Review:Journey into Mystery #91

“Sandu,Master of the Supernatural”,Published: April 1963
Writer: Stan Lee &Larry Lieber,Penciler: Joe Sinnott,Inks: Joe Sinnott,Letters: Terry Szenics

This issue finds Thor battling a familiar foe,albeit indirectly. I’m always glad to see Loki,but it reminds me that Thor’s rogues gallery is still rather thin. It’s basically been aliens,communists,Loki,repeat. I suppose it must be difficult to come up with villains for Thor to fight. He’s a god and that implies certain threats shouldn’t be threats at all. I mean,the worst issue so far was about Thor fighting a mob boss.

That said,it shouldn’t be of any surprise that Loki has appeared in 3 of the 8 issues to this point (and will appear in the next one judging from an early peek at the cover) since he is the only villain to date that’s not only been on par with Thor,but has also had any measure of success against him.

Important Tip:Don't take girls you're
secretly in love with to mind readers.

Unable to leave Asgard,Loki is performing some long distance mischief. He’s still watching Thor… which is more than a little creepy… and sees Blake &Jane visiting a carnival where they encounter Sandu the Great! One thing I haven’t really understood so far is why Blake &Jane go all these places together. The usual caption explanation is that they’re “coming back from a house call”,but really? I get that Blake secretly loves her – and that she loves him despite her crush on Thor – but how long can these two keep hanging out and not admitting it? I fear that it will be years before they confess anything to one another – which means I’ve got months of reading before this gets resolved…

Speaking of their hidden love,that’s what Sandu chooses to expose to demonstrate his mental ability,stating that Blake loves a “J.F.”! Jane,ever observant,makes the connection,but doesn’t believe it. (It’s going to be months,isn’t it?)

What did Loki see you doing today?

Meanwhile,“peeping tom”Loki sees all this and,sensing a potential for evil in him,chooses to amplify Sandu’s powers by a thousandfold! Sandu gains the ability to levitate and teleport objects of any size. Naturally,and as Loki predicted,these new found powers lead him to a life of crime – and a dramatic one at that. He steals big – whole banks and entire jewelry stores,and after emptying them of valuables,he leaves them on the moon. I’m not really sure why,but it looks cool in the panel.

But grand theft isn’t enough for Sandu. He wants what any powerful mentalist would want –to rule the world!! And then he does the uneducated,he decides to steal the United Nations! Surely,they’ll make him ruler of the Earth in exchange for their lives. Amusingly,it’s the ambassadors themselves who attempt to explain to Sandu that the United Nations can’t grant him any power. And never mind that you can’t ask to be made absolute ruler of the Earth.

Perhaps Sandu should've taken that civics
class at Fortune Teller University after all...

Though Thor couldn’t do much of anything about the earlier robberies (some of which he seemingly doesn’t know anything about),he confronts Sandu directly during the United Nations heist. It goes poorly,with Thor being knocked unconscious,bound,and buried under a building for his trouble. I guess you could call it a success though. Either because the ambassadors successfully made Sandu understand the reality of the situation or because Thor distracted him,Sandu puts the UN back where it was and turns his attention to Thor. It’s sad really;the moon sounds like a terrific headquarters for the United Nations…

And this is where we run into the all-to familiar “odin ex machina”. Whenever Thor does meet a foe worthy of him or capable of befalling him,he calls Odin for a bailout. Now,in Lee &Lieber’s defense,they did throw Odin into a couple of panels at the beginning of this story to better prepare us for his intervention and they did use an actual piece of Norse Thor mythology here to boot. Odin sends Thor a belt that doubles his strength. The Norse Thor called this belt,Megingjörð,but it’s not called that here – which makes sense as the writers have yet to even name the uru hammer Thor carries Mjölnir.

I swear these two beautiful blondes
are putting the belt on him,honest!

Two Valkyries descend from Asgard,pass through the building,and place the belt on Thor. It allows him to easily break free,though Sandu again gains the upper hand by teleporting the hammer into another dimension. That should be it right? End of story,no more Thor,Sandu conquers the Earth,but he gets greedy. Now,Sandu wants…the hammer. Loki watches helplessly as Sandu tries to lift the hammer – both physically and mentally – until he simply burns himself out. Future threat level:none.

Amusingly,Thor admonishes Sandu for his worthlessness as a foe and leaves him for the police. He returns the belt to Asgard as Loki watches on,cursing helplessly and promising a next time.

Um... Thor,didn't your Dad have to
come bail you out of his death trap? Hmm?

The art this issue was handled by Joe Sinnott. We’ve only see his inks up til now,but he does a nice job as the penciler here. He has a really clean style that I enjoyed throughout the books. I know Kirby will be back soon enough,but I wouldn’t mind a few more issues with Sinnott one bit.

In all,I enjoyed this issue well enough,but I’m somewhat alarmed by how all the villains up to this point have been immensely overmatched by Thor or how Odin steps in to help when they’re not. I think I can understand how difficult it was for the writers – it’s difficult to take a hero that’s primarily based on strength and present him challenges that don’t make him look weak. But this is Thor – he’s based on a much older Thor who can surely fill up a library or two with his own tales. I guess what I’m saying here is that the creators have done a decent job so far in crafting this hero,but I’m starting to wonder how long it’s going to take for them to realize what they have…

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As we close,here’s a bigger look at the cover of #91 along with a couple of panels I particularly enjoyed from this issue.

The Cover;All of Sandu's antics were undone when he short circuited,so
the Marvel version of Neil Armstrong won't find 5th Avenue when he gets there.

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