Journey into Mystery #118 continues Thor’s saga to retrieve the Norn stones and prove that Loki had cheated during the Trial on Skornheim. This arc has taken some strange turns since it began in issue #114,but I’ve enjoyed most of it.
In this issue,Thor has retrieved the stones,but is interrupted when Loki awakes the Destroyer armor. Yep,that Destroyer armor! It’s a fun issue – and not just for the fight scenes. After realizing the implications of what he’s done –that Thor’s death at the hands of the Destroyer would likely result in his own execution,Loki does his best to aid Thor from afar,but is thwarted at every turn.
Since these latest issues are aiming for a more cohesive narrative,we start with Thor dropping off the young girl and sole survivor of last issue with some American soldiers in the area. I found that amusing. It feels like the story could’ve picked up without the few panels dropping off the girl,but I wonder if readers at the time would have been asking where she went? I do wonder just how different my experience is from someone reading these in the mid-sixties.
With the girl safe,Thor prepares to return to Asgard,but he doesn’t get far. In what might just be a wasted cliffhanger,Thor’s shot by a hunter. It turns out that he’s the greatest prize of any big game hunter. Who knew?
The hunter,intending to sell Thor for ransom,shoots him with an “anesthetic shell” that renders him unconscious. That’s not good enough for Loki,so he’s about to do something he’s really going to regret. By leaving the hunter a trail of bread crumbs,he leads him to the ancient,long hidden Temple of Darkness. This Temple will actually turn out to be pretty important in Thor mythology. It contains the Destroyer armor,an artifact that will return many,many,many times to plague Thor over the next fifty years –right up and into the 2010 film. The armor’s origin will go basically unchanged from this appearance –it was long ago forged by Odin as a last resort against an future menace. It remains inert unless animated by the life force of someone that comes into contact with it,in this case the hunter.
The Destroyer was featured on the cover and I was pretty excited to finally see it appear in the comics. The only problem here was that the hunter lacks depth (and a name),so that mars this issue just a tad.
Anyway,after regaining consciousness an angry Thor follows up the hunter and discovers that he has animated the armor as our main bout begins. The issue does a great job of showing the threat the armor presents almost right away. After beating on Thor a few panels,the Destroyer does the unthinkable –he takes and successfully wields Thor’s hammer against him. Damn!
This is where Loki realizes his mistake. As he guided the hunter to the Destroyer,he commented happily that the Destroyer armor could kill Thor. But watching the battle and realizing Thor could actually die makes Loki changes his tune. Realizing that he’ll be blamed,Loki curses himself. He’s out-schemed and out-smarted…himself. He needs Odin to essentially put the genie back in the bottle.
The story takes on a dual plot line at this point with Thor fighting the Destroyer while Loki attempts to speak with Odin. Thor’s fight is well put together,with Thor essentially having to evade the more formidable Destroyer,but it’s the scenes with Loki that really shine. Odin’s sleeping the “sleep of life” and can’t be disturbed. When Loki tries to wake him,he’s jailed for his trouble. Loki then attempts to trick the jailers into releasing him,but fails multiples times. In the end,he’s chained in special shackles that even he can’t escape. He fears for Thor’s life,but only because it will surely result in his own. And a last page check-in with Thor shows him seconds from a death. Strictly speaking,that’s not good.
The best moment in this issue is almost a throw away panel. Once Thor regains his hammer from the Destroyer,the Destroyer unleashes a blast of energy that slices the hammer in half! Thor casually pockets it to do battle with the leftover norn stones instead,but I couldn’t believe it! The hammer,the source of his power torn asunder? I wish Stan &Jack could’ve spent more time on it. Hopefully,they will in coming days.
This issue suffers only one flaw –the hunter. He’s kind of a moron and certainly nothing more than a plot device. With Thor having to face an insurmountable foe and Loki working feverishly to solve a riddle he himself created,there’s tons of interesting character development going on –but not the hunter. His consciousness is still controlling the Destroyer in tomorrow’s issue,so here’s hoping he can prove himself before Thor (or Loki?) inevitably finds a way to defeat him.
In the Tales of Asgard backup,Stan &Jack have also embarked on a new multi-part tale. In the last issue,Odin dispatched Thor &Loki to find who was trying to cause early onset Ragnarok by messing with the Odinsword. This issue serves to give Thor a new prop on his quest;a crimson glove that causes anyone it touches to only speak the truth. We get a demonstration with Bragg,a warrior Loki chose to aid them in their journey. While shaking hands with Thor,he reveals himself as an assassin and is quickly runoff by Thor. Thor then attempts to use the glove on Loki,but he evades for now. He’s tricksy that one…
As we close,here’s a bigger look at the cover of #118 along with some more panels from the issue: