April 2, 1964
- This issue features the return of not one but two Thor villains - the menacing Mister Hyde and the ridiculous Cobra. And, you know, Thor's having had enough villains by this point that they can easily cross paths and lead to a bona fide Super-Villain Team-Up is a sort of marker as to how far this thunder god has come. Granted, it may not be as classic a pairing as that of Dr. Doom and the Sub-Mariner, but it's a start...!
Oh, the melodrama!
- After the obligatory misunderstanding and battle that every superpowered meeting seems to lead to (and didn't we just see one of those?), the Cobra and Mister Hyde decide to join forces to take down the hero who's beaten them both. This is when Hyde shows the Cobra his latest invention - the ludicrously powerful "Time Reversal Ray". When fired at a person, the machine locks onto the target, tracks their movements backwards through time, and displays their tracked events for the wielder to see. The extent to which this could be exploited and misused seems almost limitless, and the only reason they don't discover Thor's secret identity is because as soon as Thor disappears from the scene (to be replaced by Donald Blake), the machine loses its lock. Still, it's such an unbalancingly powerful device that I'd have expected it to disappear after this story; to my surprise, however, it would reappear in one form or another a couple of times down the line.
Bizarre concept, yes. But it makes for a neat visual!
- Continuing with the subplot of our hero's frustrated love for Jane Foster, Doctor Donald Blake decides that the only way he can win her heart is by giving up his identity of Thor (since Odin has specifically declared that Jane is unworthy of the love of a god). This is a compelling theme, and told right it would be the main thing we take away from the story. Unfortunately, what most sticks in mind are the couple of dumb loopholes that are used to get around the restrictions Stan has set up for the character. First, a captive Don Blake, separated from the cane that turns him into Thor, is able to trigger the transformation anyway - by getting the villains to tap his cane near him instead. (Okay, so ANYONE can turn him into Thor by tapping his cane? Really?) Of course, once Blake has turned into Thor and the cane has turned into his hammer, Thor is helped by the fact that no other mortals can lift or move the weapon, thus preventing anyone from taking it away from him. But not, as we find, anything - as we see when Hyde uses a machine of his own devising to nab Thor's hammer ... with magnets. If you can read these pages without eye-rolls and groans, you've thicker skin than I.
Heimdall on the Bridge.
- Meanwhile, the "Tales of Asgard" backup strip gives us another tale of the mighty Heimdall, whose origin as the Asgardians' guardian we just saw last ish. In this story, entitled "When Heimdall Failed!", the King of the Storm Giants sends a Vanna - a fairy-like creature so tiny and insubstantial it can be neither seen nor heard - to spy on the denizens of the godly realm. And yet mighty Heimdall's senses are so attuned that he can tell something is amiss - that something has passed him by at his vigilant post - and so he rushes to the royal chambers where the creature has made its way. By invoking the Odinpower, Asgard's ruler is able to pluck the creature from the air and punish it accordingly, at which point Heimdall lays himself down to receive his own grave consequence for having let the winged sprite by. Instead, Odin congratulates him, pointing out not just his heightened sense but his commitment to sound the alarm, despite lacking evidence of any kind. By the vignette's end, Heimdall is standing watch on the Rainbow Bridge once again....