Journey into Mystery #83 introduced us to Dr. Donald Blake and his alter ego, the god of thunder himself, Thor. In that issue, Thor found himself fighting off an alien invasion just in time. The follow up is much more earth bound as he must fight against a would be world ruler who goes by the name The Executioner.
The story is only 14 pages long but it does manage to recap what happened last issue and then immediately shows us Don Blake in his capacity as the kind and caring doctor. We also get to know about his burning love for his nurse Jane Nelson. Jane feels the same toward Don. Donald Blake assumes Jane can’t feel anything for him because he is “lame” (the writer’s words not mine). The real reason Jane isn’t falling for Don though, is because he never shows anything other than a professional interest in Jane. This is a dynamic that will be set up for years to come in the pages of Journey. And because comic books are serialized and soap operatic in their plots, this dynamic is stretched out for far too long. This issue does keep it to a minimum though. Later on Jane’s last name will be changed to Foster and she is a character who is portrayed as a love interest for Thor in the MCU films.
Dr. Blake finds out that there is a pro-communist leader who is a ruthless warlord in the fictional area of San Diablo. He immediately volunteers to travel there to help any injured and do his part as a good doctor. Communists and communism were a significant threat in the minds of Americans in the early 1960’s so this plot fits in perfectly with the sentiment of the time. While it’s an over the top exaggeration, it’s pretty clear in this story that The Executioner is a stand in for Fidel Castro.
On the ship to San Diablo Don worries that Jane will be in danger once they get there. The whole damsel in distress plot was one that was overused in comics already at this point so it’s pretty obvious Jane will be in trouble and Thor will have to rescue her.
Before that happens the ship is attacked by airplanes. Don Blake is able to change into Thor and readily defeats them. I would say this is just an excuse to show off some of the amazing artwork Jack Kirby was capable of. I have no problem with that though, because the artwork is amazing and any excuse for it is fine.
To get back onto the boat Thor has to change back to Blake and be rescued. Just like Lois Lane falling in love with Superman, the first glimpse of Thor for Jane leads to instant attraction.
The next few panels sets up The Executioner as the villain by showing him send off his failed pilot commander to the firing squad.
Once on land, Blake and Jane are attacked again. This time Blake is able to defend by tapping his magic cane on the ground twice in order to call wind, rain, lightning and thunder. The rules of the cane that turn Blake into Thor are somewhat established here but those rules do tend to change as the series progresses.
The storm Blake calls only temporarily saves them and soon he has to turn into Thor to stop enemy tanks. He defeats most of the enemies and sets free the Americans who were under threat, except for Jane Nelson. Even Thor wouldn’t be fast enough to stop the enemies without allowing Jane to die so he hides and turns back into Blake.
Blake is captured and Jane agrees to marry the executioner in order to save Don. But Blake taunts the executioner enough that he is able to get his cane back and immediately changes back to Thor. With a couple of tricks using his hammer, Thor is able to save Jane and allow the army of the executioner to realize he is a coward only interested in money. His own army shoots him to death.
Interestingly, there will be a character called The Executioner who is an Asgardian but he has nothing at all to do with this executioner. Also, we never hear about San Diablo or the armies fighting there again in all of Marvel 616.
The end of the issue sees Jane fawning over Thor and his rescue while inwardly lamenting that Dr. Blake was not brave and adventurous in the moment. If this seems like a Superman and Lois Lane dynamic, that’s because it was intentionally set up that way. The formula may be old at this point, but it works.
Next on the reading list we go back to ol’ jade jaws himself in The Incredible Hulk #3.
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