Last issue,Thor was in a bind. Well,the hammer was in a bind. Thor was just kinda screwed. With his hammer beyond reach,Thor had less than a minute to come up with a solution. When a similar situation has appeared in Journey into Mystery up until now,that usually forewarns of a quick and out ending,something that succinctly solves Thor’s problem and gives him victory immediately.
There’s just one problem. We’re at the beginning of a story,an eighteen page story no less. This isn’t time for a quick and out and all,the creators have to drag this baby out. And they do. Masterfully.
We do lose 10% of the story to a flashback,but given the nature of the opening,that’s all good. When we jump to the current time frame,Thor is about as panicked as a thunder god can be. There’s no time to rip open the machine and search for the hammer. Instead,he creates a distraction for the villains and jumps into the crowd to provide cover for his reversion to Blake.
There’s a nice dichotomy here because reverting to his regular identity and blending into the crowd is usually Hyde’s trick (he’ll even use it here in a minute) and Thor uses it well against him,but Blake can’t simply escape as Hyde does – he still needs the hammer.
Unable to get it out on his own,Blake deftly uses the villains as his tools. He confronts them and tells them he’ll help them again (and has the crowd turn on him in the process –awesome!) as long as they retrieve his cane from the machine. He doesn’t tell them it’s the same cane that “summoned” Thor last time,but shouldn’t they know? Then again,shouldn’t they notice the cane’s stuck in the same machine that has the hammer or that the hammer’s not there? Moving on…
With the cane retrieved,Blake makes his run for the crowd to cover his transformation into Thor. After a couple pages of fighting that makes it clear the duo is doomed to failure,the police interrupt and gives Hyde his opening to escape. He reverts to Zabo and watches as Cobra’s hauled away. Bye,Cobra.
But Zabo isn’t done yet. When Thor’s alone,he becomes Hyde and attacks again,smartly going after Thor’s hammer and knocking it away.
And then this book kicks into badass.
No panic over the hammer. No attempt to even pick it up. Thor just upright decides that,if he’s really worthy,then he can kick Hyde’s ass without the hammer. And that unfortunate sixty-second enchantment? Well,that’s just part of the challenge. Thor sets out to defeat Hyde unarmed and in under a minute. Dude.
While Thor might have some deficiencies in these early stories,one of them is solved here. This is the Thor I know. For the next 4 pages,21 panels,and sixty seconds we’re treated to what I think it is the best fight scene in the series so far. Nearly all the panels convey a strength,presence,or pain. And Thor,while silently keeping track of the time,admonishes Hyde in a believable away – even expressing disappointment that someone with Hyde’s power would be evil. As Thor takes down Hyde with a final blow,he ominously tells him what we,the readers,know to be true. “It could only have ended like this”.
With Hyde delivered to the police –note that both villains escaped previously,but end up incarcerated here,Thor returns to his office. Thor is feeling triumphant,fulfilled,and more secure. Well,Stan’s not that nice of a guy sometimes. Once back home,he finds Jane,watching the news reporting on how Blake “betrayed” Thor to the villains earlier. She storms out on him and we’re left with a saddened Blake as the shadow of Thor looms over him. Powerful stuff.
The cover noted that if you didn’t enjoy this story,then “Millie the Model”might be more your speed. Luckily,I loved this issue so there’s no “DailyMillie”in my future. I really enjoyed the pacing –not once did I feel any drag despite the length of this story and the ending with Thor defeating Hyde by hand was picture perfect. Admittedly,I’m really looking forward to the Thor/Blake transformations being better hidden. And I don’t know if I’m supposed to enjoy Cobra &Hyde as lovable imbeciles,but I do. This story was a great departure from the previous issues and I think this is the most optimistic I’ve felt about this little experiment since it began.
In the Tales of Asgard backup,the story focuses on Balder and how he gained his nigh invincibility. Odin seeks to punish him for perceived cowardice and gathers the Asgardians together to witness his execution. Despite the objections of everyone present,Odin orders Tyr to shoot Balder with an arrow,but it’s caught by a bird. Odin orders Honir to slay Balder with a spear,but it becomes tangled in vines. Finally,Odin orders Thor to slay hi with the hammer. As Thor reluctantly raises his arm,Odin stops him. Through everything Balder has not faltered nor even flinched,and thus,passed Odin’s test and gained invulnerability. As it did with Heimdall,the second part of this story promises to show the exception,this time the one thing that can kill Balder.
I liked this little tale,but it is a bit hard to reconcile the all-knowing,long-term planning Odin from the past with the frustrated father from the current book. Then again,that’s what being a parent is all about,I guess…
As we close,here’s a bigger look at the cover of #106 along with some of the scenes from Thor’s hand-to-hand throwdown with Mr. Hyde…