Journey into Mystery #97 starts off strongly enough, with Thor quickly leaping into action to rescue a pilot knocked out in a fighter jet. This opening was also helped out by Kirby’s fantastic artwork. However, things quickly shift gears as Dr. Don Blake’s mind quickly goes back to thinking about Jane Foster and telling her how to feel. Unfortunately, for Dr. Blake he is unable to do so due to Odin still forbidding it. Fair enough, so far, but things quickly get derailed in terms of plot when Jane decides that she is done waiting on Dr. Blake to tell her how he feels towards her and takes another job.
The problem with this is there has been no hints that she had any idea about how Dr. Blake felt about her, and in fact was concerned that he might not like her, so the idea that she already knows and was just waiting for him to say something really comes out of nowhere. It would have been nice if some seeds of this plotline had been planted a little earlier, because it really just comes off as jarring here. Eventually Thor catches wind of Lava Man coming to town, because there are a lot of volcanoes near New York City.
Unfortunately, Lava Man is really a one dimension character, simply trying to take over the surface because humans are weak, which is definitely a motivation that Lee has used more than one time for the below the surface dwellers. It is quickly revealed that Loki was the one responsible for bringing Lava Man to the surface. However, he initially did it just for his own amusement rather than to get revenge on Thor in particular, which was a nice touch and was really in line with what the character would do. Also, apparently there is a whole race of lava men under the ground, adding yet another civilization to an already crowded underground. Anyways, while the battle between Thor and Lava Man was entertaining enough, it was far to short and ended more on a whimper than a bang.
In addition, for whatever reason, they decided to divide the issue into two stories, which really means that there isn’t much page space to story development. The second issue does do an effect job telling the origins of Bor Burison, Buri, Odin and Ymir and introducing Surtur, and some other aspects of Norse mythology, all of which will start to gain greater importance as the series matures.
In the end, Journey into Mystery #97 is worth a read because it introduces some important Norse mythology aspects, as well as the interesting, but poorly executed tension between Jane and Dr. Blake. It’s too bad that Lava Man isn’t able to live up to his full potential.
- Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers
- Writers: Stan Lee
- Pencilers: Jack Kirby
- Inkers: Don Heck
- Letterers: Artie Simek