Tuesday, December 21, 2010

96: Journey into Mystery #98

Journey into Mystery #98
September 3, 1963

  • After returning to the comic last issue to help kick off Thor's new direction, Jack Kirby is mysteriously gone once again, and he'll remain so for the next three issues. (With the exception of the new "Tales of Asgard" backup stories, which he'll continue to pencil throughout.) There does seem to be a certain creative team shuffle in these strips for these next few months. But that's okay, because as brilliant as Kirby may be, in the interim we get a guest stint by the inestimable Don Heck - an artist whose name I only vaguely knew before embarking on the Marvel Genesis project, but of whom I quickly became a fan.

    Feel the angst!  Also, notice that either Jane had her own very spacious office,
    or else Don Blake kept a picture of himself as Thor upon his desk.

  • The evolution of the Marvel comic book progresses, as we get the first Thor story which explicitly continues on from the events of the previous issue. As you'll recall, Don Blake's constant disappearing act when needing to turn into Thor has resulted in his nurse Jane Foster getting fed up with his perceived cowardice and indecision - so she walked out of both his practice and his life. What's a lame doctor to do, when faced with such heart-rending disaster? Go on vacation, of course! Although the melodrama only lasts these two issues - Jane's back by the end, you see - it's still a sign that the interchangeable, inconsequential and non-changing yarns of the early days are on their way out the door.

    Surely one of the greatest lines ever written in a comic.

  • So the villain this outing is the Human Cobra. And OH MAN does he have one of the more convoluted origins ever seen! In India, the assistant to the noted Professor Shecktor is a shady ex-con named Klaus, who the prof has taken under his wing in an attempt at rehabilitation. Far from being grateful to such a kindness, Klaus envies the professor the fame and acclaim he receives for his work - so he concocts a scheme to do away with him. But ensuring the scientist is bitten by a deadly cobra isn't enough; no, in an attempt to throw any investigation off the trail, he decides he must also be bitten, while ensuring that he alone takes the antidote which he denies the prof. How was he to know that the cobra was radioactive...?

    Bit of a design flaw in the hammer's enchantments, wouldn't you say?
    And Thor does his best Br'er Rabbit impression.

  • Continuing the new backup feature just begun last issue, we have the second instalment in "Tales of Asgard, Home of the Gods!" After last time's broad overview of the Norse myths, this time we have the first actual story, in which Lord Odin fights the Ice Giants and ... well, that's it, really. I mean, it is a welcome change to see Odin as King-hero for once, rather than just play the patriarchal supporting character role, but I can't deny a bit of disappointment with just how little happens: Ice Giants attack; Asgardians fight back; Odin traps their leader Ymir in a ring of fire. The End. But then, I suppose one should keep in mind that we're still just in the introductory phase of these stories, and being only 5-page backups (told in giant-sized Jack Kirby panels, no less), the amount of plot that can be delivered at any one time is going to be limited. It may do to adjust one's expectations when reading these backup stories, recalling that the myths told in such broad strokes leave little room for details or plot, but rather place the emphasis squarely on the grandeur and epic scope. And in that, it must be said, the tales clearly deliver!

    These two panels take up the entire bottom half of the comic page.
    No small windows of action here!