Last issue,Thor was in quite the predicament. He had caused an explosion that left Jane’s life hanging in the balance,but couldn’t help her due to his being under the combined assault of two of his enemies,Cobra &Mr. Hyde. To make matters worse,they’d each been given a power upgrade courtesy of Loki. In all,the cliffhanger left Thor in a pretty bad spot.
And it’s up to Journey into Mystery #111 to get him out of it. This issue has a lot of things going for it – plenty of intrigue at the story’s beginning,some creative (&humorous) problem solving by Thor,and a “b”story so great that that Asgardian almost steals the spotlight…
The story opens precisely where the last issue left off,with Hyde &Cobra discovering Thor alive and caring for Jane. It looks like there’s a bit of a gaffe here because Thor has “slowed” time in the mansion,but only Jane is affected. It didn’t make a lot of sense,but I suppose it could be that Loki’s enchantments prevent the bumbling criminal duo from being affected as well. Still,it was an odd story point. Anyway,the duo is ready to fight Thor,but he’s more concerned about getting Jane to safety. Instead of fighting them directly,Thor chooses options that frustrate Hyde &Cobra,but allow him to get further away from his foes until he can find a safe spot for the injured Jane.
Odin,still watching from above,is troubled by Thor spending more time caring for Jane than defeating the villains. Odin does appear to be conflicted,though,and Balder takes the opportunity to play Odin a ballad that reminds him of a time when he too had a forbidden love. We have yet to run across Frigga and I’m not entirely sure if this is her* because Odin’s reminiscing is interrupted by Loki,who,amusingly,accuses Balder of trying to play a trick on Odin.
*- Frigga has proven somewhat problematic for me to get a handle on. Nearly all the reference sites,including Marvel.Com list her first appearance as Journey into Mystery #92. She wasn’t in that issue unless she was disguised as Neri (or anyone else for that matter).
Back on Earth,Thor has moved Jane out of harm’s way and is again confronting his villains. This is where we see the flaw in Loki’s plan. He amped their power,not their intelligence. Both wanting to be the one to defeat Thor,the duo turns on each other,allowing Thor to fight them one-on-one. He sets his sights on Hyde first.
In Asgard,Odin decides to save the life of Jane Foster,but he needs the help of Hardol,a healer. His first choice to retrieve Hardol? Loki,of course! What the hell? Odin’s blinds pot for Loki has become rather tiresome,I preferred how Odin kept him at a distance in the earlier issues a lot more (though chaining him up everywhere was problematic). Fortunately,the other Asgardians are not as blind to Loki as Odin and they turn on him after Odin leaves. Balder will take the message to Hardol while the others will keep a watchful on Loki to prevent him from interfering. Yay!
As Balder rides off on his dangerous journey,we shift back to Hyde’s battle with Thor. Really,it’s over a little too quick. I did enjoy Hyde wrestling with Thor in various directions to prevent the hammer from returning to him,but Thor still made short work of Hyde by knocking him into an immobilizing ray that was meant for the Thunder God himself. Hyde’s down for the count and out of the story.
Cobra is up next. In a cute moment,Thor – noting his friendship with Iron Man – rewires the ray that stopped Hyde and uses it to flush Cobra out of the duct work. Thor captures him almost immediately and too exits the story in haste.
While Loki’s plan to stop Thor has failed,Jane’s life still hangs in the balance. This is where Balder basically takes over the book. We ride with him as he crosses the Swamp of Endless Flame,watch as he battles the Phantom of Death,worry for him as he forges through the Forest of Eternal Nightmares,and almost lose hope at the sight of the Valley of Swords. But Balder conquers it all with cunning. I don’t know about you,but I’m ready to read a Balder book.
What comes next is probably one of the most touching pages in JiM yet. Thor knows he can’t hold the time warp any longer and pledges to Jane that he will become Blake and do everything he can to save her,even though he knows it’s for naught. With a heavy heart,he restarts time and is about to transform when a sword pierces the ground –Balder’s sword.
Attached to the sword is a life-saving elixir for Jane. We’re told that even the mighty Thor shed tears of gratitude at the sight. And honestly,the whole scene had me pretty close myself. We all know Jane is going to be fine,but the scene really came together for me. With Jane now safe,we follow Balder’s sword back to Asgard as Thor thanks Odin for aid that he wasn’t sure he had deserved.
That ending has earned this issue a favorite tag. While I enjoy the bumbling team-ups between Cobra &Hyde,it’s probably not for the right reasons. But Thor’s love for Jane ran deep through this issue (and the last). Thor fought his way through Heimdall and dozens of Asgardians to find her,he fought the combined might of two of his villains to save her,and he stopped time itself to prevent her death. And in the end? He failed. The story managed to feel very real – the panels almost giving way to an animation in my head. It was simply a fantastic ending.
And Balder? Well,he rocks. I think I need a figure…
Speaking of Balder,he actually gets to save the day twice in this issue. The Tales of Asgard backup finds Loki,Thor,&Balder in a confrontation with Sigurd,Son of the Earth Spirits. Loki has manipulated a battle between Sigurd &Thor. It’s one that Thor is likely to lose for each time Sigurd is knocked down,he gets back up stronger than before. After Thor takes a bit of a beating,it’s Balder who figures out that this is part of one of Loki’s games and the secret behind Sigurd’s ever-increasing power. With Balder’s information,Thor uses the hammer to toss Sigurd into space and confine him to an asteroid where he can be the “master of all he surveys”. Thor’s kind of a jerk when he’s younger,huh?
As we close,here’s a bigger look at the cover of #111 along with scenes from Balder’s epic journey…