Thursday, October 23, 2014

Marvels: Journey Into Mystery #103

"The Enchantress and the Executioner!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Chic Stone
(April 1964)

Here we go. Here we finally go. Here are some villains to add that missing Teutonic myth flair to the modern day Thor adventures. There's a lot of fantastic stuff in this issue.

This issue introduces a couple of Asgardians who will be great foils for Thor, and as usual, it happens because of Loki's scheming. Odin is still angry that Thor won't stop pining over Jane Foster, so Loki convinces him that the solution is to send the Enchantress, an Asgardian sorceress and love goddess, to tempt Thor away. This being Marvel Comics in 1964, this is our introduction to the woman:

I think it's a failure of imagination in the Marvel Universe that the women are always concerned with beauty and relationships, but the Enchantress at least will attempt to use that as a weapon, which is,,, kind of an idea?

When she gets to Earth, she immediately walks into a fancy department store where stylists are falling all over themselves to make her over.

She does manage to trick Don into kissing her in full view of Jane, which makes Jane run off, but what I find really interesting is that Don recognizes the Enchantress. When this series began, it often seemed like Thor and Don were really two separate beings sharing the same physical space; now Stan & Jack seem to really be going with the idea that Don and Thor are the same person, and Don is more or less just a physical disguise for the God of Thunder. It's been happening for some time, I just never really noticed it until this moment.

Don is able to break free of the Enchantress and head after Jane, apparently because even in this form, he still possesses Thor's strength of character.

This brings us to our next villain. The Enchantress is pretty offended that anyone would cast her off for another woman, so she decides Jane Foster has to die, and she returns to Asgard to order the Executioner to take care of this. The Executioner wields a gigantic, enchanted ax that can cut through time and space.

He sends Jane Foster into limbo, and then battles Thor. It's pretty epic stuff, just the sort of thing this book needs and should have more of. They battle to a standstill, but the Executioner agrees to return Jane if Thor will give him the hammer. Thor readily agrees, dropping the hammer immediately. Jane is returned to Earth, but Thor sends her running to safety, in case a minute passes and he transforms into Don Blake, a secret he's still forbidden by Odin to reveal.

Of course, the Executioner can't lift the hammer--he's not worthy of it. And before the minute is up, the Enchantress has appeared, excoriating the Executioner for betraying her and turning his limbs into tree branches. She tries to act on the hammer, also, but only Odin's magic can effect it. So Thor creates a whirlwind and blasts the two back to Asgard, before transforming into Don to meet up with Jane and try to patch things up.

Odin, meanwhile, rages that Thor will not give up this mortal woman, and decides only he can intercede in this matter...

Stray notes:

:: This issue gives its first couple of pages to Thor returning from the 23rd century, heading back to his office as Don Blake, and then falling asleep and dreaming about what happened last issue. It seems like a pointless interlude, as none of that really affects this story.

"Tales of Asgard: Thor's Mission to Mirmir!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Chic Stone

This month's Tale of Asgard is epic and fantastical. Thor gets a magic boat from King Sindri of the Dwarfs, Thor uses it to cross the Dark Sea, then fights the dragon Skord and the boar-god Gullin to reach King Mirmir, who controls the Mystic Fountain which feeds all the oceans of the world. Producing a branch from Yggdrasill, the Tree of Life, Thor orders Mirmir to keep a promise.

Using the branch to stir the mystic waters, drops sprinkle on an alder tree and an ash tree planted long ago by Odin, who become the first human beings on Earth, Aske and Embla. And thus humankind is born.

At the end, Stan promises that next issue will begin biographical tales of Asgard focusing on the gods themselves.

All in all, probably my favorite issue of Journey Into Mystery so far. I want more of the mythology in here, and this story really delivered in dynamic fashion.

Next: another lame villain for the Human Torch, and Dr. Strange goes beyond the purple veil...

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