Journey Into Mystery (Vol. 1) #96

Credits:

Cover Date: September 1963

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Sol Brodsky

“Defying the Magic of…Mad Merlin!”

Plotter: Stan Lee

Scripter: Robert Bernstein (credited as R. Berns)

Penciller: Joe Sinnott

Inker: Joe Sinnott

 

What’s Going On?

The crypt of Merlin, the famous magician from Arthurian legend, has been found and shipped to New York City. Little do the researchers know that Merlin is not actually dead at all; once his crypt is opened, Merlin rises, alive and well!

Merlin immediately leaves and plots on ways to become a key advisor/political puppet master for the president of the United States. When Thor happens to foil Merlin’s initial plot, Merlin challenges him to a duel. Can the God of Thunder possibly defeat a historically great sorcerer?

Is It Good?

Just in case you’re keeping track, yes, last month’s Tales of Suspense also featured an evil magician’s tomb being opened, only to find that the magician was still alive. This story is slightly better than that Iron Man tale, if only because magic makes more sense in a Thor book. It’s not a good issue, but it is bizarre enough to be at least a little entertaining.

Sub-Plots:

  • Dr. Donald Blake has been losing patients (as customers, not in the operating room) because he often neglects his duties without explanation to do heroic things as Thor.

  • Merlin had faked his death in the ancient past, to escape his enemies. He was revived when his tomb was opened.
  • Merlin desires power, but does not want to be a figurehead. He wants to be the “power behind the throne.” As such, he wants to demonstrate his powers so that President Kennedy has no choice but to accept Merlin into his inner circle.
  • Merlin’s initial plot involves sabotaging a rocket launch. Not realizing that Merlin had interfered with it, Thor salvaged the launch.

  • Thor immediately suspected Loki of the sabotage (fair enough), but Loki directs him toward Merlin.
  • Merlin challenges Thor to battle, and throws the Washington Monument at Thor like a javelin!

  • Thor bluffs Merlin into surrendering. Merlin agrees to return to his crypt and sleep another 1000 years.

Continuity:

  • This is the first appearance of Merlin, although he has been referred to as a historical figure in Incredible Hulk #5. Whether or not this is the same Merlin is left unclear.
  • Merlin is apparently a mutant, with the abilities of telepathy, telekinesis, and teleportation.

  • It is pretty unusual for Marvel to show the face of the President of the United States. They almost always show the face in shadow, or frame the panel so that the reader sees the back of his head.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • If there was a historical Merlin, and his tomb was discovered in England, I can’t fathom a scenario where they send it to NYC for the initial study. England doesn’t share the ancient artifacts they plundered from other cultures, much less something that happened in their own back yard.
  • Merlin, who has been in suspended animation for 1000-ish years, recognizes and understands both the modern English language and the Gregorian calendar —- neither of which existed when he faked his death.

  • You’re right, Merlin, the only person with his kids present in this governmental hub clearly has no power.

  • Yeah, I think a gust of wind will defeat a gigantic Abraham Lincoln. That makes sense.

  • Thor doesn’t actually solve the larger problem in this issue. Merlin is still dangerous, and —- assuming that Merlin will be true to his word, which shouldn’t be a given —- will return in the future to once again seek power. Thor is just kicking that can down the road a bit.

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • Hahaha! Get it? He’s afraid of Jane because she nags him! Because he acts unprofessionally toward her, lies to her on a daily basis, and she has the nerve to confront him on his bullshit! What a nag!

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