Hello superhero fans, it’s Slick Dungeon! I’m here to review the newest animated Spider-Man film to hit theaters, Spider-man: Across the Spider-verse. There will be some spoilers below so if you haven’t watched the film yet you may want to do that first. I will try to keep it to light spoilers though.
If you have seen the first film in this series, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse you’ll be unsurprised to learn this film pushes the boundaries of animation. However, the sheer skill and technique present in the sequel is mind-boggling. At every moment, with every frame of this film, the animators are able to blend, create and innovate all at once in ways that are not only surprising but thematically brilliant. There are hundreds of characters here (a lot of them variations on Spider-Man) and each and every one has it’s own defining style. All this is to say, this is far and away the most visually ambitious animated film I have ever seen. I can’t say enough about how good this looks. Every frame has intention.
With a film looking this good you might expect it to simply fall into lazy tropes of so many superhero sequels we’ve seen before. And while there are certainly some aspects of the film which fall into that, this story is not a simple morality play. The film gets deep. And I don’t just mean deep for a kids film. It forces the protagonist and the audience to think about what a hero really is. Is a hero the type of person who will let one bad thing happen so thousands of good things can happen? Or do they try to save the individual and the group? What if they fail? What if their good actions have unforeseen horrible consequences? These are just some of the themes touched on here.
The film also allows quiet character moments to happen. Some of the best scenes in the film are not the moments where hundreds of Spider-men chase one another around, the bad guy surprises in ways one could only achieve in animation, or when we see favorite cameos and easter eggs. Two of the best scenes are when Spider-Gwen has a quiet heart to heart, upside down with Miles and when Miles’ mother tells him how much she loves him. The emotional impact of this film is incredibly surprising.
I don’t think this is the best animated Spider-man film ever made. I think this is the best Spider-Manfilm ever made. Seriously, it’s that good. I found myself thinking over and over in the theater, “I cannot believe how good this is.”
The voice acting is strong with the return of Shameik Moore as Miles, and Hailee Steinfeld as Gwen Stacy plus the addition of newcomers like Oscar Isaac as the Spider-Man from 2099.
This film honestly gives me hope for the future of animation. Why? It accomplishes things that can only be done in animation and tells an incredibly complex story while still defining heroes and villains well enough that even young superhero fans know when to cheer or boo.
I’ve seen a lot of films this year already and I can say hands down, without reservation, I enjoyed this film more than any other I have watched this year. One small warning is the movie does leave you wanting more at the end, but in the best way possible.
Really, my only criticism of this film? I could have used a lot more Peter Porker Spider-Ham but that’s just me.
If you are deciding what movie to go out and see in the near future, do yourself a favor and go watch this. If you are not impressed, you didn’t have your eyes open during the film.
The last time we checked in with The Fantastic Four in their own series, they had defeated and enemy on the moon known as The Red Ghost. The FF are heading home expecting a heroes welcome as they’ve become the first people to successfully land on and return from the moon. This was years before it happened in reality so it was still anyone’s guess what would really be found there.
The first page gives us a small recap and then Ben Grimm says he wants to take over the controls of the ship, although Reed Richards brags he designed it to practically land itself.
Sure enough, as they land in New York, there is a huge mob of people there to cheer on the team. They were already notable as heroes and explorers in New York City but it seems this return trip solidifies their status as not only heroes but super celebrities. It’s depicted in the way one might expect The Beatles to have been greeted at the height of their fame. Reed Richards even has two rival fan clubs both desperately trying to touch him or maybe get a lock of his hair. Meanwhile, a super star wrestler named The Golden Angel challenges The Thing to a fight to the finish. The Thing just tosses this dude in a trash can and walks away. Sue Storm is badgered by people wanting her to sign Hollywood contracts or sell their deodorant on television. Lucky for her, she can just turn invisible. Johnny Storm sees the problem with the crowd here and makes a whirling tunnel of warm air which creates a vacuum of suction to get the team back to the Baxter building. This is clearly one of the sillier powers Johnny has displayed but I think as an audience we’re past caring about that sort of thing now.
The team goes back to their penthouse apartments and tries to get in a bit of relaxation time. Although, in the fashion of the day, Sue Storm says she’s going to, “do a little housecleaning” instead. Reed dictates his notes on the rocket fuel he invented for the trip and goes to find Sue to have her type them up. When he finds her, she’s taking a look at some of Reed’s cameras on the bottom of the sea. She immediately switches it off when Reed enters. Reed knows she’s hoping for a glimpse of The Sub-Mariner and then goes off feeling kinda sorry for himself. Sue brings the roving camera back to the Baxter Building.
Meanwhile, we see a mysterious man speaking with a doctor who says the man is cured. This man says he knew he was cured long ago but was waiting for the world to forget him. The man seems to have a vendetta against our heroes after he experienced a fall that people seemed to have thought killed him. He’s also planning to get a scapegoat to do the job for him. This person goes through a list of enemies The Fantastic Four have defeated before until he thinks of The Sub-Mariner. It turns out our mystery man is The Puppet Master. This is a person who can control others simply by making a clay sculpture out of them with his magic clay. And of course, he’s ready with a sculpture of Sub-Mariner.
Namor, The Sub-Mariner is looking for his lost people under the sea when he’s pulled away by a powerful force. It seems he’s compelled to do as Puppet Master asks. Namor then uses something called a, “Mento-fish” which can sense human thoughts ad transmit them to any point on earth through, “mental electro waves!” Yeah, I dunno, doesn’t make much sense to me either. Anyway, Namor uses this fish to call to Sue Storm. Thinking Namor is in distress, Sue goes to him. She sneaks past her team while invisible to do so, and thinks this meeting will at long last decide her feelings for Namor.
Sue meets Namor at a pier on the lower east side of New York. Namor uses a, “hypno-fish” to hypnotize Sue. The fish puts Sue in an air bubble and they go under the sea. Puppet Master decides not to put the FF under his control, figuring his revenge will be sweeter if they retain their free will. Namor then transmits a mental image to the remaining members of the superhero team to tell them he has Sue Storm. He basically dares them to come after her, which, of course, they do. Before setting out, Reed and Johnny go to deliver their secret files to the police commissioner and Ben goes to let Alicia know where he’ll be so she doesn’t worry.
When Ben gets to the building, he’s overcharged for parking. He agrees to let Alicia come along with him, and then Ben stacks up the cars in the parking lot so he can fly outta there. But off panel he says he put them back so I guess no harm done?
Reed has gotten the loan of a deep water diving vehicle so he can search for Namor and the group piles in to go find him. They have to evade some attacks set up by Namor, including sharp quills shooting at their vehicle and a whirling tornado of water. Johnny flames on with white hot flame to dissipate the tornado and nearly drowns until Reed saves him. Namor springs a final trap where the heroes get trapped in a giant clam and knocked out with chloroform gas the clam naturally produces. Yeah, not sure I believe any of that but we’ll just go with it. Namor brings them back to his headquarters.
Namor has a giant octopus guarding Sue who is inside a glass globule the octopus could probably crush. Reed realizes pretty quickly this behavior is not typical of Namor. He’s always professed his love for Sue so putting her in this kind of danger seems extreme even for him. Namor then challenges the heroes to fight him one by one. First up is Johnny. He’s defeated because Namor has a strange living undersea weapon that absorbs any kind of heat. The Thing sees the use of this weapon as cheating so he grabs Namor who easily gets away. Namor throws some kind of sea foam on Ben which hardens and traps him in place. But The Thing breaks out anyway. Reed Richards tangles Namor up in his stretchy arms, trapping him, as Ben goes to save Sue.
Ben Grimm tosses the octopus by the tentacles and saves Sue. He tells her to hold her breath as they swim through the water. And we get this super sexist gem from Stan Lee, as The Thing thinks, “First time I ever saw a female who could keep her mouth shut so long!” Yeah, I mean I know it was different times and all, but there are some real sexist gems dropped by Stan the man in these days.
The Puppet Master has been watching from afar in his own submarine. He ups the stakes by telling Namor he has to do more than defeat the FF, he has to slay them. Alicia seems to sense Puppet Master’s presence and lets Reed know what’s going on. Sub-Mariner grabs some deadly sea tubes which will release a poisonous gas but still hesitates because he doesn’t want to harm Sue. Namor does eventually release the gas but also realizes he’s being controlled. Luckily for everyone involved, Reed put on special, “flex-o-gen” masks on the team and Alicia so they wouldn’t breathe in the fumes. Reed, Ben and Johnny all want to clobber Namor but Sue stops them, telling them she knows he’s under some kind of influence.
Remember the octopus The Thing threw? So that finds The Puppet Master’s submarine and attacks it. Puppet Master tries to carve a clay sculpture of it to control it but apparently the octopus doesn’t have enough of a brain for it to be controlled. This breaks the control on Sub-Mariner and the team have to escape because a hole in the dome of Namor’s place is letting in water. Johnny fixes it and Namor thinks he’s been invaded by the Fantastic Four. He sees Sue and asks if she’s come to share his underwater kingdom. She tells him no, that her loyalties are with Reed. But she keeps open the love triangle by saying her heart has not made a final choice yet. It honestly makes you feel a little bad for Reed here since he’s made it pretty clear he is in love with Sue. Namor does let them go because he wants to go back to looking for his lost people. Sue still hopes he’ll someday be their friend and we end the issue with the promise that the Fantastic Four are about to head for one of the most bizarre adventures of all time in the next issue.
With an issue about telepathic fish, people who live under the sea, and a dude who can control minds through clay, saying the next issue will be bizarre is a pretty bold statement here.
It’s still early days in the Marvel 616 universe here but it’s always great to see a good villain come back. And in this one there are two worthy villains. For one, the team isn’t certain Puppet Master is actually back, although we as the audience know he is. And secondly, the love triangle between Namor, Reed and Sue is always interesting. Namor is a compelling character in that he never quite crosses the line to total villain (at least in the eyes of the Fantastic Four) but he’s not an outright hero either. One gets the impression with him that if Sue Storm was not around, the Fantastic Four could be in real trouble from him.
The way villains keep returning in Marvel 616 comics really helps build out the universe and makes it feel like things are happening all over even when we’re not reading the comics. It takes a while before there’s a great connection between everything but the building blocks are definitely starting to shape up.
Next up on the reading list, we’ll be getting small again with Ant-Man in the pages of Tales to Astonish #43!
Journey Into Mystery continues to be a showcase for Thor and the other Norse gods who appear in Marvel 616. In this issue we get to see a deeper look at Asgard and the rivalry between Thor and Loki continues. But we have to take the good with the strange here because in the same issue, Thor has to take down several lowlife street thugs after his alter-ego Dr. Donald Blake has operated on one of them. It’s an odd mix of foes who are absolutely no match for Thor and one who can hold his own.
The story starts with a splash page, as most 616 comics do. Loki is scheming how to free himself from his bonds while at the same time weakening Thor. We next get a good look at the Bifrost bridge and see Heimdall guarding it. He doesn’t allow Neri, hand-maiden of Fricka, to cross the bridge until he’s made certain Loki is still chained in place.
Loki overhears the whole thing and he’s still hopping mad about being stuck here, chained to a rock with chains made of Uru metal. This is the same substance Thor’s hammer Mjolnir is made out of.
As Loki goes on swearing his vengeance on Thor, we switch back to Earth in the offices of Dr. Donald Blake. Jane goes out to run a blood sample to a lab. Outside, three common thugs wait. One of them has been shot and they plan to force Dr. Blake to operate, without filing a police report, whether he wants to or not. The crooks pulled off a jewel heist and Blake knows they are on the run. Being a good doctor, of course he operates. He also mentions Thor is helping the police. The thugs don’t believe him until Blake distracts them with the classic look over there technique and changes into Thor. Weirdly, he decides to tape the gangsters onto an operating table, tie his hammer onto the table, and basically chuck his hammer towards the police station. The cops figure out what happened rather quickly and the hammer returns to Thor who changes back into Dr. Blake.
A week goes by and Thor is summoned to… a film set. Yep, you read that right, he’s making a movie. His proceeds, “will go to various charities,” so he’s still doing heroic work. He starts filming a scene or two and Loki sees what he is doing. Thor’s final scene involves him throwing his hammer to cause an avalanche, which he does. The hammer doesn’t stop flying and we find out this is because… well because Loki has used his sorcery to… make the metal in his chains magnetic and attract the hammer to them. So, I guess Loki is kind of like Magneto for a minute here? It doesn’t make a lot of sense but it does break Loki free.
To press his advantage, Loki lures Thor to Asgard. Loki figures Thor knows Earth pretty well but Loki might gain advantage in his home. I suppose Loki has forgotten Thor is no stranger to Asgard but we’ll go with it. Thor asks Odin to transport him to Asgard, which he does. Conveniently, time stops on Earth when Odin is around and in Asgard Thor can’t lose his powers even without his hammer. So, we don’t have to follow the established rule that Thor can’t be away from his hammer for more than 60 seconds.
Loki also convinces the council of gods to say they’re too busy to help Thor find his hammer. Loki sends some killer trees after Thor but Thor makes a hammer out of wood and defeats them. Thor figures Loki must be up to something and goes to check on him. Loki turns some clouds into dragons to attack Thor. This time Thor makes a hammer out of stone. That hammer also flies to where Loki had been chained. There he finds Mjolnir. The gods Odin, Heimdall, and Fricka show up and take Loki prisoner again.
Thor heads on back to Earth and we get a silly scene where Dr. Blake is testing someone’s reflexes with a rubber mallet. Jane Foster reassures the patient that, “Dr. Blake is very experienced in using a mallet!!” to which Blake thinks, “Jane, honey… you don’t know the half of it!”
While this story is a bit of an odd mix, it does drive the larger story forward just a bit. We get more of Asgard and more of Loki and this is vital to the upcoming creation of the Avengers. In time, a lot of the sillier stuff, including Thor fighting common street thugs will fade away but it’s still going to be a while before we get there.
Next up on the reading list, we’ll be checking in on Reed and company in The Fantastic Four #14!
Hello internet people and insects, it’s Slick Dungeon here, and I’m back to review another movie. This time I watched the weird world of the quantum realm in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. If reading film spoilers makes you feel like you have ants in your pants, go watch the movie and come back here to read the review because there will be spoilers ahead. Just a side note I don’t usually review Marvel films on this blog but this year I am trying to do a review of everything I see in theaters and since I saw this in theaters, I wanted to review it here.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is the third film in the Ant-Man franchise, the first film of the fifth phase of the MCU, and I don’t know, like the millionth film in the MCU. Spoilers follow so, once again, you have been warned. This film starts with a flashback to when Janet Van Dyne (Michell Pfeiffer) was trapped in the quantum realm. This is a universe that exists below the surface of our own, on a sub-atomic scale. I would wonder how people can breathe there but let’s just ignore that for now. In the quantum realm, Janet meets a stranger named Kang (Jonathan Majors). If you’ve seen Loki on Disney+ you know exactly who this is, and that he is dangerous.
The movie then shifts to present day and injects a good dose of comedy with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) going through his day, being recognized as Spider-Man, posing for selfies with dogs, and doing book signings of his book. We get the idea Scott realizes things get weird in his life and he’s sort of okay with that fact. He saved the world, and he’s back with his daughter. Things are going well, but… he gets a call that his daughter is in jail for shrinking a cop car during a political protest. Scott meets up with Cassie (Kathryn Newton), Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). It turns out Cassie has been working on a project which can send signals into the quantum realm and broadcast them back. Janet tries to shut the whole thing down as soon as she learns about it but the whole little family of ant/insect heroes ends up getting sucked into the quantum realm.
In the quantum realm things get weird pretty fast. There are bizarre creatures, sentient buildings, human looking people who are not human, and… Bill Murray. There’s also the introduction of one of the weirdest characters in Marvel comics history to the MCU, that of M.O.D.O.K. Just in case anyone hasn’t seen the movie I don’t want to give the reveal of who this is and how they became the ultimate killing machine but it’s probably weirder than you would have guessed and it’s not the best interpretation of the character from the comics but it works well enough.
The movie goes on with Scott trying to get everyone home and Janet trying to prevent Kang from threatening Earth. It’s standard superhero action with a bizarre background of characters more at home in Guardians of the Galaxy than in any previous Ant-Man movie. You won’t find the film stretching its muscles too far or doing anything truly innovative but there are some stand out reasons to watch the movie.
First of all, it is a little refreshing to break out of the last phase of movies with the set up of a major villain who can be seen in multiple Marvel projects. Second, it’s got a good amount of fun action to it, and the weirdness of the movie makes it feel more fun than it might have otherwise. Finally, every second Jonathan Majors appears on screen is compelling. His talents shine here and while it might seem silly to have him in an Ant-Man movie, it really works in the quantum realm. It’s not the best MCU movie by any stretch of the imagination but what it did do was get me excited for what might come next, and it has been a while since a Marvel movie has done that.
If you’re a die hard MCU lover, of course you will enjoy this. If you’re a casual fan who has seen most of the movies you’ll probably like it well enough. If you haven’t watched a good chunk of the MCU, this will seem like an insane mess of a movie. If the latter is you, go back to the early movies and let the crazy stuff build up over time.
The second issue of The Amazing Spider-Man introduces a major recurring villain who is still in use in Spider-Man stories today and it has a second, completely forgettable story as its second feature. While both are included in Marvel 616, it’s clear The Vulture is the standout enemy.
The first page of the first story shows Vulture in aerial combat with Spider-Man, signaling a lot of the kinetic and fast pace action to come in many issues of Spider-Man. This is, of course, just a splash page to get the audience excited about reading.
The story starts with a figure wearing vulture wings coming out of nowhere and snatching a briefcase from a pedestrian. This was a briefcase full of a fortune in bonds and Vulture gets away easily. The crowd reacts in shock and excitement, and marvels at how silent the attack was.
We next get a glimpse of J. Jonah Jameson inside the building where Now magazine is published. While we will most associate J.J.J. with The Daily Bugle, he does publish this magazine and it pops up here and there in the comics. The publisher is in desperate need of photos of this Vulture character and is willing to pay top dollar to get them. He also continues his crusade against the menace known as Spider-Man.
We change scenes to a high school where Peter Parker is working at a lab experiment. His classmates mention how valuable pictures of the villain would be while looking at an issue of Now and Peter realizes he can probably make some money as a photographer if he can get a good shot. Peter gets a bit picked on for being a science nerd but he quips right back. He next goes home and Aunt May gives him a mini-camera perfect for what he wants to do.
Again shifting scenes, we check in with Vulture who has a plan to steal a million dollars worth of diamonds about to be moved across town. For some reason, Vulture decides to leave notes with the authorities tipping them off to the fact he’s trying to rob them. It’s not the plan I would go with but then again I am not a master criminal.
As Vulture is flying around, Spider-Man is setting up his camera. He senses The Vulture but doesn’t hear him flying silently through the air. The police get ready for the attack, with special attention paid to the skies. On his way to the crime, Vulture sees Spidey and knocks him out. Vulture dumps Peter in a water tower. It takes him a minute to figure it out but Spider-Man uses his strength to push off the bottom of the water tower so he can leap out of an open hatch. I doubt the physics would work like this here but it’s a comic so we’ll just go with it.
This is one of the first times Spider-Man runs out of web fluid when he needs it, since that would have helped him to get out. He realizes before he escapes, he needs to make some adjustments to the web shooters. He heads home and makes what is basically a utility belt he can hide under his costume with extra web fluid and a spot for his camera. He also rigs something up he says will stop The Vulture next time they meet.
The next day Peter goes to sell pictures he did get of Vulture to J.J.J. The publisher tells Parker he’ll pay even more for Spider-Man photos.
The day after, Peter goes to school and all his friends want to go watch the diamonds get moved. Peter knows he’ll need to slip away and be the hero. While the police were ready for an aerial attack, Vulture strikes from below, popping out of a manhole. He snags the diamonds and flies through the underground sewer system to escape. Peter catches up with him as Spider-Man. There’s a bit of a fight but Peter gets the upper hand when he uses a web to stick to Vulture and then uses his gadget to stop the Vulture from being able to fly. Vulture crashes to the ground and is captured by the police. Turns out Peter’s gadget was an “Anti-Magnetic inverter.” The Vulture powered his flight using magnetics so this device disrupted that. Again, the science is way off here but it’s a comic so we’ll have to let it slide. Peter cashes in on his photos and brings the money back to Aunt May. In the last panel of the story, Vulture swears revenge on Spider-Man.
The next story is about a group of aliens who try to take over the world by inserting special tubes in radio equipment. The main villain is called the Tinkerer and there’s a group of aliens, a rubber mask, and Spider-Man saving the day. It’s a remarkably forgettable story and it’s yet another entry in the superhero saves the world from aliens tales we keep seeing in 616 up to this point. We do get a little diagram of Peter’s web shooters in the story though. Other than that, there is just not much to mention here.
What I find interesting about this issue is this is the beginning of a really colorful rogues gallery in Spider-Man comics. Vulture may not be the smartest or best villain in the world but he’s unforgettable. In the months and years to come Spider-Man comics end up with villains that are consistently good, probably only rivaled by those found in the pages of Batman. We also get the first hints of the ongoing and somewhat complicated nature of Peter’s relationship with J. Jonah Jameson. Peter sort of has a triple problem going where he needs money, but he thinks it’s funny to get it from the guy who hates Spider-Man while hiding the fact he is Spider-Man. It works on a lot of levels and comes into play in more stories than can be counted. It’s easy to see, even in only the second issue of The Amazing Spider-Man why he has such appeal and goes on to be one of the most popular comics characters of all time.
Next up on the reading list we catch up with the first family of superheroes in the pages of The Fantastic Four #13!
Strange Tales is an anthology book so sometimes there are multiple stories in a single issue which relate to the 616 universe. The D story in issue 108 is a bit of an oddball because while it doesn’t entirely relate to a lot of what is going on in 616, it does introduce some characters who will come up in the long run. Also, it’s one of the few comics so far in the 616 universe not available on Marvel Unlimited. If you want to read the issue you may have to do a bit of Google sleuthing to find it. Merlin the Magician, famous from the Arthurian legends shows up here and this will not be the last time we see him. We do also see a character called The Black Knight but this is not the modern character, nor is it the character who showed up in the Golden Age of comics. We also run into King Arthur himself, as well as our villain Sir Mogard. The Black Knight is nothing more than a construct and is the twist of the story but the rest of the characters mentioned do all come back into 616 at various times.
The story here is quite short, running only four pages long. It’s titled The Iron Warrior and relates a short incident in the life of Merlin the Magician. Basically, Sir Mogard thinks Merlin is not so powerful as he seems. Sir Mogard accuses Merlin of being a fake and throws down his gauntlet. Merlin is instructed to choose a champion and meet Mogard in battle. Merlin accepts.
Merlin shows up the next morning with his champion, a knight in black armor. There is a joust and a melee with swords. The Black Knight bests Sir Mogard who has to surrender. Mogard then says Merlin had nothing to do with the battle, therefore Merlin is not so powerful. The twist here is that Merlin was controlling the knight, nothing but an empty set of armor, the whole time with his magic. It also says Mogard is struck dumb from the wonder he beheld. We’ll see if that is true the next time he shows up.
And that is the whole story. A short one, but it has a few implications for 616. It reestablishes magic as a real theme and gives us a couple of characters who will become important later. Also, it was kind of nice to have a little bit of fantasy thrown into the superhero mix just to have something a little different to read. I don’t think the intention with this story was to set up anything long term and likely could have been a throw away story. Still, in the long run Stan Lee will make use of it and he does come back to Arthurian legend a few times.
While a lot of the rest of Marvel 616 has been chugging along, Johnny Storm in Strange Tales has had a bit of trouble finding an arch nemesis equal to his powers. He usually seems like he can just blow past these guys and if he really gets stuck, he can always call on the rest of the Fantastic Four to help out. So far, not many of the bad guys have really stood out, and neither does, The Painter. This is a bad guy who can paint anything in record speed and it will come to life.
The issue starts us off with The Painter drawing Johnny’s demise in an asbestos lined room fighting the other members of his team.
We next jump back in time to see a bunch of crooks having a rough time committing their crimes because Johnny is in town. Torch then stops a getaway car by melting the asphalt right under it. Not sure if Johnny is on the hook for the repairs but the bad guys are stopped. We see Johnny stop a bank robbery using smoke rings, and flame scissors to cut away the bags of loot. The police seem more than happy for the assists from Torch and everything is going his way. But Johnny knows this isn’t the end. He tells the cops, “Mark my words, right now some master criminal or evil genius is figuring out some so-called brilliant scheme to get rid of me! It’s happened before..”
Then, as you might expect we see a clip show worth of flashbacks of enemies Johnny has faced. He mentions The Wizard, The Destroyer, Paste-Pot Pete and Zemu, Despot of the 5th dimension. They’re all out of commission at this point but Johnny is still around. Johnny knows it’s just a matter of time before he’ll face a new villain.
Of course he is right and that’s where we see the criminal element come together. There is an organized crime leader named “Scar” Tobin and he is interrupted by, “Wilhelm Van Vile, the counter-feiter the Torch caught… but busted out of jail last week!”
This dude wants revenge and he has… a set of paints. He demonstrates his powers by drawing a three headed gorilla to intimidate the gangsters. He does this at lightning speed so they don’t even seem to have time to pull their guns. The painting comes to life and Wilhelm Van Vile is able to control it telepathically. The other bad guys try to stop him but The Painter just keeps painting stuff that stops them, including making one of their guns super heavy, and it crashes through the floor. Van Vile paints a magic carpet and he takes the gangsters along with him on it. This gives Van Vile the opportunity to narrate his origin story.
He was locked up first for making poor imitations of famous art and trying to sell them as originals and then he gets locked up again because he was making counterfeit bills but Johnny caught a mistake on the bills. He does have to turn into the Human Torch to get the job done and The Painter swears his revenge. The Painter then tells the tale of breaking out of prison and digging into a strange underground cavern. He finds a set of paints that look brand new but Van Vile is also aware of “ancient Egyptian picture-writing” and believes the pictures are saying the paints are magical. He also thinks these paints come from a group of aliens who traveled through space by using the paints. (What can I say, it’s a comic book. They have to have aliens or communists at this point right?) The Painter takes a chance and paints his way out of the cave.
We go back to the present where The Painter says he wants to be, “The King of Crime!” I do feel like parts of this issue are a precursor to the character who will become the The Kingpin. “Scare” Tobin kind of looks like him and this is the first real mention that there could be a “King of Crime” at all in 616.
We see The Painter toy with Torch for a bit. He draws a Fantasti-car and giant fire hydrants and he does manage to douse Torch. Johnny is safe but he definitely knows something is up. The Painter then makes some creatures at a carnival come to life. We get to see a couple of weird monster drawings from Jack Kirby which is always fun. Torch drives them into the sea and saves the day. Then The Painter draws a volcano of sand to stop Johnny but that doesn’t work either.
We finally come back to the point of the beginning of the story where The Painter draws Johnny losing a fight to his teammates. And we see him lose this fight. The crooks all hear on the radio this was the end of Johnny Storm and they are overjoyed and plan to take on the rest of the FF as soon as they can.
But The Human Torch suddenly shows up. Johnny burns up the the paintings and magic paints. Turns out Johnny had figured out who was doing this, waited until the bad guys were all asleep and painted a living picture of himself with the magic paints so he was never in any actual danger.
The Painter is baffled as to how Johnny figured this out but it turns out it was Van Vile’s own fault. He was careless in his paintings. He didn’t put nozzles on the fire hydrants, didn’t put any litter baskets in the beach scene, and didn’t even put a 4 on the uniforms of The Fantastic Four. So Johnny combed the area until he found The Painter.
The story ends kind of abruptly right there.
The story was pretty standard for the time but it is clear the creators are trying to find the right person to be the consistent bad guy for Johnny. He’s gone up against a few who will be completely forgotten but he’s also had a run in or two with some who will eventually become major players in 616 continuity. For now, it’s still kind of a bad guy of the week situation for this character.
Next up on the reading list, we’re actually staying on this issue for the D story. I thought it would be better to separate out the reviews, however because they are totally different stories. So next is Strange Tales #108 (D story)!
Journey Into Mystery has thrown us quite a few stories involving Thor and his alter ego Don Blake. He’s fought communists, aliens, petty thieves and an assortment of other bad guys. But Thor always shines most when he fights Loki. Even when he doesn’t know he is fighting Loki.
This issue starts with Odin in Asgard holding what he calls a belt of strength. It belongs to Thor but so far during his time on Earth (aka midgard). This belt gives Thor even more strength and power than he usually has.
We shift over to Thor who is flying through the sky and sees a commotion below him. A bank building is floating in the air as the people below it watch. Thor forces the building towards the ground but it suddenly disappears. Strangely, all the people who where in the bank suddenly reappear unharmed. Thor turns back into his mortal form of Dr. Don Blake. He sees the crowd panicking but none of them seem to have any memory of where they went or what happened there.
Dr. Blake realizes this is not due to any physical issue and assumes Loki must be up to something. Interestingly, it seems Blake remembers what happens when he is Thor. Their personalities seem to merge a bit more frequently in this issue than in some others. This is not a Hulk/Banner dichotomy, Blake and Thor seem to have similar goals most of the time.
Blake changes back to Thor and calls to Odin to check that Loki is still in Asgard. Odin confirms Loki hasn’t left but Odin is not aware that Loki can get up to mischief even from Asgard. Thor figures he has to go back and find out who seems to be doing these odd things. He sees a bunch of cash floating in the air at the race track.
We flash over to Loki who is having the time of his life watching all this happen. Turns out a few days earlier Loki discovered a person with a mild amount of telepathic abilities who was making a living at a carnival. This person is named Sandu and he guesses accurately in seconds that Don Blake is in love with Jane Foster but he denies it. Jane gets a bit frustrated because she thinks Blake is too stuffy to fall for any girl. Blake, for his part knows Odin has forbidden him to reveal his identity to any mortal. At least he has a somewhat valid excuse. It’s tough to defy the command of a god and all.
Loki decides to boost Sandu’s powers and figures the guy would turn to pure evil pretty quickly. Loki was absolutely right about that. Needless to say, the guy goes on a crime spree stealing as much money as he can. He teleports money and banks and art and even a whole palace. Any people in the buildings he teleports he wipes away their memories. Most of it he teleports to the moon. Not sure how that will work for him but I guess we should just let Sandu be Sandu in this one.
Thor tries to stop the guy and Loki watches with sheer joy as Thor tries to fight Sandu. Sandu crosses the line when he teleports the United Nations building and demands that all the delegates make him the ruler of the world. As Thor tries to stop him, Sandu drops a bunch of steel on him and traps Thor. Thor asks for help from Odin. And as you can probably guess, Odin sends the belt of strength from the beginning of the issue.
A pair of Valkyries bring it to Thor. These are not the strong warrior women you might imagine from the MCU. These are ethereal beings who kind of float around in flowing gowns. This will change in future comics but it’s how we are first introduced to them.
Thor busts out of the trap he is in but Sandu tricks Thor into throwing his hammer and then teleports Thor into a dimension where he can’t reach his hammer. Sandu isn’t all that smart though because he realizes how powerful a weapon it is and tries to lift Mjolnir with his mind. In Asgard, Loki basically yells at Sandu because he knows there is no way this dude can lift that hammer.
In the end, Thor prevails and Sandu is defeated. But, no one seems to be wise to the fact that Loki caused all the mischief here.
Some things to note in this issue are the integrated personalities of Thor and Blake, they seem to be one person, but how that’s possible isn’t yet explained, Loki for the first time here not only causes trouble but gets away with it without being caught at all, and the connection between Thor and Odin is made more direct than before. It seems Thor can call dear ol’ dad whenever he needs to and there is a pretty instant reply.
The end of the issue shows us Loki saying he will find a way to defeat Thor because he’s got all eternity to scheme. We’ve definitely not seen the last of him and he’ll prove to be more of a threat than just to Thor once the Avengers finally assemble. For now though, we leave him seething as always and just itching to get back at Thor.
Hey all, this post is a little different than most of my Marvel review posts. I knew this would happen at some point in my reviews but there are a few issues I missed in the reading order. What can I say, the list changes all the time and there are so many of these comics it’s easy to overlook sometimes. For the next few reviews I’m going to be doing the ones I missed. In each post, I will tell you where they should be in the reading order but otherwise the reviews will be as you have seen before.
To make a long story short, I did an audit of my Marvel 616 reviews to make sure I hadn’t missed any and it turns out I did. So, here are the ones I have missed which you will soon see reviews for.
Journey Into Mystery #91 goes after Amazing Spiderman #1
Strange Tales #108 goes after Journey Into Mystery #91
The Amazing Spider-Man #2 goes after Strange Tales #108
After that my reviews are back on track with Fantastic Four #13 and the rest should be good after that. Apologies for missing these but I hope you’ll keep reading my reviews anyway!