This is a strange issue. For one,I’m pretty sure this is the first issue not to feature Donald Blake. But what makes it truly odd is how the story gets started. It’s primarily a flashback tale and the story begins as Thor comes across two groups of “youngsters”,minutes away from a West Side Story showdown,as they debate a question that has long plagued mankind. What serious matter has drawn battle lines among otherwise friendly teens,you ask? Well,if you must know,one group believes that Thor could take the Hulk in a fight while the other is certain that the Hulk would be triumphant.
And in a very special Journey into Mystery,Thor sits down with both groups and recounts the story of the time he fought the Hulk back in ye old Avengers #3.
There are a couple unintentional hilarities I have to point out about this crowd. One,the obvious,they have giant signs with Hulk and Thor heads on them:
Second,and slightly less obvious,is that there aren’t any women in the crowd. I suppose I understand given the nature of the argument,but you’d think Thor could at least attract a few ladies to this Thor Fan Club. Perhaps they meet elsewhere? In any case,Thor feels the need to jump in before the finger snapping starts. He sits down on the curb with his fans (and his non-fans!) to retell the events of Avengers #3.
Well,I shouldn’t say retells. He does recap the events leading up to his fight with Hulk – Kirby even redraws a few of the panels,but the main story of JiM #112 fits neatly between pages 22 &23 of Avengers #3. Thor &Hulk’s titanic battle moves them away from the other Avengers and we can see the pair go toe-to-toe without any interference.
Thor,also interested in discovering who is stronger,summons Odin to remove the hammer’s enchantment and allow him to be Thor for five minutes without the need of it.* Odin obliges and Thor tosses the hammer aside.
*-Amusingly,the last time Thor did this,he figured he could beat Hyde in a minute. That seemed ballsy. Similarly,taking the Hulk down in five minutes? Pretty confident,eh,Thor?
With the hammer powerless,Hulk finds that he can lift it and actually does get to use Thor’s own weapon against him for a bit. That’s probably the highlight of the battle really. It’s not that it isn’t put together well,it’s got plenty of nice scenes. I guess it’s just that I don’t feel much drama seeing the two characters go at each other. I surely might have where I young and lived in the 60s,but I’ll never know. After the hammer,my second favorite part of the battle was seeing the Asgardians watching the battle from above with Odin offering some commentary and disappointment when Thor doesn’t take Hulk down right away.
As you might have expected,there’s no victor. The cave the pair were fighting in collapsed and ended the battle prematurely. Separately,both combatants make their way back to the main battle to take their part in the conclusion of Avengers #3. Another couple of panels are redrawn to tie up the story.
Afterward,Thor explains that there is no answer to the question the kids are fighting over. Lame. Anyway,after the “more you know” moment,Thor flies away again noting to himself that strength without virtue is meaningless. The story closes with the Hulk as he walks through the desert hoping for a chance to defeat Thor at later date.
Though is issue was a little bit on the odd side –it feels more like a fill-in issue than anything,it was pretty good. Thor’s battle with Hulk was well done and I know that there can’t really be answers to these eternal versus questions. Anyway,I did like it,but I did miss Blake &Jane. Hopefully,they won’t be gone for too long.
The Tales of Asgard is,perhaps because the main story had no real ongoing component,actually a really important story. In the last few issues,Thor &Loki have begun to refer to each other as half-brothers instead of brothers. This story explains why and clarifies Loki’s origin. It depicts Odin’s battle with Laufey and the Asgardian’s attack on Jotunheim. After the end of the battle,with Laufey slain,Odin discovers the baby Loki and,as we know,takes him as his own. After this origin and last issue,it feels like Stan &Jack are finally getting a handle on Thor’s main antagonist and the stories are sure to get better for it. But this short story did leave me with two important questions. When will we get an origin story for Thor? And does Frigga ever get tired of raising other people’s kids?
As we close,here’s a bigger look at the cover of #112 along with some scenes from the issue: