Tales of Suspense (Vol. 1) #43

Credits:

“Iron Man Versus Kala, Queen of the Netherworld!”

Cover Date: July 1963

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Robert Bernstein (credited as R. Berns)

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Don Heck

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers

What’s Going On?

Tony Stark is trapped by mysterious forces and brought safely to an underground base in the center of the Earth! There, he meets Kala, Queen of the Netherworld.

Her people have developed advanced weapons and want to conquer the surface world, but they need Stark’s help to devise a way to get those weapons topside.

If he helps Kala, humanity is doomed. If he doesn’t, she will surely have him (and a couple of his scientist buddies) executed. What will he do?

Is It Good?

It’s silly enough to be entertaining, but it’s not very good. This is only Iron Man’s fourth appearance —- did we really need a science fiction remix of his origin story?

Sub-Plots:

  • Faced with death if he does not comply, Stark pretends to go along with Kala.

  • Baxu, the Netherworld’s military leader, does not support an attack on the surface world. He also loves (well, lusts after) Kala.

  • Stark’s secret plan was to build a duplicate set of Iron Man armor and take the fight to Kala!

  • Iron Man overcomes the Netherworldian weapons with ease. He then takes Kala to the surface world, where she discovers that the atmosphere has rapidly aged her. She agrees to not attack the surface world in exchange for returning to her underground realm, where she can regain her youthful appearance.

Continuity:

  • This is the first appearance of Kala, Baxu, and the Netherworlders.
  • The Netherworlders are an offshoot if ancient Atlantean society.
  • Kala’s explanation of Atlantis’ fate —- a society/city on the surface of the Earth that sank —- appears to contradict Namor’s history (in Fantastic Four Annual #1). Namor’s explanation was that Altanteans evolved into an aquatic species early in Earth’s history, and built their civilization underwater.

  • Iron Man apparently has ventriloquism powers.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • I cannot get enough of this era’s clothing-style Iron Man armor. It looks like he’s putting on a Halloween costume.

  • Tony Stark has to build new armor in the Netherworld workshop. It’s nice to see that he took the time to paint this new armor gold and let it dry before he took the offensive.

  • Overthrowing governments and installing sympathetic dictatorships: an American pastime.

  • A reverse-energy beam? So…it’s a beam that shoots “reverse energy,” or does it reverse the energy of whatever it hits? Either way, I think we can agree that Stan Lee is not a scientist.

  • Atomic…bullets? What does that even mean?

  • How advanced can this underground civilization be? They can be fooled by mirrors.

  • Stark invented nuclear-powered clippers to tunnel up to the Earth’s surface. This is why you always carry scissors with you when you go underground.

  • You would think that the Netherworlders would be stronger on the surface world, since gravity on the surface would be weaker than it is closer to the Earth’s core. Apparently not! I also like that Kala’s youth returns when she returns to the Netherworld.
  • Baxu says he “refuse[s] to knuckle under to any female,” and that he “hate[s] taking orders from a woman.” Thank goodness Tony “Matchmaker” Stark is here to suggest the misogynist wed the independent woman. This should work well. I, for one, hope Kala murders Baxu.

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • Remember kids: beauty is more important than power. Unless you’re a man.

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