Tales of Suspense #48 (12/10/1963)

xx.jpgTales of Suspense #48 features the first appearance of Mr. Doll, who may just be the worst villain up to this point. I’m not a big fan of the Puppet Master to begin with and Mr. Doll is just a poor man’s version of that villain, with an even lazier backstory of having stolen a voodoo doll in Africa. Also, his powers make no sense. He changes the doll to be able to control the victim. Fine, but how does changing the doll’s face to that of Iron Man control him? It’s an iron suit and not his actual face.

Beyond this poorly thought out and obviously lazy attempt at a villain, the story itself also makes no sense. Mr. Doll is controlling wealthy individuals to sign over the assets to him, because financial institutions are going to accept someone called Mr. Doll. Also, it seems like Mr. Doll needs to be in the presence of his victims. Finally, the way Iron Man defeats Mr. Doll was beyond stupid.

In the end the only saving grace of this issue is the introduction of Iron Man’s classic red and gold armor. Also, Steve Ditko’s accompanying panels of him putting on the new armor was just awesome. Great stuff, too bad the rest of the issue is crap.

Rating: 1.0/5.0

Creators:

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

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 of Suspense #46 (11/10/1963)

detailThe Tales of Suspense series is on a bit of a roll in regards to the quality of villains. Last issue featured the Crimson Dynamo, while Tales of Suspense #47 features the first appearance of the Melter. In fact this issue wastes no time, pretty much opening with Tony Stark getting cold cocked by the Melter. After which, there’s an awkwardly placed flashback to the Melter’s origin. It turns out that the Melter is really Bruno Horgan, a competitor of Stark’s who went out of business due to Stark exposing his use of inferior materials. Thus, the Melter, who has the interesting power to melt metal via a beam, has decided to sabotage Stark’s own contracts.

I like the fact that the Melter has a personal connection with Stark and deeper motivation than just the generic I want to take over the world. However, the Melter’s design is just goofy. Why does he need a cape? Despite the goofy design, Melter definitely comes off as a credible threat to Iron Man. In fact their first encounter had a pretty cool image of Iron Man’s arm being melted off. Great stuff. I also, liked the fact that the encounter also caused Tony Stark to start doubting himself if he would be able to beat someone who has the power to melt metal. In addition, I also like that this issue also shows repercussions of the sabotaging, with the Congress informing Stark that he needs to get his act together.

For all the positives, the ending of this issue just doesn’t do it for me. It just seems incredibly anticlimactic to me. However, despite this flaw, Strange Tales #46 is still a fun read and features a great villain. Hopefully this trend continues on into the next issue as well.

Rating: 4.0/5.0

Creators:

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

Tales of Suspense #46 (10/10/1963)

detailnnmTales to Suspense #46 is definitely a throwback to the Cold War Era. This issue opens up behind the Iron Curtain with Nikita Khrushchev walking in to see what the Soviet’s top scientist in electricity, Professor Anton Vanko, has been up to. Well, it turns out that Professor Vanko has been up to is creating a suit that can manipulate electrical components via what is admittedly a pretty badass suit, almost like a walking EMP. Naturally Khrushchev views this as a potential way of getting rid of Stark and Iron Man and setting the Americans back in the military technology. While effectively showing, versus just telling a villain’s powers, this intro also really highlights that this issue is a product of the ’60s, with Khrushchev really portrayed in a cowardly and deceitful light.

Eventually, the Crimson Dynamo makes his way the U.S. and begins to sabotaging Stark’s plants all across the United States, which begins to threaten Stark’s contracts with the U.S. government. This was by far the best part of the issue and I wish that more time had been spent developing this part of the story, such as having Stark actually trying to figure out what was happening and having to answer to Congress for what was going on. However, as is often the case in these early issues, the need to cram a whole story into one issue often causes the pacing to be way too fast.

In addition to pacing issues, the confrontation between Iron Man and the Crimson Dynamo was wholly unsatisfactory, as Iron Man comes off way too well prepared for having to never encountered this person before and the method used to stop the Crimson Dynamo was way to big of a stretch. Also, the ending was also pretty anti-climatic and really comes off as a propagandist piece.

In the end, Tales of Suspense #46 is a pretty solid issue that is dragged down a bit by Cold War propaganda, which leads to characters being boiled down to simplistic good and bad terms. Despite the flawed encounter, the Crimson Dynamo is definitely one of the better Iron Man villains up to this point.

Rating 3.5/5.0

Creators:

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

Tales of Suspense #45 (09/10/1963)

detailTales of Suspense #45 opens in an almost James Bond-like way, with Iron Man jetting along the highway on his rocket skates because he late to participate in a racing event as Tony Stark. I have to admit, I’m still not used to see Iron Man skating every where versus, you know, flying. Anyways, eventually Iron Man reaches Tony Stark’s car out in the middle of the woods for some reason and is off to the race track. Unfortunately, in the middle of the race Stark realizes that his battery is winding down on his life-saving chest plate, which causes him to crash his car somehow. Naturally, Stark the car then catches fire and is endanger of blowing up, Hollywood style.

Lucky for Stark, Happy Hogan was on the scene to yank him out of the car before it’s too late. Naturally, facing the dilemma of having to explain his chest plate to any medical responders, Stark offers to pay Hogan off to take him to his hotel room, no questions asked. While some people may have a problem with the plausibility of this part of the plot, this actually makes sense given Stark’s social economic class. Anyways, instead of accepting payment, Hogan is able to convince Stark to give him a job, and this where things get weird, because, really, a really long way of introducing the supporting character of Hogan, this part of the story really does not relate in away to the other part of the story.

Anyways, the story eventually picks back up at Stark’s lab, where we’re introduced to Pepper Potts, who at this time is pretty much a carbon copy of Jane Foster, which means that she, of course, has an unrequited love for her boss. Really, one thing that stands out to me at this point in the reading order is that Lee is an inability to write a strong and interesting female character. In addition to introducing the reader to Potts, the reader is also introduced to Professor Gregor Shapanka, who is caught trying to break into Stark’s vault and thus is fired and removed from the premises. Naturally, after a very oddly written interaction between Stark and Shapanka, he vows vengeance on Stark.

This of course leads to a bizarre origin sequence and the creation of Jack Frost, which makes no sense, but at least it ends with one of Iron Man’s better villains thus far. Jack Frost, aside from the horrible name, has interesting powers, which is basically a suit that allows him to produce and manipulate ice, as well as preventing aging, for some reason. From here on the story issue is pretty entertaining, paint-by-numbers affair, which includes another trapdoor. I seriously think Lee must have had some weird kind of fascination with trapdoors.

In the end, Tales of Suspense #45 is an average issue that is also worth checking for the first appearances of Potts and Hogan, who are two important supporting characters in the Iron Man series.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

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

Avengers #1 (09/10/1963)

mmAvengers #1 tells the tale of how the Avengers came to be, although how that story unfolds might come off as a bit of a surprise and then a disappointment to most people, because this story has all kinds of problems going on with it. This issue opens up with a very familiar way, which is namely Loki, yet again, looking for revenge on Thor from afar. If the opening is familiar, the panels depicting  Loki’s eyes floating across the Earth in search of a way to threaten Thor was pretty cool. Eventually, Loki spots the Hulk and it is short work for the god of mischief to create an incident that causes the Hulk to be painted in bad light. Up to this point, while being overly familiar, the Hulk rampaging would be a pretty significant threat to Thor.

However, the scene shifts to the Teen Brigade, who sends out a call via ham radio to the Fantastic Four to help. The Teen Brigade is just a little bit too much Silver Age cheesiness for their own good. Hopefully they don’t make too many more appearance. Anyways, eventually the Teen Brigade’s call reaches the ears of Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp, while the Fantastic Four decided to pass on it, based on the fact that Mr. Fantastic somehow knows the call will be answered by others. Eventually they all converge on the Teen Brigades headquarters, I guess? Although Thor is soon tricked into going back to Asgard to confront Loki.

The issue the cuts to the Hulk pretending to be a robot dressed as a clown juggling circus animals in a circus. First of, not only is this is just beyond goofy, but just plain comes out to nowhere. This also highlights the problem with the early Hulk, which is what kind of Hulk are we getting? Hulk with Banner’s mind? Dumb Hulk? Hulk that changes during day and night? I couldn’t say because this issue doesn’t make it clear, although the fact that he was able to come with a plan to hide suggests there is some Banner present. Eventually, the reader is treated to a confrontation between Hulk and Iron Man, Ant-Man, and the Wasp, as well as a confrontation between Thor and Loki and some trolls. Both of these battles are pretty cool and are definitely a positive for this issue.

Unfortunately, the battles aren’t enough to make up for the weak conclusion of this issue. First off, it’s starting to become apparent that Lee has a hard time wrapping up a battle in a satisfactory way. In addition, there is a complete lack of rationale for the heroes to form a team. It’s almost like Lee forgot to lay the ground work for why the heroes would want to team up until the last couple of panels of the issue. Also, the Wasp is not treated well in this issue at all and is the target of a lot of sexist comments from Ant-Man. Still, this issue is worth checking out just for the historical significance of the issue. Beyond that and the battles there isn’t much to recommend about this issue.

Rating: 3.0/5.0

Creators:

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

 

Tales of Suspense #44 (08/10/1963)

detail.jpgIn Tales of Suspense #44 Tony Stark heads to Egypt to assist an archeologist friend with excavating the tomb Hatap, the Mad Pharaoh. Naturally, it turns out that Hatap is actually still alive and forces Stark to go back in time with him to defeat Cleopatra and claim the kingdom of Egypt.

Unfortunately, while the basic idea sounds cool, the execution of the story is poorly done. From the opening with the reporter pestering Tony Stark about whether or not he would be able to bang Cleopatra to Hatap waking up and immediately knowing how long he has been asleep and having knowledge of English, this story was so poorly thoughts out. Plus, why would Iron Man fight against the Romans? Didn’t he just technically change history? Also, some of his gadgets are just too much, I’m looking at you little wheels and rocket head.

In the end Tales to Astonish #44 is definitely the worst issue in the series, and probably one of the worst issues in the chronological order so far. You would not be missing much if you passed on this issue.

Rating: 1.0/5.0

Creators:

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