Thursday, July 30, 2015

Marvels: Journey Into Mystery #106

"The Thunder God Strikes Back" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Chic Stone
(July 1964)

When we last left Thor, the Cobra and Mr. Hyde had him cornered at a machinery exhibition and had managed to get him hammer out of his hands. Thor now has sixty seconds to regain his enchanted weapon, or else he turns into Don Blake!

So, he... turns into Don Blake. He hides in the crowd during his transformation, and then Cobra and Hyde recognize him and demand he take them to Thor. This is yet another reason why I think Thor having a secret identity is balls. His enemies already know that there's some kind of a weird connection between Blake and Thor, anyway.

Don agrees to take the two to Thor, but only if they recover his antique cane, which is trapped inside a piece of heavy machinery. A large part of this story is concerned with the two villains trying to recover this cane on behalf of Don Blake, each trying to outdo the other, never suspecting that Don needs the cane in order to become Thor once more. Cobra tries to slither into the machine, but can't quite contort himself enough to work, so Hyde rips apart the machine. Don, cane recovered, rushes back into the crowd and transforms into Thor.

The rest of the issue is pretty much fighting. It looks great, of course, it just goes on for a lot of pages. Thor defeats the Cobra pretty easily, but Hyde is a real fight, super strength vs. super strength. The hammer is again wrested from Thor, but he fights on, choosing to prove that he can defeat Hyde with his strength alone because "If I cannot defeat this evil being bare-handed within one minute, I am not worthy of the name Thor!!" And he does. Seriously, great art.

But don't worry! The story still ends on a bittersweet note! When Don returns to the office to find Jane, she's watching the news and has seen that Don agreed to help the Cobra and Mr. Hyde find Thor. Not knowing that the whole thing was a trick, unable to tell her--by Odin's edict--that he is Thor, she walks out on him yet again, leaving Don Blake lonely once more...

"Tales of Asgard: Balder the Brave" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Vince Colletta

Interesting to see Colletta here; I love his collaboration with Kirby on Kirby's Fourth World comics for DC in the seventies (particularly Mister Miracle, my favorite of them). His inks add something to the weird, very Kirbyesque Asgardian garb.

This is the story of Balder, Odin's most beloved warrior. Angered at the lame excuse Balder gives for deserting his troops during a battle (he saw a bird that had fallen out of its nest and returned it to its mother), Odin orders Balder to face mortal death. Everyone protests, but it doesn't matter; nature itself keeps intervening, so that Balder cannot come to harm. When Balder refuses to move out of the way of a threatened hammer blow from Thor, Odin is satisfied that Balder truly is brave--and compassionate--and gifts him with invincibility.

Of course, if you know Norse mythology, you know what's coming...

Nicely rendered. This is probably the Norse myth I'm most familiar with, and I can't wait to see the second half of this.

Next Marvels: the Howling Commandos get a new member and a new regular artist.

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