Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Still I am Mightiest of Them All!" Part 4.

Continuing my glacially-paced look back at a randomly-chosen run of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Mighty Thor #'s 144-168 (1967-69).

#147 picks up where the last couple of issues left off, with the now-less-than-godlike Thor in deep doo-doo with the police in the aftermath of the botched Giant Golden Bull Caper, in which the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime hypnotized him into trying to steal a huge statue from a museum. Pinned by gunfire from the cops (and I'd imagine in his de-powered state, a slug could be fatal), he picks the golden bull back up (and off the trapped Princess Python), carries it laboriously back to its resting place, and surrenders peacefully. The Princess (who seemed to be crushing a bit on Goldilocks) pleads with them not to arrest him, "He's innocent!" she proclaims...but she's also making noise so her giant python can find her and carry her down to the street below the museum, where the Ringmaster and the other Circus members await. The last time we see them, they're hauling ass out of town, claiming it was Thor's fault their plan went all pear-shaped. Meanwhile, the Thunder God is taken downtown and booked...and he even gives up his hammer.

Change of scenery now, as we go to somewhere else in the universe, and find none other than good old Loki, in exile, on a big interconnected asteroid/barren rock-like thing. He helpfully muses to himself (and us, of course) that even though Odin sentenced him to eternal exile on that barren planetoid, he knows that the big guy is a sap and won't leave him there for much longer. And sure enough, on the very next page, Loki feels "stirrings" and disappears, rematerializing in Asgard, in front of Odin. The somewhat random All-Father tells Loki that he is also merciful as well as vengeful, and if Loki promises to be a good boy from now on, then he is free to go (since, after all, if Loki stays on the rock, then Stan and Jack can't use him in new stories!). Loki, in his best Jon Lovitz voice (that's who I'd cast in the role in the Thor movie), promises to be a good boy from now on (you may roll eyes) just as Sif and Balder burst in, and call Odin out on his decision. Now, if we've learned one thing in these last four issues, it P-I-S-S-E-S Odin off when people question his judgement, no matter how cockeyed nuts it may be, so he gets all uppity and reminds them that Thor stepped up to him too, and got depowered and stranded on Earth for his trouble. Sif and Balder take the hint and leave, and Loki slinks off chewing on this new morsel of information about his hated stepbrother. He decides to head to Earth and deliver a little payback to the Thunder God C.O.D. for all the ass-whippings he's suffered in the past.

Meanwhile, in his jail cell, Thor is sitting and talking to his cellmate when the cellmate begins to mess with him, suspecting he's really a plant, a spy of some sort. He even thump's Thor's helmet off his head! (The other prisoners are wearing jumpsuits, Thor gets to wear his costume for some reason, including his hat) Thor does not appreciate this at all, and hoists the con up in the air in order to perform a yea verily beatdown on his butt when he is interrupted by a guard- someone has stood Thor's bail, and he's free to go! As he reclaims his hammer and signs his release, he asks to meet his benefactor, and is greeted by a slim, familiar looking fellow in a fedora and cool shades (kinda resembling Speed Racer's Inspector Detector), who states that he's not interested in gratitude, and will explain his reasons in his car as they leave. As they drive three cars wide on the freeway, Thor puts two and two together and realizes that the man is, you guessed it, Loki- and they proceed to indulge in your basic five-page Lee/Kirby slugfest, with a god-powered Loki beating the crap out of valiant and strong, but mortal, Thor. Much grandiose soliloquizing and shattering of brick walls happens in these five pages, until they are interrupted just in time by Balder and Sif, who have decided to defy Odin and beam down to Earth to help their (boy)friend. Odin looks down and sees what hath transpired, and once more is P-I-S-S-E-D (I wonder if Norse Gods have anger management therapists?) O-F-F, firing a beam of mysterious power down to the planet below. Next month: "LET THERE BE CHAOS!"

The second part of the Inhumans backfeature is quite interesting. The robotic Kree Sentry is shown visiting the city of Attilan, just after their king Randac has exposed himself for the first time to the Terragen Mists. The Sentry was set by the Kree to watch the city, and appear to them when they become advanced enough. As they await his fate, the Sentry informs them that their people were granted superior intelligence by his masters, which explains the reasons why to their satisfaction. Turns out he, too, is there to find out how the mists have affected their monarch. Just then, he arrives and demonstrates, firing a powerful, but ineffective, force blast at the giant robot. The Sentry observes that the mists have given him power beyond any other human, and shall henceforth be referred to as...Inhuman! Randac, for his part, vows to expose the other subjects to the mists, and will live in the Great Refuge. Satisfied with this, he admonishes Randac to tell his people to use their powers wisely, because if the Kree ever does return, they may "meet as...deadly foes". The Sentry departs, "never again to be seen by...the Inhumans". And thus concludes...Thor #147!

Comments: I will say that after the mundane Ringmaster two-parter, the return to the more cosmic godstuff was welcome. Ironically, though, that whole juxtaposition of the ordinary Earthstuff, the reactions of the man on the street to Thor and his friends (well illustrated by this issue's prison scenes, as well as the sight of Thor and Loki driving off in a car), was to me one of the most interesting things about the whole series. I guess, though, that there are only so many double-takes by Joe Blow on the street that one can do before routine sets in, which probably explains the shift to more grandiose story ideas beginning soon. Besides, I'm sure Stan and Jack both realized that the Ringmaster and his cronies didn't belong in this milieu, and that whole thing just smacked of "We need to ground Thor a bit, let's try this", and it wasn't altogether successful, even though I liked Kirby's slimy, reptilian rendition of the Ringmaster. Also, I will hand it to Vince Colletta for a not-bad inking job this time out. Of course, unless one owns a whole set of Kirby Collectors in which a page or three from this might have appeared in penciled form, showing what he left out, we'll never know for sure what might have been.

Next time, we find out exactly what mojo Odin hath cast this time, and how it affects our quartet of battling gods.

No comments: