Tuesday, August 24, 2010

72: Journey into Mystery #95

Journey into Mystery #95
June 4, 1963

  • Reader GeneralNerd recently pointed out that some of these early Thor stories have the distinct feel of a Silver Age Superman story, and it's hard to deny. Virtually all superheroes can be said to descend from The Great Supes, of course, but when you have a super-strong, godlike figure in a red cape, complete with frail secret identity, the similarities become inescapable. With such thoughts on the mind, it's then impossible to see this cover and not instantly think: Bizarro Thor. Fortunately, in just two more issues Stan & Jack will finally start to flesh out the Asgardian backdrop in real, painstaking detail, giving Thor the distinct identity he's been mostly lacking up till now.

  • Early in the tale, Thor lends his talents to the demonstration of a new, android lifeform. A lifeform that - wait, what?! - Dr. Don Blake has himself invented, despite all indications of Blake being a general practitioner and not (say) a biosynthetic engineer. Ah, yes: Reinforcing the similarities to the very simple DC stories of the time, we have here the first Marvel appearance of that quaint old Silver Age trope - the idea that one scientist or doctor is as good as any other, regardless of field or focus. Scripter Robert Bernstein indicates an awareness of this discontinuity, when Blake protests to the evil scientist Zaxton, "I'm not your equal in the physical sciences! I specialize in the human body!" But Zaxton dismisses this (quite reasonable) protest, exclaiming "Nonsense! Your android was a mechanical miracle!" So it's hard to see what, exactly, Bernstein was trying to accomplish.

  • When Zaxton's duplicating machine creates an evil version of Thor (and just what is with all these duplicate stories, by the way?? The Carbon-Copy Men were just five issues ago!), the real Thor finds himself sorely tested ... until he discovers that the duplicates can't actually harm him with their hammers. Re-examining his own hammer, he once again sees the inscription first seen in his debut story - "Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor!" - and realizes that the opposite Thors, being evil, are not actually worthy of the duplicate hammers they wield. Seeing that the jig is up, Zaxton creates a duplicate of himself to aid in his escape - but then, in his panic, slips from a height and falls to his doom. An unexpected side effect of this is that Zaxton's duplicate survives ... and, being an opposite-aligned copy, is free to use his genius to do good, where the original went foul. Finding a genuinely surprising twist at the end of what had seemed a very simple story is something of a surprise; having two, in quick succession, is impressive indeed.

    Oh, come on!  He's not even trying to hide his Evil!
    (And doesn't he remind you a bit of Myron Reducto?