Journey into Mystery #86

"On The Trail of the Tomorrow Man"

 

CMRO#17
Journey into Mystery #86
November 1962

Written by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Dick Ayers

The fantastic world of Thor meets science-fiction this month as our Asgardian prince battles it out with a madman from a utopian future who—having to access to weapons, and presumably the materials of which are needed to build them(?)—sets out to steal a nuclear warhead from the Americans in 1962. Okay, sure, I buy it… but more because I’m a sucker for science-fiction. And you know what? Mashing it in here with Thor instead of the Fantastic Four actually works wonders for both the plot and the character himself (even though Thor chases our villain through time by, you know, spinning a hammer really fast like we all do from time to time.) All in all, it’s been a rocky start for Thor (warning, saying this out loud may cause confusion), but with each issue, both the stories and the hero have been developing into something truly original and inspired. This one says it all. A thrilling read. All thanks to those anti-missile missiles, of course! Oh, and Odin makes a fittingly awesome debut appearance here too. Check it out.

MY SCORE: 5.5 (out of 10)

03.08.11

Fantastic Four #8

"Prisoner of the Puppet Master!"


CMRO#20
The Fantastic Four #8
November 1962

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Dick Ayers
Colours by Stan Goldberg

Though not the best the series has seen thus far, this month’s outing for theFour is an important one—perhaps more than any other since their debut—in that it makes do on its promise to deliver human characters as well as superheroes and villains. Of course, this most blatantly comes into play with everyone’s favouritefreak, Ben Grimm, but also kind of sweet is the interplay between the other three and Ben that hammers home their already tangible chemistry. 

Providing our source of antagonistic folly this week is The Puppetmaster, another madman, this time with the power of voodoo dolls at his disposal. Interesting themes of control and megalomania permeate his character, but it’s perhaps his adopted daughter that provides the story with its central source of significance when she rather sweetly falls for Thing, because, well, she’s blind as a bat and accepts him for who he is on the inside. Aw, shucks. 

MY SCORE: 6.5 (out of 10) 

04.08.11

Tales of Suspense #39

"Iron Man Is Born!"


CMRO#42
Tales of Suspense #39
March 1963

Written by Stan Lee & Larry Lieber
Pencils by Don Heck
Inks by Don Heck
Colours by Stan Goldberg 

Out with the old, in with the new. March 1963 saw the end of the premature Incredible Hulk series, and in turn envisioned a brand new character by the name of Iron Man. Of course by now in 2011, everyone and their grandmother know who Iron Man is, but as far as origin stories go, this one was a pretty solid beginning for Stark. There are some rough patches here and there (the usual Lieber and Lee shtick of the hero overcoming odds with cunning rather than pure brawn works at odds with a guy seemingly working inside an iron suit), most notably in Don Heck’s somewhat ambiguous, murky art, but generally Iron Man's beginnings here are a good read and leave a lot of room for interesting characterisation that may build upon the “tragic” side of Stark's empowerment.


WONG-CHU NO LIKEY ENGLISH GRAMMAR. WONG-CHU NO SEE IRON MAN BEFORE.

MY SCORE: 5.5 (out of 10) 

13.08.11

Strange Tales #110

"The Human Torch Versus the Wizard and Paste-Pot Pete!"
"Dr. Strange Master of Black Magic!"

 

CMRO#59
Strange Tales #110
July 1963

Written by Stan Lee (Parts 1 & 2) and H.E. Huntley (Part 1)
Pencils by Dick Ayers (Part 1) and Steve Ditko (Part 2)
Inks by Dick Ayers (Part 1) and Steve Ditko (Part 2)

This is the second issue that H.E. Huntley has been involved in since his debut in the impressively inventive Tales to Astonish #44, and coincidentally, is also a “double length” feature! Focusing primarily on Huntley’s output here however which lies exclusively in Torch’s solo adventure taking up the majority of the book, things are a little more straight forward and run-of-the-mill. To its credit, Stan and Huntley resurrect Storm’s biggest foe yet, The Wizard, but much to everyone’s chagrin, he’s teaming up with someone I never thought I’d see again; Paste-Pot Pete.

Thankfully though, much of this issue sees Pete relegated to more of a comedic, somewhat pathetic dog-like character that bows to the whim of his master, The Wizard—and rightfully so. It makes for an interesting duo that are passively at odds with each others’ egos and works a lot better than having Pete on display himself. Wizard himself is played down a lot more in this issue too—his seemingly boundless intelligence is never truly referenced here, and his overall look is more that of a brute thug than that of a scientist or inventor. Nevertheless, much of this adventure for Johnny is pretty middle of the road and never truly achieves anything remarkable. Which is shame, considering how much of a difference Huntley made to the stagnant Ant-Man character.

THEN. We have this:

And boom just like that, out of the blue, Stan and Ditko create yet another iconic character… AS A FOOTNOTE. Strange, indeed. But then, they probably couldn’t get the project off the ground and sell it as it’s own separate entity, which is why they must have concluded that Strange Tales would be a good a home as any for the debut of a guy called Dr. Strange. Metaphysics, dream-dimensions, spiritual transcendence and evils manifest as nightmare—all this before The Beatles made it popular three years down the line, and done in the brooding, fantastic art styling of Steve Ditko. Strange, strange, strange, but brilliant, brilliant, brilliant all the same.

MY SCORE: 4.0 (Part 1) : 7.0 (Part 2) : 5.5/10

22.08.11

Tales to Astonish #47

"Music to Scream By"

CMRO#80
Tales to Astonish #47
September 1963

Written by Stan Lee & H.E. Huntley
Pencils by Don Heck
Inks by Don Heck

It’s time to get psychedelic, readers, as Ant-Man and The Wasp prepare for their battle with hypnotic trumpet player, Trago. In what is best described as something of an issue inspired by the subject matter at hand—jazz music—this latest adventure for Pym and his trusty sidekick is right hoot. Despite having some large coincidences in story-telling typical of these Silver Age comics, the majority of Lee and Huntley’s tale here is a-typical and bizarre in all the right ways. Also deliberately striking is Don Heck’s art style which stays true to his usual line-based drawings but also implements a little abstract notion here and there that really drives home the dissonant themes of the issue. All in all, a great self-contained story that develops character, gives the reader a neat little story with an original villain that’s not completely ridiculous, and some gorgeous art to feast the eyes upon. Another stand-out for Ant-Man and The Wasp, for sure.

MY SCORE: 5.5 (Out of 10) 

04.09.11

Fantastic Four #19

"Prisoners of the Pharoah!"


CMRO#82
The Fantastic Four #19
October 1963

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Dick Ayers

Stan goes mad with time travel, hieroglyphics, paradoxes and all sorts of science fiction this month as The Fantastic Four go back in time to try and recover an ancient vial presumed to have a radioactive cure for blindness. What they don’t count on however is that they’d already been beaten to the chase by a mad scientist from the year 3000 who, sick of his utopian civilisation, opted to travel back in time to rule and conquer all for a bit of fun. Sure, it’s a bit silly, but it’s also a lot of fun too. On the plus side, Lee never takes any vast liberties with his leaps of logic to the point where the story crumbles—you just have to accept the low-level Star Trek-esque (of course, this was 3 years before Captain Kirk even graced TV screens) sci-fi concepts being thrown around in order to enjoy it. Not the best story for The FF by any means, but with some neat time travel shenanigans and characterisation, there have certainly been worse than what we get here.

MY SCORE: 5.5 (out of 10)

06.09.11

Strange Tales #117

The Return of the Eel!”
"The Terrible Traps of Baron Mordo!"

 

CMRO#108
Strange Tales #117
February 1964

Written by Stan Lee
Pencils by Dick Ayers (Steve Ditko on Part 2)
Inks by Dick Ayers (Steve Ditko on Part 2)

So I only read Strange Tales #112 about 3 weeks ago, but already I can’t seem to remember just who this Eel guy is. Oh right, yeah, I gave that comic 2.5/10, maybe that has something to do with it? Nevertheless, all confusion aside regarding why everyone is making a big deal out of someone I can’t even remember coming back, this latest issue of Strange Tales is innocuous enough to get by, but once again I suspect will be one not readily remembered down the line. In it The Eel plans to steal riches from less than obvious places, that is until Johnny catches on the mastermind and tricks him through means we’ve seen a few times before elsewhere. It all comes to a pretty standard end after a helicopter equipped with auto-pilot, jets of water and laughing gas gives Eel away and off he goes sliding back to his prison cell on a trail of asbestos grease.

At the other end of the issue we have yet another tale involving the mystic Dr. Strange who this time finds himself once again at odds with Baron Mordo; the troublesome student of The Ancient One that transports Strange and his entire house into another crazy dimension as means to get him out the way while he attempts to overthrow his master. Just like the previous instalment, much of the enjoyment here derives purely from Steve Ditko’s wonderfully abstract and psychedelic style that punctuates every piece of Stan’s bizarre narrative perfectly. Unfortunately however, still limited to eight pages, the story never gets the space it requires to be truly inventive. I look forward to the day when Johnny gets to play second-place to far superior tales of Dr. Strange.


MY SCORE: 5.5/10 (Part 1: 4.0 / Part 2: 7.5/10)

26.09.11