Friday, January 6, 2012

159: Journey into Mystery #106

Journey into Mystery #106
May 5, 1964

  • Happy New Year! Now let's get back to Thor: Picking up from last issue, we return to the danger of Thor separated from his hammer, and thus quickly transformed back into Don Blake (due to the enchantment which turns the god back into his mortal guise after 60 seconds). Unfortunately, this issue turns out to be just more of the same, with Don having to trick the villains into getting the object back to him, and then finding a way to transform into Thor without their knowledge. Again. Really, it's just a naked retread of the action from last ish, which is a shame; last month's cliffhanger may have been an effective one, but Stan & Jack don't seem to have had any new idea to carry on from after. I suppose it just goes to show that not every story is worthy of being broken into two installments!

    When I see scenes like this one, I wonder about the poor contractor
    who has to redo the entire floor.  It's not just gonna meld back together!

  • Correspondingly, there's actually very little human drama in the story at all, despite the revolutionary mix of superhero action and human drama being the foundation of Marvel's early success. The tale really is just a series of separations and recaptures - Thor from his hammer; the villains from Thor - until the very end, when Blake returns to his medical practice to find Jane enrapt by television news coverage of the fight. But since Blake had tricked the villains into thinking that he'd betray Thor to them - rather publicly, at that - Jane calls him a coward and angrily runs out. Note that this parallels rather nicely Jane's supposed betrayal of Thor in Hyde's own two-part origin story, which was the event that caused Odin to declare her unworthy of his son in the first place! However, there's no indication in the narrative that Stan is aware of this parallel or that it's at all intentional; instead, it's likely just a happy accident in the midst of his rapid-fire plotting.

    Something tells me there might be a design flaw in that paint machine.
    Does it paint just one side of the building?  How does it know what
    not to paint?  Etc.

  • Meanwhile, "Tales of Asgard" turns its focus to another of the divine cast: Balder the Brave. In a post-battle rehash, Odin demands to know why Balder fell behind when the rest of their forces pursued the deadly Storm Giants. But when Balder defends himself by saying that he stopped to help a baby bird that had fallen from his nest, Odin is seriously not amused and sentences Balder to death on the execution fields. And yet the first arrow shot at Balder is snatched from the air by a hawk, while a subsequent spear is blocked by the fast-moving shoots of a nearby plant. Finally, when Thor raises his hammer to smite his friend, Odin stops his hand - claiming that he himself had summoned the hawk and the plant, and that the proceedings had been designed to test Balder's bravery as well as his gentleness.

    Look at the feathering on Balder's back, and the
    stippling effect on his leggings. Impressive!

  • Additionally, this "Tales of Asgard" segment merits a note on the art. These have all been pencilled by Kirby, but so far the inking has been by whomever was seemingly available: George Roussous, Paul Reinman, Don Heck, and Chic Stone have all taken part. And, although more expert inking connoisseurs than I might be inclined to disagree, none of them have really let their inking styles come to the fore, instead being willingly subsumed by the style of the great Jack Kirby - all bold strokes and deep blacks. Here, though, Kirby is inked by Vince Colletta - a controversial figure, to be sure - and the inks on "ToA" look incredibly distinctive for the first time, with a light scratchiness that evokes some of Don Heck's pencilled art, yet overlaid onto the powerful figures as drawn by Jack. It's a bit of a marriage of opposites, and one I wouldn't have expected - yet I can't deny that the combination, for me at least, really works! Fortunately, the rotating cast of inkers looks as if it will cease, and within a year Vince will be inking the lead story as well.

    There really is something of a Prince Valiant feel to these images, don't you think?