Review:Journey into Mystery #89

“The Thunder God and the Thug”,Published: February 1963
Writer: Stan Lee &Larry Lieber,Penciler: Jack Kirby,Inks: Dick Ayers,Letters: Ray Holloway

You may have noticed the Favorite/Least Favorite tags at the top of the page. The plan is to use those whenever I want to spotlight a particular issue for being something I really enjoyed or really didn’t. I was hoping to use the Favorite tag first,but it wasn’t meant to be.

This issue just had too many things I didn’t like – even keeping in mind when it was written. There’s a little too much recapping,a little too much plot convenience,and so much weirdness that I was ready for the next issue well before this one was over. On the upside,I really did like the cover!

Someone's going to be freaked the hell
out when this thing falls outs of the sky.

It’s somewhat ironic that I like this cover,because I really,really love classic silver age covers and this isn’t one. It’s very modern as covers go. It simply shows Thor whirling his hammer with a marquee-like introduction. No villain. No hint of what’s inside. It’s really more like a poster promoting Thor. In fact,if Marvel hasn’t’ made a poster of this yet – they should. I’d buy it.

The story itself,clocking in at thirteen pages,spends the first three and a half not really going anywhere. We get two pages that show Thor’s trouble in keeping his Blake identity a secret. He’s seen while flying towards his office and feels the need to throw off the onlookers. He does this by breaking into a closed tailor’s shop and,using materials “he’ll pay for later”,sewing together a Thor costume onto a mannequin dummy and throwing it out the window to make everyone think Thor left.

Ignoring the fact that he already has a life-size plastic Thor,that the mannequin has to land somewhere,and how he’ll explain everything to the tailor when he pays him later,he still sneaks into the office as Thor while everyone is watching the dummy. Bleh.

Maybe her face just really
itches when she fantasizes.

After that odd spread,we’re treated to a two-page retelling of Thor’s origin. Keeping in mind that this is the seventh issue,I’m sure that the creators simply felt it was time to recap again. That’s fine. This retelling is slightly different though,as it now includes a declaration to Odin that he’ll use the hammer’s power justly.

That origin transitions into Jane daydreaming about her potential life with Thor. For a half-page,we see her perfect world. They’re together and she… irons his cape,polishes his hammer,and,my favorite,cuts his hair. Now there are some cute little nods here – the hair cut makes him more Blake-like and she does call Thor her “boss”. I chuckled,but when does the actual story start?

The answer is about a quarter way through the book and halfway into Jane’s daydream. A mob boss and steel baron,Thug Thatcher,is on trial for selling substandard steel,and the prisoner transport carrying him is ambushed right in front of Blake’s office. Blake wants to help,but he can’t become Thor in front of Jane.

Such disdain for the love of his life...

Thug is wounded in the firefight and needs a doctor. Two of the thugs thank their lucky stars that they just happen to be in front of a doctor’s office and kidnap Blake. He agrees to work on Thug as it’s his duty as a physician,but they take his cane while he works. That becomes a problem later,as they intend to execute Blake when he’s done.

Helpless without the cane,Blake mentally calls to Odin for help. This was disappointing for three reasons:1) Blake says he can call Odin because he has Thor’s brain –that really throws the whole Blake/Thor thing up in the air 2) calling Odin is a much more problematic deus ex machina than adding extra powers to the hammer,and 3) Odin summons fire and lightning and rains it down to earth… so that it gives a slight shock to the guy holding the cane and makes him drop it. Bleh2.

And then,the real groaner – he turns into Thor right in front of the goons! This is after the dummy,after the annoyance with Jane’s presence preventing him from becoming Thor earlier – just when you thought he’d learned to not do this sort of thing,he does it again. He tells the [clearly] stupid goons that he “flung Blake to safety”and that they won’t be as lucky. Thor does makes short work of them,but Thug &his moll,Ruby,escape. Ruby doesn’t get much screen time,but she has some character. She doesn’t really want to help Thug,but she loves him so (that’ll be strangely important at the end of the story).

This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you...

After they’ve gotten away from Thor,Thug decides he needs a plan to make sure Thor never troubles him again – this was the lowest point in the book for me. Thug recollects that he’s always reading about how Blake &Thor are in the same place about the same time! What? I mean,I suppose it makes sense,Thor &Blake were in San Diablo,Thor saved Blake from the Communists. Blake was around and possibly seen when Thor fought Loki,but it was just too much for me. This guy just watched Thor appear in Blake’s spot after a blinding light,he’s read that the two are often seen together… he could conceivably conclude Blake was Thor,but instead he decides to kidnap Blake again to get leverage on Thor. Bleh cubed.

Thug can’t kidnap Blake,of course,but he and Ruby do take Jane as a hostage. Thor flies back to his office to check on Jane only to find that she’s again being held hostage. That means we’re again treated to the most popular way to combat Thor – threaten violence to a bystander unless he puts the hammer down.

I guess kicking it is sorta of like throwing it,
but shouldn't it come back to his foot?

Thor complies,but,before his minute is up,he uses super-ventriloquism (I’m just letting that one go…) to distract Thug,kicks the hammer at him (which also causes the hammer to return to him). Since nothing can be simple in this particular issue,Thor blows Jane out the window with a gust of wind and then flies out to catch her. Maybe he can’t throw the hammer,grab the strap,and hold Jane all at the same time? Anyway,all this allows Thug &Ruby to escape again.

Ruby and Thug have a falling out,she’s had enough,and Thug goes it alone – entering a half-constructed high-rise and running around on the steel girders. Now,in case you forgot,he was on trial for selling substandard steel. If you read the issue,the crowd reminded you of this fact not once,but twice.

From up high,Thug threatens to throw hot rivets on Thor and the crowd below unless Thor lets him leave. Thor agrees,but only because Thor knows that the steel girder supporting Thug is substandard. It breaks moments later,plunging Thug to the ground. Thor catches him,but not the hot rivets that were so threatening just a few panels ago.

Wait... is that the dummy or
the real Thor? I can't keep up...

To close out this weird issue,Thor again calls up Odin. This time he wants to mindwipe Ruby. And he doesn’t just erase the feelings she had for Thug that led her astray,he erases all memory of Thug.

This issue just wasn’t very good for me. I know I’m supposed to keep in that mind that this was written in 1963,that it might be on par with other issues of Action Comics or Fantastic Four that were coming out at the time,but the truth is – it’s not anywhere near as good as the six issues that preceeded it and that’s why it’s out of place. Maybe if something good could come out of this issue later –Thug returns as a villain that’s learned Thor’s secret? Ruby’s life goes downhill after Thor’s mindwipe? The people that got hit by hot rivets or a carelessly flung Thor dummy sue? Okay,well maybe not the last one…

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Let’s just hope #90 is better! Until then,here’s a larger shot of the cover along with my favorite two panels from Jane’s daydream…

The Cover;I don't actually have to make a joke about polishing the hammer,right?

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