Review:Journey into Mystery #102

“Slave of Zarrko,the Tomorrow Man”,Published: January 3rd,1964
Writer: Stan Lee,Penciler: Jack Kirby,Inks: Chic Stone,Letters: Artie Simek

In the last issue,Loki manipulated Odin into removing half of Thor’s power,robbing him of the strength needed to defeat Zarrko. As a result,Thor was forced to surrender and travel to the 23rd Century. In the comic,it takes three pages to show you what I just summed up in two sentences. The second half of our story gets underway on page four of thirteen.

To protect present day New York City,Thor made an oath to aid Zarrko in conquering the 23rd Century. The good news is that the 23rd Century is particularly easy to conquer. It’s a utopian future where there’s no violence and everyone is rather weak-willed and complacent. Zarrko is seemingly the only person on the entire planet that’s not content with that and he’s intent on gumming it up. The problem is that Zarrko’s also rather weak-willed and complacent.

You can't conquer the world on an empty stomach.

Zarrko is somewhat like an idiotic version of Lex Luthor. Sure,he possesses the technical genius to build a time machine or other devastating technology,but then he can’t really come up with a way to utilize it for conquering the world. With Thor at his disposal,Zarrko disrupts traffic,automated sidewalks,flight control systems,etc. And though some of these accidents look rather lethal,we must assume that no one dies since Thor would be responsible.

After this mischief,Zarrko &Thor are accosted by “Techno-Guards”. In the artwork,they appear to be an armed police force,but they don’t need those in the future,right? The captions and dialogue work hard to get around it by saying they protect the robots (from what?) and that their pistols are really just for controlling defective machines (uh huh). Normally,the “Marvel Method” of Lee doing the dialogue and captions after the art works,but here… not so much.

He wants to go before the World
Council,but he doesn't want to be told to. Wah!

Zarrko is particularly lame when the guards appear too. They order him to stand before the World Council – he refuses,citing that he can’t be told what to do! After Thor non-lethally subdues the guards with some weird new hammer trick that puts them in a trance,Zarrko decides he can go before the Council now since no one is ordering him around. I tell ya,he’s got serious authority issues.

Zarrko tells the Council off and demands the location of the ‘master machine’ which apparently controls the Earth. Understandably,they’re hesitant to give up the location,but Thor – I kid you not – slips the Council a note that says he has things in hand and to just play along.

Wait... the plan is to let it fill up with so much poisonous gas that it explodes? Uh...

They do and we’re treated to four pages of Thor defeating the various built-in defenses of the master machine. This is a okay sequence –there’s a few questionable tactics like the one depicted at the right there –but Thor gets creative and gets Zarrko inside the machine. But then…Zarrko screws up.

With the machine at his disposal,he tells Thor that he has fulfilled his obligation to him. This,of coufse,leaves Thor no longer bound by his oath and able to take Zarrko down. At this point,you really just want Thor to bash Zarrko over the head with the hammer. The solution isn’t that simple though.

Thor rubs his hammer’s head on the ground (that’s what Thor says) and transfers the built-up energy into the machine (somehow) so that it can encase Zarrko in some semi-solid matter ball? I found myself still really wishing Thor had clocked him on the head with the hammer,even just the handle would’ve sufficed…

To wrap the issue up quickly,the Council appears,thanks Thor for his trouble,and he returns to the past by whirling his hammer around.

At least he can breathe...

I enjoyed the issue well enough,but the primary problem with it is that Zarrko is just a lame villain. While he does have one,consistent goal (unlike Mr. Hyde),he doesn’t really know how to go about it. He’ll threaten people with a bomb stolen from the past. He’ll threaten people with Thor. He creates extravagant technology to aid him in obtaining the bomb or capturing Thor,but he doesn’t actually try to make any tech to help him… y’know,conquer the Earth? And his Earth? It’s a wonky place too. Utopias are hard to write,and that showed here with even the artwork showing a practical police force that had to be explained away to fit in the story’s setup. I think there’s potential in Zarrko,but I hope to not see him again until someone finds it.

That hammer lifting thing we were
building up to? Yeah,forget that...

In the Tales of Asgard backup,there was the usual amount of awesome but the story itself was slightly problematic. The fates tell an 18 year old Thor that he must meet death before he can pick up the hammer. He goes back to Asgard to see how high he can lift it,but is interrupted by Baldur – who has been wounded trying to protect his sister Sif from storm giants. Thor swears a quick oath to save Sif,grabs the hammer,and runs out the door. Yep. He just picked it up. He didn’t even realize he was doing it.

Thor’s quest to save Sif brings him before Hela,the Goddess of Death. So the fates got the order wrong…first hammer,then death. Oops! The last page features him kneeling before Hela,bargaining himself for her release. Well,that’s cool at least. Taken aback by his bravery,Hela releases both of them. The story notes it will be a few days before Thor even realizes he picked up the hammer. I was really enjoying the installment idea of seeing him grow into the hammer and that’s over with way too quickly. It was an epic little 5pg tale,but I would’ve liked more young Thor stories.

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As we close,here’s a bigger look at the cover of #102 along with Hela’s first appearance.

The Cover,and damn Hela's creepy...

1 comment to Review:Journey into Mystery #102

  • Drew

    In this first depiction Sif is blonde just like in the myths,
    but her first “modern”appearance in issue 136 would depict her as a brunette warrior (and disregard this issue’s reference to her as Balder’s sister!).
    Hela is introduced too,
    but only makes her first “modern”appearance some four years later after the Tales of Asgard feature is discontinued.

    I recall that in this issue’s main story Thor reflects sunlight with his hammer in a way so as to hypnotise people. Years later,Walt Simonson has him repeat this trick to lull some children to sleep.

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