Marvel 616 Review – Journey Into Mystery #92

Journey Into Mystery Issue 92 Writers: Stan Lee, Robert Bernstein, Artist: Joe Sinnott, Cover Art: Jack Kirby, Photo Credit: Marvel

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!


Marvel 616 Review – Journey Into Mystery #91

Journey Into Mystery Issue 91, Photo Credit: Marvel, Writer Stan Lee and Larry Lieber, Artist Joe Sinnott

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.

Next up on the reading list, we’ll be checking in on Johnny Storm in Strange Tales #108!

Marvel 616 Review – Journey Into Mystery #90

Journey Into Mystery Issue 90 Photo Credit: Marvel

While The Fantastic Four have been busy meeting The Hulk, Thor continues to face off against everything from communists to Loki to space aliens. The 90th issue of Journey Into Mystery once again presents an alien foe to the god of thunder.

This time Thor ends up fighting a race of aliens called The Xartans. These are aliens who are able to copy themselves into anything they see. Thus the title of The Carbon Copy Man (although there are actually several Xartans so the name doesn’t exactly hold up.)

Before the fight begins, Dr. Blake is just on the verge of telling his love interest Jane Foster that he is secretly Thor. Before this happens, Odin comes to Blake in a vision and warns him against doing so. Dr. Blake continues to look like a coward to Jane and she, of course, is thinking about her hero, Thor.

Soon, Dr. Blake is encountering people in town he knows doing strange things. New laws have passed saying cars should drive on sidewalks, billboards should go over office windows instead of where they belong, and worst of all, if people are sick but can’t pay to see a doctor they should be kicked out of the hospital. (That last one can be uncomfortably close to the truth and it’s interesting it appears here but I digress)

Dr. Blake is, of course, none too happy about any of this. He decides to investigate and ask the Mayor, who he appears to be friends with, although there has been no real mention of him before. The Mayor also seems happy with these odd changes.

Blake changes to Thor and tries to find out what is happening when he is trapped by a huge electromagnet. This separates him from his hammer and Thor turns back into Blake. This is probably good since all the actual people are in a spaceship operated by the Xartans. Blake tells the Xartans they are no match for Thor and so they should destroy him to take over the planet unimpeded. Jane’s not very impressed with this.

It does give Blake the chance to pick up his hammer and become Thor once again, however. There’s a fight with two of the Xartans using different methods to try to beat Thor but, of course, our hero wins in the end.

At the end of the story Thor tells the Xartans they have to change into trees. They do it, thinking they will be able to change back whenever they want. Thor may have outsmarted them because he figures trees don’t think so neither can the Xartans when they are in tree form.

This is reminiscent of how Reed Richards gets the Skrulls to turn into cows. Neither change is permanent and I’m sure we’ll see more of the Xartans in the future.

Overall, this story is fairly forgettable, other than the fact Odin really doesn’t want Blake to spill the beans to Jane Foster.

Next up on our reading list we’ll be catching up with the big green guy once again in The Incredible Hulk #6!

Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – Journey Into Mystery #89

Journey Into Mystery Issue 89 Photo Credit: Marvel

Thor in all his thunderous glory has fought other dimensional beings, his own brother Loki, and even a group of communists. Until issue 89 of Journey Into Mystery he hadn’t fought the mafia. But that is exactly what he does here.

The issue opens with Thor returning to the office of his secret identity, Dr. Donald Blake. Dr. Donald Blake is a successful surgeon who uses a cane to walk around. He’s not much like the god of thunder so no one suspects their connection. When Thor flies back there are some patients waiting in his office so he decides to fly into a mannequin store, dress one up like Thor (I don’t know where he got the materials to dress it up either) and toss it through the sky toward the ocean where it will land without harming anyone. (I suppose it might annoy Namor though) This ruse is enough to give Thor time to get back to his office and transform before the patients are any the wiser.

We then get another recap of how Dr. Donald Blake stumbled onto the magical stick that allows him to transform while he was on vacation in Norway. We also get the rundown yet again showing Blake is in love with Jane Foster but convinced she could never care for him. Meanwhile, Jane loves Blake but he won’t take any initiative so she thinks he is uninterested. And then she daydreams about polishing Thor’s hammer and ironing his cape. Seriously, I am not making that up. This is what the men who made these comics thought women would imagine in their heads. Yeah… so anyway…

When we switch back to the present moment there is a shootout just outside the office of Dr. Blake. Turns out a mobster named Thug Thatcher was arrested and immediately his men shot at cops and helped him escape. Unfortunately for Thug, he was hit in the shoulder in the crossfire.

Blake was just a little late in telling Jane to go home for the day so now the two of them are stuck in the office while the gunfire happens. If Blake turns to Thor he gives away his secret identity. As fortune would have it, two of Thug’s uh… thugs… realize they “…gotta fetch him a sawbones!” and notice a handy doctor’s office in the vicinity. And yes, you guessed right, it was Blake’s office.

The mobsters take Blake captive and make him treat their boss. Blake does so because he has a duty to treat an injured person not because he was told to. In the process they do take his cane which means he can’t easily turn into Thor. Thug is fixed up and tells his boys to “Take care of the good doctor.” Seems Thug doesn’t want Blake squealin’ to the cops. But even with his cane out of reach, Blake has one trick up his sleeve.

Perhaps in his head is more accurate. He decides to use all his concentration to call out to the Norse gods. Odin, up in Asgard hears the call and sends a wave of force that targets the man who is holding Blake’s cane. The cane is dropped and Blake grabs it, turning himself into Thor. The mobsters are understandably confused as to where the doctor went but Thor tells a very thin lie that he tossed Blake to safety.

It’s now mob bosses versus the literal god of thunder. You can probably guess who wins. Thor blows hurricane force winds at them and wraps them up in a sheet and tosses the sheet into a tree. A couple of the thugs try to escape in a car but Thor throws Mjolnir through a bunch of trees which trap the car and the mobsters.

Still, not everyone has been caught. Thug and his loyal girlfriend have managed to escape while the tussle was going on. It seems the girl loves Thug and he knows she’ll never leave him even if he is a terrible, terrible person. Thug comes up with the plan to capture Blake, knowing he and Thor seem to turn up in similar locations often. Good luck with that, Thug!

Thor goes back to Blake’s office to untie Jane from when they first snagged Blake. Thug has decided Jane is just as good a hostage as Blake would be. Since Thug has a gun to Jane, Thor puts the hammer down, knowing it will expose his secret at the end of sixty seconds.

Thinking fast, Thor decides to use “his super-developed vocal cords” to throw his voice across the room, impersonating the police. I know, I know, this sounds really silly but you have to put this in some context. Thor is the closest thing Marvel has at this time to Superman. He’s got a lot of the same powers, flight, strength, gale force winds for breath, and he even has a mild mannered alter ego the way Superman does. Superman at this time had the super power of super-ventriloquism so Marvel is just kind of following suit here. It’s yet another power for Thor to use in the moment when he needs it to be forgotten about soon.

This ruse is enough to fool the gangster and Thor kicks his gun away and gets his hammer back. He then uses it to make a mighty updraft to get Jane Foster to safety. Thor rushes out the window behind her to make sure she is safe. The gangsters shoot at him but to no avail. Thug uses the opportunity to try to escape. His girlfriend, Ruby, begs him to stay and “take your medicine” going so far as to say she’d even wait for him. But Thug is a dumb Thug and just tells her to shut up and get lost. He then shoots at her. I don’t know about you but if I have the god of thunder after me, I’m not wasting bullets. Anyway, Thor blocks the bullets for her so she’s fine.

Thor pounds his hammer on the ground four times, causing lightning to hit the cables of the elevator Thug is on. He then gets onto the steel girders but Thor melts those. I don’t know why Thor doesn’t just fly up and get him but I guess they needed to fill some panels.

Thug finds a bucket of hot rivets and threatens to dump them onto the crowd. Thor promises he won’t try to capture Thug. The girder gives way under Thug and Thor flies up to save him.

As Thor comes down, Ruby swears she still loves Thug and doesn’t want to see him fall. The cop next to her says, “Don’t worry lady– Thor’s got him! But a crumb like that sure don’t deserve anyone as loyal as you!” Well said nameless officer, well said.

Turns out the steel girder Thug was standing on was faulty because it was steel from his own racket where he was selling sub-standard steel for buildings to make his illegal money. So he kind of captured himself.

Thor then asks Odin to erase all memory of Thug Thatcher from Ruby’s mind so she will be “Free to find one who will be worthy of her!” I know of a nameless cop who just might be interested.

The end of the issue has a little tease for the next Journey Into Mystery where Thor will fight the wonderfully named “Carbon-Copy Man!” I’m guessing it will be more of an interesting fight than this was.

To put this issue in some context, it does have a few notable things in the story. It seems it is getting easier for Thor to call to Asgard whenever he needs to. Also, the love triangle between Blake, Thor and Jane Foster continues and will do so for a fair amount of time still. Finally, with the introduction of things like super-developed vocal cords, Thor is rapidly becoming unbeatable in his own book. It’s clear he needs to be pitted against folks who have super powers, not run of the mill mobsters. We’ll get to that point but not for a while yet.

Next up on the reading list we’ll be getting cosmic once again with the famous Fantastic Four in issue 11 of the series!

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Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – Journey Into Mystery #88

Journey Into Mystery Issue 88 Photo Credit: Marvel

The last time we checked in on Thor he was fighting your average, everyday, run of the mill communists and the story was rather dull. One easy way to have a great story for a hero is to have an incredible villain. Loki has already been introduced in the pages of Journey Into Mystery but this second appearance in issue 88 is where he starts to shine. All heroes need a good nemesis and Thor’s will forever be Loki. And of course the dynamics of that relationship are even more complicated because they are brothers (well half-brothers anyway).

If you look at the cover up there you might get the idea that Odin does a bit of toxic parenting here. I mean Loki’s not good by any means but Odin is clearly showing some favoritism and it’s clear this was not the first nor will it be the last time.

The issue starts out with Loki prisoner in Asgard because Thor recently bested him. Loki doesn’t take that too well and since he’s the god of mischief he can perform a ritual where he can see Thor. What he sees is actually a few panels from Journey Into Mystery 87 when Thor escapes from the chains the communists have put on him by turning back into Dr. Donald Blake and slipping his bonds. Loki is able to tell Thor can only stay Thor as long as he is gripping his hammer. If he lets go of it for more than 60 seconds he turns right back into Blake.

Loki is no slouch so he figures he needs to separate Thor from his hammer to defeat him. He’s able to shape-shift into a snake and sneak out past the watchful eye of Heimdall. Once on Earth, Loki takes on the disguise of an old man and goes to the offices of Dr. Donald Blake. He hypnotizes Jane Foster and goes in to see the good doctor.

Here’s where we start to see that Loki is his own worst enemy. He could have, while disguised, easily defeated Blake. But he just can’t resist the urge to show Dr. Donald Blake that he is Loki. His vanity gets him every time.

Naturally, Dr. Blake grabs his cane and taps it on the ground to become Thor. Loki immediately challenges Thor, telling him he will cause havoc throughout this puny world until Thor agrees to fight him. For some reason, Loki allows Thor an hour to prepare.

When he does meet up with Loki, Thor states, “Though I cannot match you, power for power, I have one weapon which you cannot match… the invincible hammer of Thor!

This shows that while Thor is supremely powerful, he actually knows Loki is a match for him.

Thor then falls into Loki’s trap. He had hypnotized Jane to show up where they were to do battle. He transforms a tree into a tiger just after Thor throws his hammer at Loki. Thor has to choose between grabbing the hammer and saving Jane. These kinds of moral dilemmas are everywhere in Marvel but Loki really is one of the best at manipulating people with choices like these. I think you won’t be surprised to hear Thor saves Jane. This does cause him to be away from the hammer long enough to revert back to Dr. Donald Blake. Lucky for him Jane fainted during all this so she still doesn’t know Thor’s secret identity.

Loki seizes the moment and creates a magical force field around the hammer which Blake can’t budge. Loki turns into a bird and decides to just go wreak havoc amongst the humans. He turns people into “Blank beings” which are just white outlines of who they were. Loki actually did something similar the first time he fought Thor as well. Next on the mayhem list for Loki is turning streets, cars and all non-organic material into candy and ice cream. It’s actually a funny couple of panels but you do tend to feel for the guy who lost his convertible because it was melted by the sun.

While his pranks are kind of silly, he does start to escalate pretty quickly. He next goes toward the arctic where some communists are testing an atomic bomb. He turns it into a dud. So I guess Loki is on the side of the Americans in the cold war? Ha, no he just wants to mess around.

But Dr. Blake knows if left to his own devices, Loki will eventually get up to something lethal. Loki faces an army and just puts wings on all their weapons so they fly away. But Blake has an idea.

He puts word in the newspaper Thor wants a rematch with Loki. Loki can’t resist but to see what is going on. He sees Thor, not knowing it’s actually a plastic dummy. He lifts the force field to check on the hammer which gives Blake the perfect opportunity to grab it.

Before Thor can throw down, Loki turns into a bird again but Thor feeds all the birds peanuts and realizes the one bird not eating has to be Loki. Thor makes short work of it and traps Loki. He takes him back to Asgard once again where Odin is none too pleased with Loki.

This issue does a fine job of establishing the real rivalry between Thor and Loki and sets up a lot the elements of some of the best Thor stories to come.

Next up on the reading list we’ll be visiting with Johnny Storm in the pages of Strange Tales #104!

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Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – Journey Into Mystery #87

Journey Into Mystery Issue 87 Photo Credit: Marvel

Reading about heroes defeating communists in the early Marvel 616 books is… kind of exhausting. There are so many times these heroes come up against “the reds” it can be hard to keep track of. While in a book like The Incredible Hulk or Tales to Astonish where Bruce Banner and Hanky Pym are both scientists working on major government initiatives it makes some sense. But pitting the Norse god of thunder himself against a bunch of everyday communist thugs is kind of like, well, pitting a Norse god against any normal person. We know who is going to win.

For the plot of this one, it seems the communists are staging abductions of key scientists, making it look like they defected of their own free will. Dr. Don Blake gets word of this and realizes there is more to the story and Thor could totally demolish these people doing the kidnapping. We are treated to scenes of Jane Foster both doting over Dr. Don Blake and his many illnesses while still pining in her mind for Thor. Of course, she really loves Don and he really loves her but neither has the courage to tell the other. It’s a direct reflection of the Superman/Lois Lane stories.

Blake signs up to pretend he has made a new biological warfare weapon in order to use himself as bait to get to the bottom of all the disappearances. The government somewhat reluctantly agrees. Blake is soon abducted when a communist in disguise takes his picture. Turns out the camera releases a paralyzing gas. I will say there have been quite a few incidents in the 616 universe so far involving trick cameras so these guys should definitely beware of the paparazzi.

I’m sure you can guess where this is going. With a few nifty tricks with his hammer Thor not only escapes but also rescues the missing scientists who never actually defected. Of course, he first has to let himself get captured so that the scientists are not outright killed. But soon enough Thor is tearing iron doors off and letting prisoners go.

While the art, as with all the Thor books, is striking and full of movement and energetic, the story is decidedly uninspired. It’s a real waste of an amazing hero. It certainly won’t be the last of communists who do go up against Thor but thankfully in the long run this happens less and less frequently.

Next up on the reading list we’re getting small again as we see what Hank Pym is up to in Tales to Astonish #38!

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Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – Journey Into Mystery #86

Journey Into Mystery Issue 86 Photo Credit: Marvel

Journey Into Mystery has already run several stories starring the god of thunder, Thor, himself. In issue 86, there are several significant events that help shape the 616 universe for years to come.

We all know Thor has been on earth and hides in his secret identity of Dr. Donald Blake. Most of the stories so far have focused more on Blake than Thor. But this story is all about the Asgardian god and what he can do. In addition, it introduces some new powers Thor has and establishes both time travel and the possibility of different worlds.

Three centuries from now Earth has overcome all violence. They live in a peaceful and technologically advanced society. But one man, named Zarrko aka the Tomorrow Man, wants to rule the world. As any good evil scientist would do, he invents time travel to go back to 1962 when atomic bombs were being tested. Why he didn’t just invent his own weapon if he could invent time travel is beyond me.

It just so happens Zarrko goes out to the desert in New Mexico where Thor is helping the U.S. military to test missiles. The army wants to make a missile fast enough Thor can’t catch it. They fail of course.

Now if the New Mexico desert and bomb testing has you thinking of a certain green man who has gamma related powers you would not be the only one. While we never see Hulk or Bruce Banner, there is someone there in a military uniform who looks an awful lot like General Thunderbolt Ross from the Hulk comics. This is never confirmed though, as they don’t say his name. Also, having Thor even show up in this location just makes the reader wonder, “who would win in a fight between Hulk and Thor?” This becomes an age old question and one of the most hotly debated ones among Marvel fans.

Anyway, back to the story at hand. Zarrko shows up, steals something called a “cobalt bomb” and scurries back to his own time. After that is where things really start to get interesting. Thor knows he has to go follow this villain so he does something he has not done before. He summons his father Odin to ask for his advice. This shows the Asgardian gods taking more of an interest in the activities of Thor and they will come into play in future issues. Odin tells Thor he can spin himself and his hammer fast enough to travel through time. (Yes I know it sounds silly but hey, why not?) This vastly increases Thor’s power as the ability to time travel is extremely significant.

Once in the future, Thor meets with the innocent citizens of the world who want Zarrko gone. He devises a plan where he has one of them dress up like him while Thor himself follows behind in a black cloak. Zarrko easily traps the fake but then has to contend with Thor. He fires a, “delta-electron gun” which is supposed to send Thor into another dimension.

This confirms that not only does time travel exist in the 616 universe but so do other dimensions. Again, this is a hugely significant revelation. While Thor isn’t especially known for going to other dimensions or time traveling, a vast number of other 616 characters are. This just establishes the groundwork.

As big of a revelation as that is, we still haven’t seen the limit of Thor’s power. He is able to prevent himself from going to this other dimension by simply exhaling with “Hurricane Force!!” This prevents the dimensional door from closing on Thor and he escapes. This is a pretty big power increase once again for Thor. And it makes the reader who was wondering if Hulk or Thor is stronger think that perhaps Thor has a huge advantage.

Thor is not out of trouble yet as an army of giant robot monsters take his hammer from him. If we remember the old rules of Thor’s transformation we realize that in 60 seconds Thor will become Dr. Donald Blake who is no match for the mechanical monstrosities. It also begs the question of how the robots can lift the hammer considering it is only supposed to be lifted by those worthy of Thor’s power. Thor losing his hammer is a fairly frequent occurrence in the issues to come so we’ll leave that as a dangling question for now.

Of course, Thor does vanquish his foes, both the robot army and Zarrko himself. It’s not until after Thor returns and everyone is defeated that we see Thor change back into Donald Blake. This is somewhat significant because the reader gets the impression Blake is less necessary to the story. In fact, a secret identity never made much sense for Thor anyway but he has to have one because that’s how all the Marvel heroes start out. In time he’ll lose that and readers will get to focus just on the part they enjoy, Thor himself.

All in all, this seems like what would be a fairly standard Marvel story. There is a villain who is defeated by a hero and there’s a little bit of inventiveness in it with the time travel. I doubt the creators of the issue realized the amount of significance these events would have but looking back on it as a reader it is a vital issue.

Next up on the reading list we’re going to get hot under the collar again as we visit Johnny Storm, aka The Human Torch in Strange Tales #102!

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Marvel 616 Comic Book Review – Journey Into Mystery #85

Journey Into Mystery #85 Photo Credit: Marvel

The past couple of issues of Journey Into Mystery established Thor, his secret identity of Dr. Donald Blake and his love interest Jane. What it had not done was establish a foe the equal of the power of the god of thunder. Journey Into Mystery provides that foe by introducing the one and only Loki. While there will be a long and complex relationship between the two characters, this issue is all about showing Loki capable of defeating Thor in some way, even if only temporarily.

On the cover of the issue we see Loki in a much better looking costume than what we get inside the issue. In my opinion the brown just doesn’t work for him but you can judge for yourself in the panel below.

(Panel taken from Journey Into Mystery #85 Photo Credit: Marvel)

In this issue we establish the rainbow bridge that leads to Asgard and at the start we see Loki confined to a tree where he is to be kept for punishment due to his past misdeeds. Through some trickery Loki is able to send a leaf into Heimdall’s eye, causing him to cry, which frees Loki from his plight. He was to be stuck in the tree until someone cried “due to his plight” so Loki meets the conditions but definitely frees himself on a technicality. This establishes not only his cleverness but his capability to use deceit to get what he wants.

This also establishes Heimdall as a recurring character. Loki blames Thor for his punishment so he immediately heads to Earth to harass Thor. Loki disguises himself and blends into the crowds of New York City and we get another example of his powers of illusion. He can’t best Thor with strength so it’s his mind that is his weapon. Soon Loki manufactures a crisis by turning people, “into negatives”. It’s hard to describe but basically three people walk around looking like photo negatives. For some reason Loki assumes Thor will come running to help. Personally, I would imagine there would be a whole host of other Marvel heroes who would be more helpful than Thor in this situation. But Thor of course, is on the scene and does arrive. Thor is able to “emit anti-matter particles!” thus healing the people. This establishes that Mjolnir is basically capable of doing whatever it needs to do in the moment it needs to.

Not long after Loki shows up and he and Thor are locked in battle. And as you can see in the panel above, Jane is already a fan girl of his. That’s a bit odd considering she is alternatively in love with Don Blake and Thor himself but I guess Jane was just an early Tom Hiddleston fan.

During the battle Loki uses hypnotism and other trickery to fight but of course in the long run, Thor wins out. The battle itself isn’t all that memorable but it is the first confrontation between Thor and Loki in the 616 universe. There are two things of note in the battle however. Firstly, it is established yet again that when Thor is away from Mjolnir for more than 60 seconds he turns back into Dr. Donald Blake. In the early days of the 616 universe this is significant as it is one way to stop Thor. Later he will eventually drop the Don Blake secret identity entirely but that’s not for a long time to come. The second significant item in the fight is that it is established Loki cannot use his powers underwater. This is to Thor’s advantage and helps him win the battle. A third item to mention might be Loki is unable to fly on his own. He can transform objects or hypnotize birds to accomplish the feat but he is not able to simply fly whenever he wishes.

The most significant part of this issue, other than the appearance of Loki himself comes on the last page. Thor has beaten Loki and sends him back to Asgard where he knows other gods will take Loki into captivity. We see appearances of Odin, Balder, Tyr and several other unnamed Asgardian gods. They will be repeat characters for Thor and hugely significant in an untold number of events in 616 continuity.

When Thor throws Loki to Asgard he hopes he will never again meet the god of mischief but as fans, we all want him to, and thanks to the obvious set up here, the fans will win out. This is the first appearance of Loki but by no means the last and he is already plotting his revenge.

Next on the reading list we go back to the first family of superheroes in The Fantastic Four #7!

Marvel 616 Comic Book Review: Journey Into Mystery #84

Journey Into Mystery #84 Photo Credit: Marvel

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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Marvel 616 Comic Book Review: Journey Into Mystery #83

Journey Into Mystery #83 Photo Credit: Marvel

Journey Into Mystery started out as a horror anthology series published by Timely comics. It had a measure of success in the 1950’s but it evolved into a science-fiction and fantasy book some time after Timely’s successor, Marvel took over. Most of the stories up to issue #83 were forgettable.

Then, in June of 1962, issue #83 hit the stands and the magazine would be forever changed. The cover has the month of August as the release date but as often happened in comics at the time, the release month printed did not align with the actual release date. The cover showcases a powerful figure whirling a hammer so fast we can’t see what it is. The font boldly proclaims to have “The most exciting super-hero of all time!!” And it says in the upper left corner, the words that would bring in one of the most famous Marvel characters of all time, “Introducing… The Mighty Thor!”

The actual story is only 14 pages long but it does a lot of heavy lifting. Thor as we all know is the god of thunder from Norse mythology. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby ran with that idea but had their own take on and personality for the character they would show in their comics.

The first story starring Thor is a bit silly and a bit strange. To put it into context I will have to tell you a little bit about Dr. Donald Blake.

The average person who may or may not be a comics reader still knows who you are talking about if you say the names Peter Parker, Clark Kent, Bruce Banner, or Bruce Wayne. But if you say Dr. Donald Blake, a lot of people, even those who do read comics would be forgiven for not knowing who that is. Dr. Donald Blake is the mild-mannered alter-ego of Thor.

In the tradition of comic books at the time, all heroes had a secret identity and a heroic persona. In Marvel comics in particular these secret identities always had some flaw. It could be physical, emotional or mental but there was always some flaw. Dr. Blake has a heroic heart. He wants to save people and he has dedicated his life to medicine to do so. But he is also what the comic book calls “lame”. That’s as in the original definition of lame, meaning you have difficulty walking. Probably not a term we would use now.

Dr. Donald Blake finds himself on vacation in Norway when an alien craft full of “stone men from Saturn” land. It’s immediately clear they are a threat and want to take over the earth. Luckily for humanity, the good doctor overhears these creatures and tries to go get help.

Unfortunately for him, Dr. Blake is discovered and chased down by these aliens. He has no chance of running away so instead he hides in a cave. And it’s a good thing he did. In the cave is a stick he can use for a cane. But this is no ordinary cane. As soon as Dr. Blake taps it on the ground, he is turned into The Mighty Thor. From here the fantastic artwork of Jack Kirby simply leaps off the pages.

We get to see Thor as you would want to see him. A figure of power and confidence who can wield a magic hammer that proclaims, “Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of… Thor!”

In the early pages of Thor’s debut it’s hard to tell if Dr. Blake simply has the power of Thor or is in fact the Thor when he changes. But it doesn’t matter because the star of the comic is once again, the artwork.

With the power of the god of thunder it’s no sweat to scare off a few aliens. And much like Superman can turn back into Clark Kent at a moment’s notice, Thor can revert to Dr. Donald Blake, thus saving the world but saving himself all the unwanted attention of explaining who he is or how he does what he does.

In the last panel of the story there is a teaser ad for the next issue of Journey Into Mystery telling us that Thor will appear regularly in its pages. Thor is misspelled as Thorr right on his own hammer in this panel but the sentiment is still correct. Thor and most of his supporting cast go on to appear regularly in Journey Into Mystery. Essentially, once Thor appears here he basically takes over the comic. It sells well enough that Thor doesn’t even get his own name in the title of the series until issue #104 when it becomes Journey Into Mystery with The Mighty Thor.

With the introduction of Thor in the pages of 616 continuity we now have three of the five original founding members of The Avengers. It will take some time before that team is formed but those heroes would have a lot less muscle without the god of thunder at their side.

Next on the reading list we follow along further with Thor in Journey Into Mystery #84.

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