I was so excited last issue. There was a big cliffhanger,Hyde had set his sights on Thor,the city had come to fear Thor as a major villain. The story was double-length,indicating the possibility of a longer,drawn-out conclusion and…well,it’s still 1963,okay?
Journey into Mystery 100 started off strong enough,picking up not immediately after #99 left off,but instead when Thor first discovers that he’s become public enemy no. 1. While this issue had it’s fair share of highlights,the plot point of Thor being a criminal goes largely ignored after the opening and it leaves this story a bit lacking.
So the opening pages find Thor learning that he’s robbed a bank and turned to a life of crime. If you remember,Odin counseled Thor,back in issue #90,to always seek the most obvious explanation in situations like these. And just like last time,Thor’s not very good at it. Thor,sitting on a tree limb to eavesdrop on the police officers below,is certain that he hasn’t robbed any banks,so he elects to pin those crimes on… Mr. Hyde! Of course.
We’re quickly treated to a flashback of the confrontation with Mr. Hyde from last issue –you know where Blake gets knocked out a window and then doesn’t give Hyde a second thought? That’s more or less repeated here and Thor determines it’s in his best interests to revert to Blake and lay low at his office. There’s no real plan to clear his name at this point,nor does it even seem to be a concern. In fairness to Blake,he is distracted by Jane –it’s her birthday and he’d promised to take her out to a nice restaurant. If you could take a hot girl on a date in your secret identity,I suppose a city-wide manhunt for your superhero identity just isn’t important.
But things don’t go right for dear Dr. Blake,as a variety of writing tropes conspire to ruin his night with Jane. First,Hyde just happens to be hiding in an alley nearby as Blake announces the location of the dinner. What’re the odds? And then during dinner,while Jane is assessing Hyde as a credible threat,Blake scoffs at the notion and blows her concerns off. He even goes so far as to say that Hyde would never stay in the same town as the mighty Thor. Well,at that point,he’s just asking for it,right? Hyde appears and kidnaps the pair. Then…things get weird.
This is Hyde’s plan in a rather large nutshell. He kidnaps Blake and imprisons him in an abandoned castle on the outskirts of town (surely Marvel’s version of Wayne Manor) alongside a bomb (that only he can defuse) set to detonate in…one day. He then uses Blake’s life hanging in the balance to get Jane to…bear witness to him committing the crime of the century! Stealing a submarine! What? You thought it’d be something actually nefarious?
Back at not-so stately Wayne Manor,Blake breaks free and Thor quickly comes to Jane’s rescue. I wasn’t really following along all that well,but I was excited at the prospect of a fight that was looming. It’s conceivable that Hyde’s chemically enhanced strength would be a match for Thor and I was hoping for some real action. Unfortunately,it wasn’t meant to be. When the two do go toe-to-toe,Thor drops the hammer and Jane,hoping to save Blake by preventing harm from coming to Hyde,covers it up.
With his minute ticking away,Thor creates a whirlwind to provide some cover for his transformation. He finds the hammer in time,but Hyde escapes to return another day. I’ll get that brawl at some point…hopefully.
The issue closes with two quick epilogues. The first is lame – the police arrive to tell Thor that they know Hyde impersonated him and that he’s off the hook for the robberies. Never mind that they have no way of knowing that,but their discovery was off-panel. That’s crap –even for this era in storytelling. I think that’s been my biggest disappointment with these older issues so far – Lee is presenting us with these great setups and beginnings,but,too often,the race to the finish is quick and contrived. Even in a double-length story like this one.
The second epilogue does serve to prolong the drama. Jane tells Thor he must save Blake. Thor agrees to retrieve him,but leaves before Jane came give him specifics or even a location – and she does notice. I’d like to think this was our first hint that Jane is aware something is amiss,but I imagine her noticing was really just her dismissing it as nothing. The real kicker happens as Thor flies away,Odin’s been watching to determine if Jane is worthy of Thor’s time. And what did he see? Jane aide Hyde by covering up the hammer! Since he was unaware of her motivations,he declares her not worthy for aiding the enemy! And you know what that means? Yep,Petition Denied!
This issue wasn’t as fulfilling as I wanted it to be. I’m again caught in that crux between an awesome setup and a lackluster ending. Still,this two-parter did give us a potential-filled villain in the form of Mr. Hyde (will he ever get to become King of the Seven Seas,or at least come up with a consistent goal?) and we do get a lot of fuel for the Blake/Jane dynamic. I was disappointed by the dismissed angle of Thor being public enemy no. 1,but at least they did take the time to wrap that plot point up. Because remember that bomb that was set to go off in one day? Did Thor stop that bomb or will Marvel’s version of Stately Wayne Manor be rubble by tomorrow evening? Inquiring minds and all…
This issue’s Tales of Asgard takes things in a different and interesting direction. In the first installments,we’ve seen some creation myth and Odin badassery,but this issue showcases the boyhood adventures of Thor and his trials in gaining the valor needed to lift Odin’s hammer. In this issue,Loki &Thor are following a pair of storm giants who have stolen Iduna’s Golden Apples. We’re quickly treated to a Jack &the Beanstalk type story with a Thor twist. Loki ensures that Thor is seen by the giants and must fight them. Despite the massive size difference and his brother Loki trying to sabotage him (to be the hero of the day),Thor does quite well. Thor &Loki escape with the apples and despite Loki’s play for credit,it goes to Thor who’s valor is being measured by how high he can lift the hammer from the ground. I love the ending in particular as a compelling meter for future stories to be written towards.
As we close,here’s a bigger look at the cover of #100 along with some selected panels…