Tuesday, June 15, 2010

60: Journey into Mystery #93

Journey into Mystery #93
April 2, 1963

  • The story opens, unusually, in India - which had recently become embroiled in a conflict with communist China. And it's to this scene that Dr. Donald Blake has come, leading a mission of medical aid. While this was an exceptionally timely move on Marvel's part, an odd note is that for a lame and ostensibly boring doctor, Blake sure does seem to get around! Recall that he first found the hammer of Thor while vacationing in Norway, in an era when personal travel when less common than it is today. And the very next issue saw Don join another mission of aid to the still-hilariously-named country of San Diablo. Why, he's almost becoming as much of an international jet-setter as Tony Stark....

  • This issue also features the debut appearance of Chen Lu, the Radioactive Man (although, as indicated on the cover, the word is hyphenated all throughout). When Chinese forces are turned back from their Indian assault by the timely arrival of Thor, they turn to their top scientists for advice. Fortunately, Dr. Chen has just figured out a way to use radioactivity to imbue a human with extraordinary power - and, in an alarming change of plans, decides to test it on himself. Y'know, because that always goes well, and there's nothing more harmless than rampant radiation. The experiment an improbable success, he is now supremely powerful, can melt or destroy objects simply by willing it, and is protected by a sort of repelling force field. Also? When he walks he leaves sizzling footprints in the asphalt, which is always pretty cool.

  • The real-world events make for a compelling backdrop, and for the first five pages convey a seriousness to the story - yes, superheroics and all - that's rarely found in these tales. And then, on page six, all of that screeches to a halt with the kind of ridiculous turns usually only found in a Larry Lieber Ant-Man comic. Strangely, the culprit this time appears to be Jack Kirby, surprisingly back for a single issue in the middle of Joe Sinnott's run. First off, as Dr. Chen Lu returns to his lab we see that it's ... in a converted Buddhist temple. Why? No reason. Then, as Chen takes stock of his equipment, we see that his assistants are all robots. Golden, shiny robots. Why? The dialogue blathers something about not trusting men with the secrecy of his new discoveries ... but I'm guessing that Jack just wanted to draw robots! It doesn't lessen one's enjoyment of the story - far from it - but the tonal shift is, shall we say, something of a surprise.

    Kids: Don't throw your hammer in the ocean.
    You'll just have to fish it out later.