Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Marvels: Journey Into Mystery #105

"The Cobra and Mr. Hyde!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Chic Stone
(June 1964)

I wasn't really a fan of the Cobra or of Mr. Hyde on their own. Together? Still doesn't do much for me, but at least they feel like slightly more of a realistic threat against the God of Thunder.

I appreciate that the Cobra is a little weirder this time than he was in his first appearance. I think Jack Kirby draws the costume better than Don Heck did, too, so he doesn't look quite so silly. (You know, relatively speaking, considering this is 1960s Marvel.) But his powers are still sort of vaguely defined. He can stick to walls and slither around them, and this time we get this amazing panel that shows you just how much the Cobra can contort his body...

...but he still has his "cobra cable" and "cobra gas" and he seems more worried about branding than just figuring his shit out. It's just a cable! There's nothing uniquely snakelike about it.

But what really annoyed me this issue is Mr. Hyde. If you remember, he's really a scientist named Calvin Zabo who once tried to get a job at Donald Blake's office so he could rob Blake, the way he apparently had other doctors in the past. The word was out enough in the medical community that Blake felt informed enough to turn down Zabo's job request immediately, which is what inspired Zabo to become the powerful Mr. Hyde in the first place. But in this issue, he acts like Calvin Zabo is some unknown scientist toiling away in obscurity, and really acts like he's never even met Donald Blake before, even though his entire story was about trying to murder the guy.. I don't know why this bothers me as much as it does, but it seems like they're slightly retconning Hyde's past with Blake, and I'm not sure doing that really adds anything to the story.

Okay, so the story: the Cobra eludes Thor by popping into a random apartment window, which belongs to Calvin Zabo. Zabo turns into Mr. Hyde and the two fight, then realize they should team up to defeat Thor. They track Thor by capturing his image with Hyde's "Time Reversal Ray," which you aim at someone, photograph them, and then you can see projected images of all of their actions backwards. Don't ask me to explain the science of it, because there isn't any. With the Time Reversal Ray, they track Thor back to Don Blake's office.

Now, of course, Don is still pining over how he can't be with Jane. He's forbidden by Odin to reveal himself as Thor to her, and Thor is forbidden to marry a mortal. So, as Jane leaves to go out on a date--a date she was hoping Don would stop her from going on, because the course of true love never did refrain from playing childish, hurtful, passive-aggressive mind games--Don is nursing a broken heart. He decides to give up the identity of Thor and pursue Jane as Donald Blake. He locks away his cane to test his resolve... and of course, that's when Hyde and the Cobra break into his office and demand to know where Thor is. Oh, and Jane walks in just to up the peril potential.

Don manages to trick Mr. Hyde by telling him that his cane is a way to signal the God of Thunder. Apparently, Don doesn't have to actually tap the cane himself; he gets Hyde to do it, and while Hyde and the Cobra are looking out the window, Donald Blake becomes Thor and the fight ensues.

The battle spills out onto the street and into an exhibition of heavy machinery, where the villains have rightly concluded that Thor will have to be on the defensive to avoid harming the crowd.

Yoink!

Now Thor doesn't have his hammer, and the Cobra and Mr. Hyde are closing in. If Thor can't get to his hammer in sixty seconds, he'll revert to Dr. Blake...

To be continued.

Stray observations:

:: This issue opens with two pages of pure filler as the Avengers adjourn their meeting. It's really only there because otherwise the entire set-up for this story would be "Thor happens to see the Cobra atop a building while just wandering by." It's just an coincidence that he sees him, just like it's a coincidence that the Cobra and Mr. Hyde meet at all.

:: I love it when Chic Stone inks Kirby, and I'm glad he does so here, because it makes this issue look much better than this story probably deserves. I'm not really salivating with anticipation over the conclusion of this thing.

:: When Thor appears in Dr. Blake's office, he's forced to offer another one of his convoluted explanations about What Happened to Dr. Blake, saying he ran off to call the police in all the confusion. But, Jane Foster was right there in that office. Would she have seen the entire thing happen? Didn't she see Don standing there one second and Thor the next? Doesn't she have some real questions? I'm much, much more interested in exploring that than I am anything to do with these two lesser villains.

"Tales of Asgard: When Heimdall Failed!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & George Roussos

Another great tale of Heimdall, In the previous issue's Tale of Asgard, we saw how Heimdall became the guardian of the Rainbow Bridge because of his superior senses. He saw the approaching Storm Giants attacking days before they even arrived, so Odin led his army out and captured their king.

I don't know how much later this story is--given the nature of these tales, there's no reason to assume they're in any kind of order, really--but right away we are introduced to King Brimer, who identifies himself as King of the Storm Giants, so I guess he didn't stay prisoner for long. Or he did and this is much later. Or the two stories take place at the same time, who the hell knows. It doesn't matter. This is still an enjoyable story and Stan & Jack have the out of mythology to cover for any inconsistencies.

It's too bad that King Brimer and his queen, Nedra, seem to be one-off characters, because I'd love to see more of them, particularly Nedra, who has one of those weird-yet-glorious Kirby designs that makes me think of his later Fourth World comics. I'm not sure who these characters are supposed to correspond to in mythology. There is a giant called Brimir, but I don't remember the name Nedra.

Nedra summons forth a Vanna, some kind of air creature that looks like a pixie and which can become one with the wind itself, which should allow it to sneak past Heimdall undetected. I love the design of the Vanna, too.

I love his long fingers and toes. He really looks like a magic creature and not a tiny human. Nedra commands the Vanna to sneak into Asgard and report on the city's defenses. (I don't think these things are actually part of Norse myth, either, I wonder how Niord, God of the Wind, would feel about this wind creature spying on Asgard. Does the Vanna have an analogue in Norse myth? Nathan would know better than I would. It seems more like Stan or Jack or someone just took the word Vanir from the myths and shortened it. And does Niord ever appear in Marvel Comics? I'd love to see some more members of the Aesir with actual stories.)

When the Vanna passes Heimdall, Heimdall senses something is there and swings his sword, but strikes nothing. He's momentarily troubled by it, but sends word to Odin to be alert. Odin captures the Vanna by ordering anything invisible to reveal itself--powerful magic, for Odin must be obeyed. The Vanna tries to play it onto Heimdall, saying that he's helped Odin by exposing Heimdall's weakness, but Odin is instead impressed: "So loyal is your heart, that you sensed the evil Vanna although you could not see him! And so honorable is your soul that you reported your fears to me, although you knew others might scorn you for fearing the unseen!"

So, contrary to the story's title, Heimdall hasn't failed: he's proven his worth.

I really loved this story. I love what Stan & Jack can do with Norse myths in just five pages. It makes up for the less-than-thrilling main Thor story, honestly.

Next time: Plantman returns, for some reason.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Wikipedia's list of Norse giants mentions both a Brimir and a Bergelmir, the latter of whom has a name that might have to do with mountains. There's nothing even remotely close to "Nedra," though. About the only thing I can find on that name is that it's apparently Old German for "subterranean." Vanna-issa was the ruler of the old Finnish pantheon, but it's quite possible the name was just a shortening of "Vanir."