Journey Into Mystery (Vol. 1) #117

Credits:

Cover Date: June 1965

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta

“Into the Blaze of Battle”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Vince Colletta

“Tales of Asgard: The Sword in the Scabbard”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Vince Colletta

What’s Going On?

Thor takes on some Communists in the main story. In “Tales of Asgard,” Thor and Loki are given an epic quest.

Details:

In the main Thor story:

  • Last issue, Loki completed the Trial of the Gods moments before Thor did, but he did so by cheating. Loki used the magical Norn Stones in the Trial, even though he was supposed to have no weapons or tools.

  • To keep Thor from tattling on him, Loki magically sends the Norn Stones to be hidden on Earth.

  • When Thor accuses Loki of cheating, Loki naturally denies it in front of Odin. However, the All-Father agrees to let Thor return to Earth to find evidence of Loki’s dishonesty.

  • The first thing Thor does on Earth is join Balder, who was sent to Earth last issue by Odin to protect Jane Foster. When they see Thor approaching, the Enchantress and Executioner retreat, abandoning their attempt to kidnap Jane.

  • With Jane safe, Thor travels the globe, hunting for the Norn Stones. His uru hammer leads Thor to Vietnam, where the Communists open fire on him.

  • The Thunder God was planning to ignore the war, but the Communist guerrillas kept shooting at him. Before Thor could take his frustration out on them, a mortar shell landed near him, and the explosion knocked him out!

  • Thor’s unconscious body was brought to a nearby hut to recover. When he awakens, Thor notes that the peaceful villagers are suffering while the guerrillas waged war around them.

  • Thor decides to help the villagers once he finds the Norn Stones. To do so, he needs to trek through the jungle; he decides that the smaller Donald Blake can cross the jungle easier than the broad-shouldered Thunder God, so he transforms back into his mortal form.

  • Not surprisingly, Donald Blake is almost immediately captured by Communist guerrillas. Thankfully, they don’t separate Blake from his cane.

  • Donald is taken to a hidden underground bunker complex, where the guerrillas are hidden from outside (read: American) eyes.
  • It turns out that the guerrilla commander was part of the family that cared for Thor when he recovered from the mortar shell attack. When they are brought in as prisoners, he loses his temper and accidentally kills his own mother and brother.

  • Meanwhile, Donald Blake manages to transform into Thor and he starts fighting his way through the bunker. He finds the Norn Stones atop an arsenal of artillery shells; Loki clearly planned for Thor to accidentally destroy the arms stockpile —- and probably himself —- in his quest for the Stones.

  • Having successfully recovered the Norn Stones, Thor unleashes his fury on the Communist guerrillas.

  • Thor eventually finds the daughter of the family that helped him before. He learns that the commander killed her brother and mother, and he promises vengeance on the Communist commander. The commander seems curiously unfazed by Thor’s threats.

  • As Thor takes the girl back to her village, the commander decides that committing suicide is the only way for him to atone for killing members of his own family. He blows up the bunker and removes the Communist threat from the area.

In “Tales of Asgard”:

  • The warriors of Asgard are getting rowdy without a specific war to fight, and they start brawling with each other.

  • To keep his sons busy, Odin gives them a serious task. Something is causing damage to the Odinsword, which has apocalyptic implications. Thor and Loki are told to find the cause of the damage and to stop it by any means necessary.

  • To be continued…!

Is It Good:

On the whole, no. There are some things that I liked in this issue, though. I am happy to see “Tales of Asgard” starting to use serial storytelling; I think that will really improve the story quality of this back-up feature. Jack Kirby drew some pretty cool fight scenes in this issue, too. And he didn’t make the Vietnamese characters look like evil stereotypes —- I think that may be a first for him in the Silver Age.

The main story, though, is truly bad. Let’s pretend that it makes sense that Thor can get knocked out and have his unconscious body moved somewhere without him dropping his hammer and transforming back into Donald Blake. Let’s pretend that the mighty Thunder God has a harder time crossing a thick jungle than a normal man with a disability that hampers his walking. Even if those two really dumb plot points are ignored, this story is arguably the most ham-fisted anti-Communist story Stan Lee has ever scripted. I get that this was written in the Cold War, but this was clumsy beyond belief. And the story resolution —- suicide as a solution to Communism’s degrading personal impact —- made my jaw literally drop. This story aged very poorly.

Continuity:

  • Loki defeated Thor in the Trial of the Gods in Journey Into Mystery #116. The winner’s prize is supposed to be having Odin take their side in an argument.
  • Balder also has the ability to give “the gift of forgetfulness” to wipe people’s memories. We saw Thor use this on Jane in Journey Into Mystery #115.

  • Thor acknowledges that gods like him can die by conventional human weapons. I don’t think we’ve seen any Asgardian acknowledge that before.

  • Karnilla, the Norn Queen, had lent Loki the Norn Stones, but she wants nothing to do with Loki’s open sedition.

  • Karnilla’s last appearance was in Journey Into Mystery #107.
  • We get a rare moment of insight into Loki’s character here:

  • Remember that whole thing where Asgardians are forbidden from harming mortals? It was mentioned as recently as last issue by the Executioner. Does hitting mortals with the “smashing force of a nuclear holocaust” count as harming them?

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Last time Thor and Loki accused each other of lying, Odin decided that he could not determine who was telling the truth, and he ordered the Trial of the Gods. This time, he just shrugs and gives Thor an opportunity to prove his claim. Shouldn’t he have demanded another Trial of the Gods to see who was lying about the previous Trial of the Gods? It’s almost as if the Trial of the Gods —- basically, an obstacle course for immortals —- is not an effective way of determining the truth!

  • Why doesn’t the Enchantress just cast a spell directly on Balder? Why doesn’t the Executioner seem to carry any weapons? This fight doesn’t make much sense.

  • I understand the impulse to erase Jane’s memories —- I disagree with the erasure of traumatic memories, but I get the desire —- but erasing the memories of everyone in the city seems like a villain move to me. Who is he protecting with that choice? Asgardian public relations, because it’s embarrassing that the Enchantress and Executioner were incompetent lackeys?

  • “The best way to traverse the untamed jungle would be to transform into a man that needs a cane to walk! And this presumably wool suit is also an appropriate choice!”

  • It was just one issue ago when Thor removed his helmet and cape and used them as tools to make his way through dense foliage. In this issue, though, he thinks Don Blake is a better option.

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • Holy shit, the last page in the Thor story was bonkers!

  • Here are my takeaways from this sequence: 1) Communism is brutal and destructive 2) the only way to atone for Communism is death? 3) Thor sees suicide as a manly death 4) Thor apparently expected the commander to kill himself, and supported that choice.

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