Friday, August 09, 2013

Marvels: Journey Into Mystery #84

"The Mighty Thor vs. The Executioner" by Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(September 1962)

This issue sets the general tone for the next year or so of stories and introduces us to Dr. Donald Blake's nurse, Jane Foster. (Though here she's called Jane Nelson, so either someone forgot or they just didn't like it.)

I'll just admit up front: I don't like Jane Foster. Honestly, I don't like Dr. Blake, either. Thor has great potential right off the bat, but what Lieber and Kirby set up here is a love triangle that is going to be constantly... well, silly.

Blake's in love with Jane, but he doesn't think she could ever love someone who's lame (which isn't giving her very much credit). For her part, Jane has real feelings for Blake and admires his selflessness, but feels he's not interested in her at all because he's cold towards her. And then, of course, Jane falls instantly for Thor and wishes Blake could be more like the Norse god he embodies. And it goes around and around, like a less sophisticated Archie Comics, a collection of stereotypes aimed at teenage boys.

For some time, this will be one of my least favorite things in Marvel Comics: female characters who are primarily motivated by their conflicted romantic interests in a man and, unknowingly, his heroic alter ego. Think of the real attempts Stan and Jack are already making to try and turn Sue Storm into a character with dimension on Fantastic Four. Jane Foster is going to have none of that any time soon. It's frustrating.

Especially with Thor, the powerful god of thunder, being wasted in a plot that feels routine and by-the-numbers. Here, Dr. Blake, Nurse Jane and other medical professionals journey to the fictional country of San Diablo to offer medical relief. It's basically Cuba, and the communist dictator who has taken power--your standard Castro analogue--is so ruthless and has sent so many to the firing squad that he's been given the name "The Executioner." (Sadly, he's not fighting the Asgardian Executioner yet.)

Most of the story is Thor fighting the Executioner's Soviet-supplied jets and tanks, and then rescuing Jane when she's captured. The Executioner is a real pig, always eating a turkey leg or something, and tries to force Jane to marry him, because American women are always automatically fascinating and coveted because they're American. It's that kind of story in that kind of time period. Blake has his cane taken away, but goads the Executioner with that hoary old "fight me like a man" jazz.

So, Thor saves the day, Jane wishes Blake could be more like Thor, Blake laughs it off and practically winks at the reader, and then it's over.

Not much of a story, but some decent Kirby art. Feels like filler.

Up next: Ant-Man, for real this time.


Roger Owen Green said...

Hmm. I always thought that the triangle was inspired by Superman/Lois Lane/Clark Kent thing. Well, I have the story about 10 feet from me. Interested to see the Ant Man, a character I never warmed to in the early days; ditto the Wasp, who seemed to flirt with all of the Avengers.

SamuraiFrog said...

Ah, of course; that should be obvious, shouldn't it? I was too busy being irritated with it to even compare, but now that you say it, I feel a bit foolish for not going there.

Of all these early Marvels, the Ant-Man is probably my least favorite. He's just so lame. Until we get to Iron Man, and he's somehow lamer. They both have the dumbest villains, too. (But first there's a year or so of Ant-Man fighting jewel thieves and gangsters before the Wasp even shows up.)

What I've been learning as I've been reading is that if it's actually written, not just plotted, by Stan Lee, I'll probably enjoy it. Anyone else, though, is thinking small. But they've all been in the business for the same amount of time, so I don't know why Lee's so inspired, but I'm glad he is.

I'm sticking with the main Marvel Universe and not going through so much else of what Stan Lee and/or Jack Kirby are working on, too. All of their Western books, the horror/science fiction anthologies with Steve Ditko, the romance books. Millie the Model and her ilk are surprisingly funny.