Wednesday, August 29, 2012

History of the Marvel Universe: June 1970


Johnny’s been mooning over Crystal for the last few issues. Now he’s decided to fly on his own to the Great Refuge and get her back—no matter who stands in his way.

The rest of the FF take off after him, determined to stop him before he does something stupid. But they’re a little late and Johnny does something stupid, taking on pretty much the entire population of Inhumans to reach Crystal, then throwing a hissy fit when she tells him she has to stay.

It turns out she had good reason. Black Bolt is sick and the Inhumans needed her power to keep his heart beating (by sending micro-shock waves into him) until the medicine he needed could be found. This part of the story is a little contrived: When Crystal first has a chance to explain this, she simply says “I can’t tell you why I have to stay”—leading to more fighting. But a few minutes later, the situation was explained to everyone without hesitation.

Oh, well--the fight scenes are cool and Johnny certainly gets to act human—we guys do often act like jerks when pretty girls are involved. Though Stan and Jack might have overdone it a bit in this tale. Johnny’s shown as being willing to reduce the entire Great Refuge to slag. I’m not sure being in love gives anyone an excuse to destroy a city. That’s gotta be a felony rather than a misdemeanor, even in a comic book universe.


This is a strong ending to a great three-parter. Kingpin and the Schemer continue to spar with each other throughout the issue, with Spider Man essentially caught in the middle, until Kingpin finally gets the upper hand. But then he discovers the Schemer is really his supposedly dead son Richard, who wants revenge on his father after discovering Kingpin was a crook. This revelation sends Kingpin into a catatonic state.

The plot and the action sequences all flow along smoothly, building up to an effective ending.

There’s a great character moment with Peter, Gwen and Captain Stacy as well. When Stacy begins to wonder how Peter gets all those photos of Spider Man, Peter realizes he’s got to do something to quell his suspicions. As Spider Man, he puts in an appearance and “reveals” that he and Peter have a deal to split the money Peter makes (it’s a con he’s run before). This pretty much works, but in such a way that now has Gwen worrying that Peter is in danger from Spider Man.

All in all, this issue manages to effectively generate some really strong emotions.

THOR #177

Jack Kirby’s last continuous issue of Thor is nothing short of awesome. Thor and the army of Asgard fight a desperate last stand against Surter. In the meantime, Balter goes after Odin. But Odin’s sleep chamber is located in the Sea of Eternal Darkness, which in turn is located in the Dimension of Death.

So while Thor and his soldiers fight an epic but losing battle, Balder continues on to Odin’s sleep chamber despite having his life force steadily sucked out of him. He releases Odin, who uses his power to revive Balder. Then the All-Father consigns Surter back to an underground prison.

The ending might have been a deus ex machina, but it’s not. Because it’s clear that Thor had to fight a delaying action to save Asgard—and because Balder had to be willing to sacrifice his life to save Odin—the ending fits perfectly.

Jack Kirby’s run on Thor has been nothing short of fantastic. It’s been a book that arguably was the best platform he ever had to highlight his strengths as an artist and to allow his imagination to run wild.

The next issue would be drawn by Sal Buscema. Jack would be back for Thor #179, then Neal Adams would pencil a few issues. After that, John Buscema would be the regular artist for awhile.

There’s are all wonderful artists and the work they’ll be doing on Thor is stuff  they can be justly proud of. But Jack Kirby will always be the perfect Thor artist.

So we’ll end our regular look at Thor with this issue, though we will visit specific storylines from time to time.

We still have a few more issues of Jack Kirby on Fantastic Four and  we will stick with that book for at least a few issues after he leaves. With Amazing Spider Man, I’m thinking I’ll continue to cover that issue by issue at least through the death of Gwen Stacy.

Next week, we'll take a look at just how Weird a War can be, then we’ll be down to two books when we hit July 1970, in which the Fantastic Four celebrate their 100th issue by fighting, well, everybody; and Spider Man tussles with a newly hotified Black Widow.

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