Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Marvels: Journey Into Mystery #86

"On the Trail of the Tomorrow Man" by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(November 1962)

This story kind of breezes by, but not in a bad way. It's actually quite fun, and for being a magic-based, mythological character, Thor fits into a science fiction setting much more comfortably here than he did in his first appearance when he fought aliens.

The story structure follows what has been the sort of typical sci-fi twist story that anthology books such as Journey Into Mystery have followed until now, with the addition of some superhero spectacle. The story starts in the future, in the year 2262, where the Earth has become a peaceful utopia. (Some of the buildings remind me of some of the great science fiction Jack Kirby did later at DC.) An ambitious scientist named Zarrko is annoyed by all of this placidity and decides to come back to our time and steal a weapon, thus making himself ruler of the future.

What he comes back for is an experimental cobalt bomb, which Thor happens to be out in the desert testing, helping out the military. There are a lot of familiar elements of this early age of the Marvel Universe--future tech, science fiction grandeur, experimental weapons tested in the American desert, an implied patriotism, and the Cold War always present in the background. Thor may be the son of Asgard, but he's made himself Defender of the Earth, which of course (given the time period) is implied to be America. Thor is a Norse god, but he's an American patriot, too. (Again, another parallel with DC's Superman.)

Thor journeys to the future to track down Zarrko and the stolen C-bomb. Zarrko has already made himself master of the world, and the people live in fear. Some great action scenes of Thor racing through a future cityscape while outsmarting Zarrko's traps and fighting his gigantic robots. Larry and Jack manage to get in a suspenseful moment where one of the robots takes Thor's hammer (if it's that powerful, why bother with the C-bomb? Why not just go right to building robots?) and Thor has to use his strength and intelligence to defeat the robots before sixty seconds elapse and he changes into the weaker Donald Blake. It's a nice way of using that element to add suspense while also showing us that Thor isn't completely useless without his magic hammer.

The story in this issue is wrapped up neatly. It's a simple story, but not a simplistic one, and is so far one of the better adventures of the character. At this point, I can safely say I'd like to see more science fiction in this comic and, of course, more Loki (who returns in the next issue).

Other notes:

:: In this issue, Odin grants Thor permission to travel through time. He instructs Thor to tie a fragment from Zarrko's time ship (broken off in a fight) to his hammer, and then spin very quickly like a top. By doing so, Thor travels to the time period the metal is from.

:: Thor also demonstrates the ability to exhale a blast of hurricane wind.

:: When Thor gets to the future, a woman immediately thinks to herself how handsome he is. Yes, I get it. He's hot. And also that's the only thing women think about, I guess.

:: Jane Foster has brown hair now, I guess.

:: Just love this pose:

Thor catches the falling C-bomb like a running back.

:: Jack Kirby was born 96 years ago today. Happy Kirby Day!

Next time: the Human Torch fights the Wizard!

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