Thursday, February 20, 2014

Marvels: Tales of Suspense #43

"Iron Man Versus Kala, Queen of the Netherworld!" by Stan Lee, Robert Bernstein, Jack Kirby & Don Heck
(July 1963)

In his short existence, Iron Man has scared off an alien invasion. He's matched wits with a super genius. He's faced Soviet spies. What's left? Well, in these early days of the Marvel Universe, if they're not going to give Tony a true archenemy, the only things left to do are go back in time (as he will next issue) or get caught up with a would-be conqueror in either another dimension or an underground kingdom. Tony Stark, welcome to your filler underground kingdom issue! Hey, even the Hulk had one.

This one is the Netherworld, ruled by Kala. They're descendants of lost Atlantis and they're gearing up to attack to surface, so they've kidnapped Tony Stark and a bunch of scientists to help make weapons. Basically, Tony just goes into the lab, works all night, creates another fully equipped and armed Iron Man suit, and then attacks the Netherworlders and defeats them.

In the story's big, insulting climax, Iron Man flies Kala to the surface and shows her that the difference in atmosphere has aged her rapidly and turns her into an old hag. He mentions that everyone who comes up to the surface after a life spent in the Netherworld would rapidly age the same way, but Kala really decides not to invade because she doesn't want to lose her beauty. So, it's the old sexist appeal to a woman's supposed natural vanity.

Jeez.

Underground again, she becomes young and beautiful once more, which is totally scientifically accurate, and then she predictably asks Iron Man to stay and be her husband and rule. Iron Man instead pawns her off on her general, Baxu, who has been on the sidelines obviously in love with her for the whole story. So not only are we not getting invaded, but Kala's been tamed and is getting a husband to lord over her. Happy ending! I guess!

Notes:

:: In this issue, Iron Man stops an out-of-control wind tunnel by cartwheeling really fast to create, I don't know, a counter vortex or something. He also uses a pellet containing "concentrated chemical crystals" to turn fire into ice, and does the above trick of creating confusing duplicates of himself with tiny mirror projectors for a standoff that is more or less pointless. It's like reading Popular Mechanics in the 1930s, only if the editors had stipulated that nothing needs to sound remotely plausible.

:: There are a couple of occasions where Tony has to come up with some BS story as to why Iron Man is around. The movies really made the right choice by just having Tony ditch that secret identity jazz. "It so happens Iron Man is visiting me..." Sheesh. And several times in one story? Come on, stop it.

:: Tony, stop smoking.

You're a heart patient, dude. This is not helping.

:: Not really related, but speaking of Marvel: have you seen the Guardians of the Galaxy trailer? Fucking awesome.

So, another forgettable issue for this nascent hero. There's a retool coming, similar to Ant-Man's, which will give this series a little more value, but for now, it's not one I look forward to reading.

Next Marvels: the return of Ant-Man's greatest villain.

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