Review:Journey into Mystery #95

“The Demon Duplicators”,Published: August 1963
Writer: Stan Lee &Robert Bernstein,Penciler:Joe Sinnott,Inks: Joe Sinnott,Letters: Sam Rosen

This issue’s ending was as good as its beginning was bad. The middle? Well,that was a bit of a roller coaster. I enjoyed the somewhat overused silver age premise – Thor must fight a duplicate of himself,but that enthusiasm was all but strangled by ridiculous and contrived plot points to give the story the setup [the writers must have believed] it required.

But,in the end,an interesting twist pretty much saves the whole deal. And although we did get some Asgard time to assuage my desires,it had nothing to do with the rest of the story. I’m not even sure why it’s there.

Maybe Odin should think twice the next time he wants
to banish the only god that can control the weather??

The Asgard portion is confined to the first page and last panel and if you asked me what purpose it served,I couldn’t tell you. Basically,Odin was having crop problems and needed some rain. Thor provided it in the story’s opening and returned in the last panel to turn it off. If that’s not odd enough,Thor says he’d return in a week to turn it off,the story events take place in the span of a day,and then Odin gives him crap for “forgetting” to come back. What’s up with that?

Asgard aside,the main story started off poorly. Our good Doctor Blake,known for fake scientific experimentation and inventor of the “remote hammer finder”from last issue has formulated a new invincible plastic. That pales in comparison to what he does with it –builds a super-intelligent android.

I’ve been told to take silver age contrivances as they come and smile –and substituting one field of study for another is common enough. Doctor of one thing typically means doctor of everything. And if that’s all it was,I’d choke down a medical doctor creating a nigh indestructible,super-intelligent robot. When I saw him,I figured this android would somehow end up as the duplicate Thor from the cover. Kind of a Silver Age Ragnarok,if you will. But,what really got me,was that it ended up not even being a relevant plot point.

Somewhere,Doom is screaming 'Blaaaake!!'

Thor shows up at the unveiling instead of appearing as the “inventor”,Blake. They don’t really get into it,but I suppose it just makes good sense as a PR move. In his stead,Blake has a well-known physicist,Professor Zaxton,emcee the event. The show is going swimmingly until Zaxton screws up the controls. The android then politely informs everyone that he’s going to blow up and that they’ll probably all die. Thor ties the automaton to the hammer and throws the robot into the sky* where it explodes,exits the story,and presumably Thor’s life forever.

* –I’m really getting tired of Thor tying crap to his hammer and throwing it. One,how does the hammer disconnect from all these things? It just knows to come free when it gets to the police station,Asgard,or a sufficient distance for the blast? But more important than that,Thor can just throw whatever it is he’s throwing. If you can throw the hammer in the sky,you can just throw the android into the sky,Thor!

Now halfway through,we must rush to get Thor’s duplicate into the story in an even more contrived manner. Remember,Zaxton? He’s a bad nugget,see? He blew up that nice android on purpose. Turns out,he’s an evil physicist. I hate when that happens. He kidnaps Jane off-panel and threatens to kill her unless Blake helps him fix his duplicate ray.

Yes,I said duplicate ray. Imagine me reading along trying to decide if the indestructible plastic or super-intelligent android would be the more the ridiculous invention in this story only to find that those weren’t even in the running anymore.

How did Zaxton kidnap Jane and still beat Thor home?

The real killer though is that the duplicate ray isn’t broken;it just doesn’t on work people. So,never mind that he could become a mint-in-box toy collector and still always have one to open,auction off multiple copies of Journey into Mystery #83,or,y’know,multiply cash straight up and be ****ing rich. No,that’s not good enough. He wants to duplicate people.

With Jane’s life on the line,Blake successfully modifies the machine (in one night,no less). Zaxton is distracted by the joy of his machine working and Blake takes the opportunity to turn into Thor…only he gets caught! Zaxton takes this revelation amazingly well,but also quickly duplicates Thor –and then reveals something he didn’t tell Blake about his machine.

It doesn’t just duplicate people –it makes them opposite! At this point,I’m conflicted. Do I want to point out how he couldn’t possibly know that since he’s never used on a person before or just naturally accept it and assume it has something to do with the chromosomatic gland from last issue? I opt for neither,because I think I’ve got Zaxton figured out.

This is all about women. Zaxton can’t get a date – he’s an aging physicist after all,but if he points this device at a woman that’s not interested in him. *Boom-chicka-wah-wah*

Unfortunately,he’ll never realize this evil plan. You can probably see the ending coming. Villains never fare well after learning their hero’s secret identity.

The evil duplicate of your evil
duplicate.. is your friend.

After duplicating Thor,he adds insult to injury (and fulfills the cover’s promise) by duplicate the hammer again. Now Thor-II has two hammers! Uh oh. Zaxton babbles something about wanting power or another as his motivation,but I’m sticking with the women angle.

To deal with Thor-II,Thor hits him with lightning and…knocks him out,so Zaxton zaps him to make Thor-III. Now,Thor-III only exists for one panel,but I found him interesting. He’s an evil duplicate of an evil duplicate,so he should be a good guy? This actually bears out because he jumps in the way of Thor’s hammer and takes it to the chest to save Thor-II. That’s heroic,right? Thor-III disintegrates as the hammer hits him. I’m still not sure why.

Thor-II gets up,and it was about here that I checked the page count. Page 11 of 13? It’s getting to be “wrap this up quickly”time. Thor-II throws both hammers at Thor,they hit him in the chest,and…nothing happens. Thor looks down at the inscription on the hammer and deduces that the Thor-II isn’t worthy,so he’s powerless (pay no attention to the fact that he’s flying around with them,please). Thor throws his hammer at Thor-II and he too disintegrates. Yep,that was quick.

Apparently,Zaxton hid Jane
somewhere without any doors.

If the issue ended here,I would’ve been mighty dissatisfied,but we do get an interesting twist. Zaxton,watching the battle on a nearby bridge,duplicates himself,hoping to escape while his good duplicate takes “the fall”. Well,irony isn’t usually wasted in an old comic,so,while he’s fumbling with aiming the machine at himself,he drops it. And when he reaches to grab it,he drops himself too.

And falls to his death. We’ve seen Thor demonstrate super-speed before,but…well,he did know Thor’s secret. And he was surely too far away for Thor to save. Surely.

Lucky for Thor,it all works out in the end. Zaxton-II has the same genius,but with a proclivity for good. He tells Thor where to find Jane and Thor decides to make this entire ugly little affair go away. Zaxton-II won’t have to suffer for the crimes of evil Zaxton and can go forth to help mankind. Thor even goes so far as to lie to Jane,saying that Zaxton “snapped,but now he’s sorry”. That’s weird,but it gets weirder. Thor “disposes”of Zaxton’s body. Somewhere.

You know the old line,“all’s well that ends well”? Well,I think that’s the case here. I was so surprised by Zaxton dying and enjoyed the idea that his good duplicate will go on (and presumably keep Thor’s secret),that the story left me in a good place despite my earlier misgivings and saved this issue from a ‘Least Favorite’tag. The only problem now is that good Zaxton is still probably not going to get any dates,but maybe Thor will be his wingman when he’s got some free time.

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As we close,here’s a bigger look at the cover of #95 along with some selected panels.

The Cover;Aren't all the people in the new building and (every other) plane all evil? Who cleans that up?

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