Wednesday, September 21, 2011

History of the Marvel Universe: October 1967


Well, I was a little unfair in my criticism of this story line in my critique of the last issue. I was making fun of the fact that the enclave of scientists were being presented as good guys despite the fact that they’re plan to create a superior race to replace humans had some rather serious moral flaws in it.

It’s been a few years since I’ve read this particular issues and it is one of the weaker Lee/Kirby arcs, so I had forgotten about the events of this issue. We learn here that the scientists, though some of them originally had a noble purpose, were pretty much planning on using their creation to rule the world.

Still, the story arc as a whole comes across as a little contrived. It’s good for what it is, with events this issue concentrating on Reed’s genius and how much hard work goes into inventing cool stuff. He manages to duplicate the matter transporter and he, Johnny and Ben blip off after Alicia.

Why doesn’t Sue come along? Because Reed refuses to place her in danger, telling her “NOT NOW!!!”  That, by the way, is a foreshadow of things to come—that we’ll be hearing the patter of little feet scampering around the Baxter Building before long. Next month’s annual will be confirming this.

Anyway, the super-powerful creature that the scientists invented can’t be controlled. Alicia never does get a chance to sculpt anything. The FF minus one shows up to rescue her and super-powerful guy destroys the enclave, then disappears from continuity for a time. He pops up again eventually, but I’ll be darned if I can remember when and where.

The Fantastic Four suffers from the same curse that occasionally hits Thor and Spider Man. Most of the time, the stories are so good, that the average ones really stand out as being merely… well, average. But even when the plot isn’t as cool as it could be, characterizations remain consistent and Jack Kirby’s layouts remain incredible.


Peter and Gwen are taken to a science exposition by their professor (Professor Warren—who will have a rather interesting story arc of his own in years to come.)  There’s a top secret anti-missile device being demonstrated for the public.

Actually, demonstrating a valuable and TOP SECRET device for the public seems a tad silly, doesn’t it? Oh, well, it sets the stage for some great action scenes, so we’ll be forgiving.

Doctor Octopus is at the exposition and tries to steal it—selling the device to a foreign power will fund his plans to build a criminal empire. As all good superheroes do, Peter immediately changes clothes and we get a well-crafted action scene with an interesting resolution. Doc Ock is blinded by Spidey’s web fluid, but manages to buy time to stumble away by dropping the missile device over some innocent bystanders. By the time Spider Man saves the civilians, Ock has made a getaway.

Peter placed a Spider Tracer on the villain during their melee, but Ock finds it and uses it to set a trap. Spidey avoids this via his spider sense, ending this issue pretty much in a draw. Ock’s gotten away, but needs a new place to stay (having blown up his hideout in an attempt to kill Spider Man).

Meanwhile, Aunt May has decided to take in a border. Gee whiz, she has a free room while Spider Man’s arch enemy is looking for a place to stay? That couldn’t possibly lead to trouble, could it?

THOR #145

Odin wins his duel with the remaining enchanter, but the fight has apparently left him really, really grouchy. He summons Sif and Balder back to Asgard. They go willingly, but Thor still wants to hang out on Earth. Odin grants this, but strips Thor of all his power except his super strength.

No longer able to change into Donald Blake (his hammer is still a handy weapon, but has none of its usual powers now), Thor scrounges up some civilian clothes and promptly manages to stumble across the Circus of Crime.

Well, the Circus of Crime is planning… well… a crime. They need a strong man to “lift the golden bull” (we’re not told anything else about the job yet), but their own strong man strained himself trying to lift an elephant. When Thor demonstrates his own strength, the Ringmaster hypnotizes him.

So Thor has joined the circus. Now, I know I’ve been whining about recent issues of Thor not being cosmic enough. And a de-powered thunder god joining an evil circus really isn’t cosmic at all. But all the same, this is such a fun idea for a story, that I’m okay with it. Besides, in a few issues, Thor will be going up against Loki, then the Wrecker, then the Destroyer—and, before too many issues go by, a bad guy with the power of a billion billion people. We’ve got plenty of “cosmic” coming up.

This issue brings us the last of the “Tales of Asgard,” which manages to finish off Mogul with a destructive magical bolt before he can release a deadly plague. It’s actually all a bit too low key to be a truly satisfying ending to the series, not quite equaling last issue’s pure awesomeness. But it’s still a nice send-off.

The next issue begins a back-up feature about the Inhumans, but this simply highlights why I no longer do every single Marvel Comic. I don’t own reprints of the Inhumans feature, so I’m afraid we won’t be covering it.

Anyway, that finishes October 1967. Before moving on to November, we’ll take a look at the 1967 annuals. Unless I’ve miscounted, Thor didn’t have an annual that year, so we’ll visit with the FF as they and a whole lot of friends take on a new villain, then join Spider Man as he has an always-welcome team up with a certain flame-headed “buddy.”

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