Wednesday, February 3, 2010

22: Journey into Mystery #86

Journey into Mystery #86
September 4, 1962

  • After the impressive introduction of Loki and the other Asgardian elements last issue, it's disappointing to see that followed up by a tale pitting Thor against "Zarrko, The Tomorrow Man". Surprisingly, it's a decent read, one with numerous twists and turns that makes economic use of the 13 pages available. In short order: Zarrko, a man from the future, comes to present-day Earth to steal a cobalt bomb, to use against his own time. After seeking advice from Odin, Thor follows Zarrko into the future and gives chase, but a black-robed figure dogs his heels - who turns out to be Thor himself, with the Thor we'd been watching just a decoy! He then has to defeat Zarrko's giant robots, and there's a tight moment when one grabs Thor's hammer; since he will revert to Dr. Blake if he's separated from it for more than a minute, the next half-dozen panels show the seconds ticking away, one by one, in the background - not too bad a narrative device, really. All ends well, with Thor recovering the cobalt bomb, Zarrko defeated, and Nurse Jane Foster, back in the present, wishing she worked for the exciting Thor, and not "colorless Don Blake!"

    Thor as a tool of the US military - or just a tool?
    You be the judge.

  • One of the fascinating things about reading these old comics is how they capture a snapshot of the time period, sometimes in style and dress, and sometimes in attitude. For instance, there's the old sentiment of how a country should look on its military with love during war, and suspicion during peace - but in so many of these comics from 1962, there's an overwhelming sense of a country that only looked on its military with unquestioning fealty, even to the point of Thor helping the army with a bomb test, or Rick Jones being so easily taken in by cries of patriotism. Interestingly, the question is given a different spin when we get to the 23rd century, where humanity has evolved past the desire for war and any sort of military or weapons - and therefore has no defense against Zarrko's aberrant aims.

    Odin may only have a one-panel appearance ... but they make sure it's a doozy.

  • Typically, despite the impressive parts of the story, there are also occasions where the writing visibly falls down. The aforementioned figure in black robes piques our interest for several pages, as we wonder who in the tale this could possibly be. The twist is that it's Thor himself, and the Thor we thought we'd been following was just a decoy, dressed up with fake garb and hammer - but who? Presumably some random future passerby, but it's never addressed. And in the latest example of Goofy Silver Age Writing, Zarrko zaps Thor with a "delta-electron gun" to consign him to another dimension. But Thor lets loose with some sort of super-breath, and "the supernatural fury of the gale pierces the dimension-veil before it can be fully closed, and Thor returns to the third dimension" ...

    The Tomorrow Man defeated ... until the day after next.