Friday, November 22, 2013

Marvels: Journey Into Mystery #91

"Sandu, Master of the Supernatural!" by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber & Joe Sinnott
(April 1963)

I can't say I'm that big a fan of Joe Sinnott's Thor yet. He's more suited than Al Hartley was, but Jack Kirby just defined the look and feel so much that any change is somewhat jarring. (In these stories, at least; by contrast, Don Heck's artwork suits Ant-Man so well that I don't miss Kirby over there at all.)

Sinnott's not helped by a mediocre story, even by Thor standards, that manages to waste Loki, having him merely act through a proxy that is truly one of Thor's lamest villains: Sandu, Master of the Supernatural.

Sandu is a carnival magician whom Loki (still a prisoner in Asgard) imbues with the powers of an actual sorcerer. Once Sandu gains powers, he embarks on a series of super-crimes, where he holds up banks--literally floating it into the air, taking the money, wiping the memories of the people inside, returning them to the outside world, and then literally using his mental powers to blink the empty buildings to the moon, because I guess if the cops don't have the building they can't prosecute or something?--menaces the Air Force, shakes the UN building into the air and even steals the Taj Mahal. But, at Loki's bidding, Sandu also has to defeat Thor.

Apparently, iron girders are enough to knock Thor unconscious. Then Sandu puts Thor in chains in a hole in the ground and floats a building on top of him. It's not really that exciting. Then Odin decides to return Thor's belt of strength (Megingjord in Norse mythology), which helps him break free.

Where Sandu overreaches is by attempting to wield Thor's hammer. He manages to separate Thor from the hammer by transporting it to another dimension, but then tries to lift the hammer himself, which of course he can't. He tries to do it with his mental powers, but instead short circuits himself mentally (somehow), returning to our dimension, where Thor picks up the hammer before the sixty seconds are up and he would have turned back into Donald Blake. (This manages to generate absolutely no suspense.)

Loki's so disgusted by this that he takes Sandu's powers away so the police can arrest him, vowing revenge on Thor one day. And then it's over, filler accomplished.

Stray observations:

:: I kept accidentally typing "Sandy" instead of "Sandu." Not sure it matters. Sandu is so lame he never actually returns. Compare that to some of the other incredibly lame villains who kept coming back in the Marvel Universe, and you get an idea of how generic and unmemorable Sandu is.

(Also, I'm very tired today and have been making spelling errors constantly, so forgive me if words not read good.)

:: Joe Sinnott draws Thor's hammer with a much longer handle than Kirby did. Not like it ruins the story or anything, just something I noticed. I think Kirby's changed sizes a couple of times, too. There's no real standard yet.

:: This is the first time we see Valkyries.

This is not at all a good or memorable Thor story, but it's nice that both the belt and the Valkyries get introduced here. I love it when they add more and more of the mythology to the comic. (Only five more months until the "Tales of Asgard" stories start! Those are the best!)

:: When Donald Blake and Jane Foster go to see Sandu at the carnival before he gets his powers, Sandu announces that Dr. Blake is in love with a girl whose initials are "J.F." Blake plays it off like it ain't no thang, and of course Jane is insulted and thinks disparaging thoughts in that Jane way.

:: When Thor first sees a building floating in mid-air, he assumes it's some kind of publicity stunt. That cynicism is how you know you're a real New Yorker.

:: This is the first time I haven't enjoyed a Loki story, god damn it. That should never happen. Loki, Doctor Doom, and Sub-Mariner should never, ever be boring.

All this time later, and I'm still just not feeling these Thor stories. I've liked a few of them for sure--most notably the Loki stories "Trapped by Loki, the God of Mischief" and "The Vengeance of Loki," as well as "On the Trail of the Tomorrow Man"--but so far all of the elements haven't gelled for me. I think part of it is just that Donald Blake and his whole drama aren't really that interesting yet, and Thor is being wasted on mundane adventures with gangsters and communist armies. There's so much potential here which is being squandered.

It's not a permanent problem--there's some really good stuff just a couple of months away--but it's not there yet. At least the stories are still short, and whatever happens so far it hasn't felt as increasingly desperate as Incredible Hulk did.

We'll get there.

Next Marvels: the Human Torch vs. the Sub-Mariner!


bliss_infinte said...

I always wondered about this Joe Sinnot thing with penciling a couple of Thor issues. He had already inked Kirby's FF issue 5 (not credited)but he wouldn't get paired up with the King again until late '65 I believe (Inhumans storyline). When I saw that he was the main artist for Thor I was pretty jazzed but the issues are a general let down. His power was definitely in inking other's works as the praise of FF #5 has shown. I just wonder why he was brought on much sooner than in late
'65. I don't think he was over at DC. Maybe he was making an actual living as a commercial artist. I'll have to do some research on that.

SamuraiFrog said...

He was definitely a great inker. Not that his pencils are bad, either; I think mainly he's a victim here to an underwhelming script and the cramped space limitations of the Journey Into Mystery format (being an anthology book rather than a full issue).