everybody has a bad day.

But Thor and two of the Warriors Three fight on. Volstagg is MIA this issue, but he’ll turn up rather unexpectedly soon. The obese and unlikely hero is building up to a true Crowning Moment of Awesome in the very near future. 

That's it for July. In August 1967, the FF continue to have trouble with the Kree; Spider Man continues to have trouble with Kingpin; and Thor just plain has trouble.

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