Saturday, September 20, 2014

Marvels: Journey Into Mystery #102

"Slave of Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Chic Stone
(March 1964)

There's probably not much reason for this to be a two-part story. Between this issue and the setup in the previous issue, it still feels a little slight. If they had the page count--if an issue of Journey Into Mystery was only one story about Thor--Stan & Jack would most likely have a pretty exciting issue. But dividing it half kind of lessens it. The last issue was mainly Thor pining over Jane and throwing a fit; this issue really contains most of the actual meat of the story, but because of the shorter page count, the whole thing is resolved really quickly instead of really giving us a chance to explore this strange future we're in.

That's really a shame, because Kirby's art is so fantastic in this issue.

I just want to explore this 23rd century a little further. Instead, we go right to Thor helping Zarrko subdue the populace so that he can face the World Council and gain control of the "Master Machine," which controls all of this neat stuff you see here. Since there are no weapons and no crime, Zarrko takes over easily, particularly with Thor's help (though Thor does all he can to make sure that, even though he's keeping his word to Zarrko, no one gets harmed).

Also, they fight this amazing robotic octopus.

Honestly, this is the kind of thing I want to see Thor doing, not fighting gangsters and commie spies. I love the way the Thor movies mix space opera and high fantasy, and I want to see more of that in the comic.

Zarrko and Thor confront the Master Machine, which tries to defend itself with something called a C-bomb, which kind of bugs me. Here, it's C for cell; the "bomb" bursts open and forms an unbreakable prison around its target. Back in Zarrko's first appearance in Journey Into Mystery #86, the C-bomb was the experimental cobalt bomb that Zarrko stole from the 20th century so that he could rule over the 23rd. It's a needlessly confusing repetition, although I'm sure Stan either thought no one would notice or, more likely, that he didn't notice himself and just used the term again. There's no reason to get all continuity on it, really, it just sort of broke up the story a little for me.

In the end, Thor technically keeps his word by helping Zarrko reach the Master Machine, so he's then free to turn on Zarrko and capture him before security men arrive to take Zarrko away. They say they'll keep Zarrko in a maximum security area, though in a future with no weapons I have no idea what the value of that is.

Thor returns to 1964 by swinging his hammer at "exactly twice the speed of light," and Odin, watching, is pleased with his son's victory, realizing that Thor only seemed to surrender to Zarrko in order to achieve victory.

Stray notes:

:: Hey, did they ever team up Zarrko with Rama-Tut, the Living Pharaoh? Because they practically have the same origin.

:: The inks in this issue are by Charles "Chic" Stone, one of my favorite Kirby inkers. His career goes back to the Golden Age of Comics, where he worked on Captain Marvel at Fawcett and Blonde Phantom at Timely, the company that eventually became Marvel. In the 50s, he worked on commercial art and even TV commercial storyboards, as well as serving as art director for the magazine Modern Teen. On returning to comics, he ghosted for Bob Kane on Batman and inked Superman covers at DC before becoming one of Kirby's main inkers for a while, both on interiors and covers.

I love Stone's work, and the art in this story is really wonderful.

"Tales of Asgard: Death Comes to Thor" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Paul Reinman

This "Boyhood of Thor" entry shows us how Thor, at the age of 18, lifted the hammer for the first time, when he swore to rescue Lady Sif from Hela, the Goddess of Death. His nobility and his willingness to sacrifice his own life make him worthy of the hammer, as well as Hela's respect; when he offers to take Sif's place in the afterworld, Hela cannot take his life and frees them both.

It's not one of the better "Tales of Asgard" stories, I think. Balder, Sif, Hela and the Norns (here called the Fates) are given surprisingly cursory introductions, pushed aside a bit in favor of showing Thor in action fighting Storm Giants. This is a story that would have benefited from having more room to breathe.

At the time, I suppose Stan Lee didn't plan on these characters having much to do with Thor's supporting cast.

Next time: Sgt. Fury deals with the Desert Fox and bigotry in North Africa.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

I had to look up the Marvel version of Hela on Google Image Search, and was disappointed to find she doesn't have the half-dead face she's described as having in the myths.