Strange Tales #116 (12/10/1963)

detail.jpgUgh, yet another appearance by the horrid Puppet Master, one of the worst villains in the Marvel Universe. In this issue, the Puppet Master takes control of the Human Torch and has him battle it out with the Thing. Of course, the Thing didn’t think twice that something might be off with the Human Torch coming onto Alicia. I swear in these early issues the heroes seem to forget about villains they face. Also, apparently the Human Torch has the power to go through a jet without harming himself or the jet. Oh well, at least the art was good.

Fortunately, Dr. Strange’s tale more than makes up for the lackluster Human Torch tale. In this issue, Nightmare has developed a way to steal people’s corporeal forms while they are dreaming. It is up to Dr. Strange to travel to the Nightmare World and confront them. What follows is a pretty epic confrontation that puts the Human Torch/Puppet Master to shame. In addition, Ditko’s depiction of the Nightmare World and its denizens is fantastic. Do yourself a favor, skip the Human Torch tale and go straight to the Dr. Strange tale.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Dick Ayers
  • Inkers: George Bell
  • Colourists:
  • Letterers: Ray Holloway
  • Editors: Stan Lee

Tales to Astonish #50 (12/10/1963)

untitled.pngTales to Astonish #50 sees the arrival of yet another lame villain with the arrival of the Human Top, who’s powers are to spin really quickly like a top. Apparently, this villain had been committing petty crimes for a while, but Ant-Man/Giant-Man has now decided that it would be worth stopping him, because one of his ants had apparently sensed where the Human Top was planning to strike next. Unfortunately for Hank Pym, becoming giant does not yield an increase in speed and thus it makes it incredibly hard for him to catch the Human Top. Thus, he goes back to the drawing board to make himself faster.

Overall, this is an okay issue, with nothing particularly special about it, other than it is the first issue to end with a cliffhanger. However, I did have a couple of issues with this story. The first being the ant being able to sense what the villain was going to be able to do in the future being explained simply by the phrase “somehow.” That is just lazy writing. The other issue is retconning Janet’s reasoning for becoming the Wasp from wanting to get revenge for the death of her father to one of being in love with Hank Pym.

In addition this issue features the standard two backup stories, both of which end up being pretty lame. The first, The Secret of Sagattus, explores the relationship between a king and a hunchback. The second, “No Ending,” features a dictator having a repeating bad dream.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists:
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Jack Kirby
  • Inkers: Steve Ditko
  • Colourists:
  • Letterers: Sam Rosen
  • Editors:

Fantastic Four #21 (12/10/1963)

untitled1.pngFantastic Four # 21 contains the story, “The Hate Monger,” which is about the villainous Hate Monger dousing the Fantastic Four with his H-Ray and having them fight against each other. Naturally, the Hate Monger also wants to take over the world. This issue also happens to be the first appearance the Hate Monger, as well as featuring an appearance of Sgt. Fury.

This issue is clearly a product of it’s time, which in this case would be the early 1960s. This time frame was a period of civil unrest in America, and Fantastic Four #21 is clearly a commentary on these issues. The Hate Monger has a H-Ray, which amplifies racial, class, and religious hatred of whoever it is fired upon. It is also pretty clear that Kirby was influenced by the Ku Klux Klan’s outfits when it came to designing the Hate Monger.

Admittedly, how Fantastic Four #21 tackles those issues is pretty tame, but I have to give them credit for at least attempting to within the pages of a comic book. The real identity of the Hate Monger is a pretty choice, which makes sense given the backgrounds of Kirby and Lee. Also, this issue is significant in that this is the first time there is a character to actually die on panel in a Fantastic Four comic, rather than their fate being assumed off panel and not shown, such as with the Puppet Master tripping and falling out the window.

Overall the theme of Fantastic Four #21 really doesn’t lend itself to feeling like a Fantastic Four story. However, this story is worth checking out just to see Kirby and Lee’s views on the unrest of the 1960s that was going on around them.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

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

Avengers #2 (11/10/1963)

detail.jpgAvengers #2 sees the Space Phantom coming to Earth to take out the Avengers, because if he can do that then he apparently that means that nothing would be able to stop his species from conquering the Earth, because apparently the Earth is a highly desirable planet for aliens. At first I have to admit that I was a little leery of having yet another shapeshifting alien trying to conquer the world, but the Space Phantom kind of grew on me as the story progressed. I thought the whole whoever’s form the Space Phantom takes is sent to limbo until  he takes on another form was a very interesting twist on what was becoming an overused gimmick. However, I’m not sold on the Space Phantom’s design, as he looks like a very cheesy Count Dracula.Why the Space Phantom has targeted the Avengers, a newly formed superhero team isn’t really made clear, and doesn’t really make sense given that there is the Fantastic Four, who have been around much longer.

After impersonating the Hulk, the Space Phantom is able to cause the Avengers to basically turn on each other and start fighting amongst each other, which at least provides an excuse for some fun fights between the heroes. Unfortunately, the story is dragged down by the interjection of Rick Jones and the Teen Brigade. In addition, the story ends on an extremely weak note, especially when you consider the fact that the Space Phantom is an alien, which makes the ending make even less sense.

Also, having the members of the Avengers have secret identities between them just makes no sense and is a bit of a stretch that they wouldn’t be able to figure this out. And while I’m at it, the interactions between them at the beginning was just not really written that well, and that’s not to mention Lee’s handling of Wasp. Seriously, does every female character have to be guy crazy?

In the end, probably the biggest takeaway from this issue is that the Hulk decides to part from the Avengers as a result of the encounter. The story is mediocre at best and the resolution of the conflict really, really hurts the issue. Also, fun error in the issue, the Hulk’s secret identity is mixed up with that of Thor’s.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

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

 

 

Tales to Astonish #49 (11/10/1963)

detail19.jpgAfter having witnessed the awful villain known as the Porcupine, I was really worried when the cover of Tales to Astonish #49 featured the Human Eraser. Luckily this villain is not nearly as bad as the Porcupine is. The reason being is that while it looks like he is erasing people, what he really is doing is transporting to Dimension Z, which definitely saves this character. However clearly the whole “erasing” aspect of this character does not work. Anyways, the character is transporting scientists to Dimension Z because they want them to build an atomic weapon, so at least that’s better motivation than wanting to become a criminal and famous.

In addition to featuring the Human Eraser, this issue also features the first appearance of Giant-Man, another one of Hank Pym’s many, many identities through the years. I think having Pym developing a whole bunch of different gas canisters that can change him to various sizes will help to shake things up and make it a little more interesting. Although I’m curious, when he shrinks down he keeps the same strength, wouldn’t that be the case when he grows big? If so, wouldn’t he be extremely weak as Giant-Man relative to his big size?

Breaking from the usual pattern, this issue only features one backup story, “The End of the World.” This story features a ruler who wants to leave his name in history by creating a bomb that can blow up an entire galaxy, which ends up being pretty entertaining.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

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

Journey Into Mystery #98 (11/10/1963)

bbJourney Into Mystery #98 sees the fallout from Jane Foster leaving Dr. Blake’s practice in the last issue. Thus, this issue open up with Thor basically throwing a temper tantrum before being summoned by Odin for what really was a pointless encounter. After Dr. Blake decides that he needs to take a vacation, the scene shifts to India and the lab of Professor Shecktor, where he and his assistant about discover the antidote for a snake bite. Apparently, his assistant decides he wants to take credit for the discover himself and decides to get a cobra to bite him and the professor, but only he will be able to take the antidote in time. I’m not really sure why Klaus thought that such a discovery would be a big deal or why he needed such a complex plot.

Anyways, it turns out the snake was radioactive and thus that factor, combined with the antidote he took, causes him to gain the powers of a cobra. Unfortunately after this point the story falls completely apart, starting with Thor arriving to Professor Shecktor’s side, who he knows naturally, and he’s informed of Klaus’ deeds and that Klaus is basically a worthless con. However, flash forward to when Thor actually catches up to him and the Cobra has basically developed his own stingers, indestructible cord, and gas canisters. Not too bad for a worthless con.

Probably the biggest problem with this issue is that the Cobra just does not come off as ever being an actual threat to Thor. He’s just not in his league in anyway. In addition, another fault with this issue is that the resolution between Jane and Dr. Blake occurs way too fast and it occurs out-of-sight, which I can’t fathom why they did that. In addition, to the main story, there’s another short story featuring Tales from Asgard, which features Odin taking on Ymir, the frost giant. This story was entertaining for what it was, but it’s way too short to have too much depth to it. Still, Odin splitting a mountain is just badass.

In the end, Journey Into Mystery #97 is an entertaining read, with villain that feels out of place and a really poor ending. Also, I can’t tell, but it looks like the Cobra basically flies at one point. Maybe not, but that’s sure what it looks like, which doesn’t help things in regards to resolution of the conflict.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

  • Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, George Roussos
  • Writers: Stan Lee
  • Pencilers: Don Heck
  • Inkers: Don Heck
  • Colorists:
  • Letterers: Artie Simek
  • Editors:

Journey Into Mystery #97 (10/10/1963)

detailJourney 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.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

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