Tales to Astonish #51 (01/10/1964)

detail21The last issue of Tales to Astonish ended with the Human Top stating that he needed to get rid of Giant-Man and the Wasp permanently and it then shows him running with a stick of dynamite. Well apparently by the time Tales to Astonish #51 comes around the Human Top has apparently forgotten that plan (although he still has the dynamite, which he then uses to blow up a boat). Well Giant Man and the Wasp be able to stop the Human Top from doing whatever he is planning to do?

Unfortunately the story in this issue is a hot mess. This is mainly because the motives of the Human Top are vague as heck. He blows up a boat to use as a distraction, but it’s unclear for what. As best as I can tell he uses it to steal federal defense plans, which apparently was a trap set by Giant Man, but it’s hard to tell because none of the setup is shown. This in the end makes it really confusing because there’s no connection made. In addition, how the heck did the Giant-Man and Wasp fans find out where they were? I mean that seriously came out of nowhere and made no sense.

While this issue also features the traditional backup stories, the first one was presented as a story the Wasp was telling a group of people, which was a nice touch. The first story, “Somewhere Waits a Wobbow,” which gives a whole new meaning to fool‘s gold and is entertaining for what it is. The second story, “No Place to Turn,” is about another attempted alien invasion of earth and is a pretty lame story.

Rating: 2.5/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, George Roussos
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colourists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors: Stan Lee

Strange Tales #114 (11/10/1963)

detailStrange Tales #114, as the cover shows, features the return of Captain America or at least it would seem so to the reader back in 1963. However, pretty much every modern reader would know that Captain America made his reappearance in Avengers #4, which is still a few months off. Also, why would you open a story by basically stating that there is a twist coming at the end? That was just plain stupid. Anyways, our tale opens with the Human Torch doing his still incredibly goofy looking training when it is soon interrupted by his friends, who are excited to inform him that Captain America is coming to town. Naturally, the Human Torch was a big fan of Captain America back in the day and is curious to see what he’s been up to for all these years.

Unfortunately, that’s where the decent part of the story ends. Soon, the story descends quickly into that pure Silver Age cheese. It all begins with a pair of car thieves deciding that parade is the best time to steal a car, and that a tommy gun was also apparently necessary. Anyways, this clumsy event is used to have the Human Torch run into Captain America as they both leap into action to stop the criminals. This leads to Captain America informs the Human Torch that he’s getting in his way and to stay out of it. Naturally, this causes the Human Torch to become butt hurt.

The next scene is where the story comes completely off the wheels, with Captain America breaking out the criminals so that they can be decoys while he robs the bank. Now, why wouldn’t he had just done that the first time around? It seriously makes zero sense. In addition, as is way to common in this series, the Human Torch’s powers are way too inconsistent. For example, he’s taken out by a mop, but a few panels latter he’s able to basically blow out the seams of an asbestos lined truck? And don’t get me started on that truck as a plot device.

In the end, the main thing going for this story was its surprise surrounding the apparent return of Captain America, which unfortunately is no longer available to hold this story up. Take that away and you basically have story that is pretty pointless and adds nothing to the Human Torch as a character or any new elements to his story.

This issue also sees the return of Dr. Strange, as he once again must battle the dreaded Baron Mordo. The story opens with Dr. Strange being called by someone claiming to be Lord Bentley in need of help. Naturally, Dr. Strange leaps to action to give assistance and quickly springs a trap laid by Baron Mordo. What ensues is an interesting mystic art battle that has a number of gaping holes. Probably the biggest one is Baron Mordo goes straight up Bond villain and decides to leave the room so that Dr. Strange can escape the trap. In addition, the ending just made zero sense and makes what proceeded it make zero sense. Still, this story is definitely better than the Human Torch story.

Rating: 2.5/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers, Steve Ditko
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Sam Rosen
  • Editors: Stan Lee

 

Journey Into Mystery #96 (09/10/1963)

detail.jpgThis issue of Journey Into Mystery opens with Thor being his usual heroic self and rescuing a bus that has plunged off a bridge into the water. Although the whole shtick of Thor tying his hammer to object and launching them into the air and having them land perfectly in a spot he can’t see has always been ridiculous, and this scene with the bus is no exception, especially when you think about the fact that he could have just lifted the bus out of the water. After rescuing the bus, Thor rushes back to his office to turn back into Dr. Blake only to find himself chewed out by his nurse, Jane, for bailing on his patients for mysterious reasons. While I can understand that have a secret identity can help add tension to a story, with a character like Thor is just doesn’t make much sense.

The issue then cuts away to a museum opening up Merlin’s coffin and being shocked to find him perfectly preserved. Naturally, they decide to leave the room to discuss this discovery, because to Lee this would make perfect sense. It is also at this point that I really started getting a sense of déjà vu, because soon Merlin begins to stir and it is revealed that he wasn’t really dead, but instead merely took a potion that would make it appear that he was. The reason this felt familiar is because it was the same exact plot with the Mad Pharaoh in Tales of Suspense.

Anyways we are soon treated to another weakness of Lees, which is basically have characters talk to themselves about what their own powers are. This is exactly what Merlin does, who soon reveals that he isn’t really a magician, but rather a mutant that has the power of levitation and telepathy, although later on he clearly shows off the power of telekinesis and teleportation. Anyways, naturally now that he’s in modern times Merlin wants to assume power once again and thus heads to the White House to confront the president.

This eventually leads to a confrontation with Thor, which was entertaining, but it is also another flaw. During this confrontation, Merlin launches the Washington Monument at Thor, brings the statue of Abraham Lincoln to life and drops the Pentagon on him and yet the results were not only no damage to Thor, but no damage to the monuments as Thor is able to not only save them, but put them back in their place. This leads to another lackluster ending. I mean seriously this is a constant theme over and over again in this series, which really makes it hard to feel that anything is at stake because by the end everything will be back to normal.

In the end, Journey Into Mystery #96 is an entertaining and cheesy issue that ultimately does not add anything to the overall series or progress Thor’s character in anyway.

Rating: 2.5/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Joe Sinnott
  • Inkers: Joe Sinnott
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors:

Strange Tales #109 (06/10/1963)

detailbbStrange Tales #109 features The Sorcerer, a strange and reclusive old man who likes to dabble in black magic. One day the Human Torch runs across The Sorcerer trying to scare some kids off his property with his dogs. Naturally, the Human Torch prevents him from doing so and The Sorcerer swears that he will get his revenge, and rob a few banks along the way.

I have to say in this issue the Human Torch kind of comes off as a major asshole and he kind of bullies The Sorcerer, which kind of makes him a sympathetic character (minus the whole bank robbing). I mean he seriously set the guy’s yard on fire when technically the guy hadn’t done anything wrong. On the plus side, this issue has an interesting take on Pandora’s box was interesting and Kirby’s imps were drawn very-well.

In the end, Strange Tales #109 is a slightly subpar issue with an ultimately forgettable plot and villain and little to no character development.

Rating: 2.5/5.0

Creators:

  • Editor:
  • Cover Artists:
  • Writers: Stan Lee, Robert Bernstein
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Martin Epp

Tales to Astonish #42 (04/10/1963)

detail11.jpgTales to Astonish #42 once again contains another Ant-Man story, which features him going against the deadly and incredibly sinister Jason Cragg! Just kidding, we’re talking about Ant-Man here, so clearly a lame villain must be involved, and Jason Cragg is certainly that. Apparently, his appearance is inspired by Rutherford Hayes. Also, his power is he has the ability to control people by talking to them, a power that he got through a microphone that had radiation coursing through it.

For some reason Jason Cragg decides that Ant-Man needs to be taken out and therefore he decides to turn the residents of Center City, which has not yet been changed to New York City, against Ant-Man. Best I can tell he is doing this just because he can, because it’s not like he could’ve been doing other things with his voice (like talking to supermodels)! In the end this is yet another tale that is really hampered by a villain that comes off as laughable. Seriously, Ant-Man’s rogue gallery thus far really sucks! Outside of possibly Egghead (which is saying a lot)!

As has previously been the case, Ant-Man’s tale shares space with two other stories. The first tale, “The Eyes of the Mummy,” is a pretty standard mummy curse type tale and is a fun read. The second story, “I am not Human,” which is the more interesting of the two, features a robot who decides to disguise himself as a human being and discovers that it may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

Rating: 2.5/5.0

Creators:

  • Editor:
  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers
  • Writers: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber
  • Pencilers: Don Heck
  • Inkers: Don Heck
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek

 

 

Tales to Astonish #39 (01/10/1963)

detail8.jpgTales to Astonish #39 features another Ant-Man story. This time there is unrest in the world of insects, as the Scarlet Beetle convinces them to go to war against human kind. The only thing standing in their way is Ant-Man and his legion of ants. And, yes, the Scarlet Beetle is an actual beetle that has been imbued with super intelligence due to being exposed to radiation. Thus the Scarlet Beetle is able to steal Ant-Man enlarging and shrinking gas and cause himself to become a huge beetle, will huge relative to the normal size of a beetle.

I have to admit this story is a little weird, and by a little I actually mean a lot. I mean we are talking about a super smart beetle trying to take over the world. However, the fight scenes between Ant-Man and the ants and the Scarlet Beetle and the other insects is pretty entertaining, especially when it moves into a toy store. Although, through the benefit of hindsight, using all that DDT might have unexpected consequences later on down the line.

Keeping with the series tradition this issue also features two other stories, once again very Twilight Zone-like. The first story, “Ozamm the Terrible,” which features a seemingly all powerful alien bent on conquering the world and is a pretty serviceable story. The second story, “The Toy Soldiers,” features a visitor from the sixth dimension trying to take three dimensional prisoners, which has an unexplained twist that doesn’t work for me

Rating: 2.5/5.0

Creators:

  • Editor:
  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers
  • Writers: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek

Strange Tales #103 (12/01/1962)

detail3Houses are mysteriously sinking in a swampy area, even as they are being reinforced to prevent that, although I’m not sure why they would be building in a swamp in the first place.  Soon the Human Torch stumbles upon a plot involving a dictator, Zemu,  from the 5th Dimension planning on invading the Earth. It is up to the Human Torch to stop the invasion.

Overall Strange Tales #103 is one of the better issues so far, which is not saying much. Again, in this issue the artwork is fine, even if the 5th dimension residents aren’t very imaginative. However, the story has it’s problem, but thankfully the whole secret identity isn’t one of them. Probably the biggest issue is the fact that 5th dimension’s weapons are fireproof, which is a weird thing to do, unless they were preparing specifically for the Human Torch. If that’s the case then this story makes no sense.

In the end, Strange Tales #103 is an okay issue, but you’re not going to be missing anything if you don’t read it.

Rating: 2.5/5.0

Creators:

  • Editor: Stan Lee
  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby
  • Writers: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Dick Ayers
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek