Journey into Mystery #115 finds Thor with quite the to-do list. First and foremost,he must save Jane,but that means defeating Loki,and then there’s that unfinished fight with the Absorbing Man. And while this issue is part of a larger storyline,he’s still only got sixteen pages to wrap it all up. Let’s hope Thor’s up to it.
Last issue ended with Thor setting off to confront Loki alone. This issue picks up soon after;Thor has already made his way to Loki’s castle and the battle begins right on the splash page. Back on Earth,Hobbs and the police are still on the trail of Crusher Creel as he’s about to meet two unlikely heroes – who quickly become my favorite part of this issue.
As I mentioned a bit yesterday,the dynamic between Loki &Thor has changed. Loki has always seemingly wanted to “destroy” Thor,but he never seemed all that threatening. In the last few days (months if you were reading in 1964-5),Loki has become more vindictive,more menacing. Last issue,saw him up the stakes by kidnapping Jane to provoke a direct battle with Thor. In this issue,we see the beginnings of that battle. Loki has been given a trademark sword to better mirror Thor. The battle itself is that of equals,moves and counter-moves with neither Loki nor Thor being able to gain the upper hand. Nothing will be resolved here,as Odin (also redesigned for 1965) interrupts their battle and insists they undergo trials instead of fighting between themselves. Thor capitulates,but asks Thor for time to whisk Jane (unconscious,as is usually necessary) back to Earth and to complete his bout with the Absorbing Man. Odin agrees and gives Thor a reprieve that will basically last until the next issue.
I should point out here that Odin’s been getting on my nerves a bit lately. I suppose we can file it under “fatherly love”,but as Loki has become more vicious,most of the other Asgardian’s have noticed. All except for Odin. I know he views Loki as his own,but their relationship has proven one of the more difficult for the writers to conquer. Loki spent centuries imprisoned by Odin before becoming a relied upon advisor. This new iteration of Loki has mostly shaken itself out,but Odin hasn’t quite caught up yet. He continually brings up Loki’s lying nature,but then accepts his lies as truths. It’s getting old.
Back on Earth,Hobbs &some heavily-armed police have tracked Creel down to a high-end suburban house. He’s holed up there taken a married couple hostage. One thing I really appreciated about Creel’s depiction is that he thinks &acts like a petty thug. He’s stolen a car,he’s robbed a gas station,and he’s broken into a house and threatened the people living there. Sure,he’s daydreamed about being robbing banks until he’s filthy rich and has aspirations of ruling a small country,but his actions aren’t very different than what you might expect from an escaped convict. I think that’s pitch perfect –and again,it showcases a flaw in Loki’s plan. He doesn’t understand how things work on Earth.
The other thing I really enjoyed about this issue was John &Ann. They’re the owners of the house that Creel has claimed for himself. I really enjoyed their depiction. They argue with Crusher and resist in what ways they can. Ann,when Crusher is about to hurt her husband,beans him with a vase (only to see him turn into the same pink glass as the vase). The couple bides their time,but attempt to extricate themselves again when the opportunity arises. When Creel becomes flesh so that he can eat,John takes the opportunity to deck Creel. That ended up being my favorite scene from this issue.
It’s here that Hobbs,aiding Thor,comes into the house to draw Creel out – away from the more resilient materials the house might hold. Outside,Thor again confronts Creel,but interestingly doesn’t really have a plan. He inadvertently allows Creel to again absorb the uru metal and,later,flame. The only ground that Thor gains is when a police officer fires a grenade at Creel. The heat basically turns it into a concussion grenade and the blast reverts Creel to his human form.
Before Thor can exploit this new-found weakness,Creel goes crazy and attempts to absorb properties of everything around him:rock,wood,iron,etc. While the threat is mounting,the solution leaves a little to be desired. Thor spins his hammer at “cyclotronic” speeds,surrounding Creel with helium,and circumventing his absorption process so that he can only become one thing:more helium. Trapped in a gaseous state,Creel rises into the atmosphere (and evidently out into space,what?) where Thor intends to just… leave him. Poor guy. In a short afterward,Thor checks on the still unconscious Jane before heading back to Asgard for Odin’s trial.
This issue was entertaining enough,but it still ended up feeling like more of a setup issue than a conclusion. The battle with Loki ended before it began,Jane was saved before she was really in danger,the battle with Creel was also over particularly quickly,not counting that the fight was solved by a new hammer trick. The highlight of this issue really ends up being John &Ann. I loved that they fought for themselves instead of simply being victims. They might just have saved an otherwise average issue.
The Tales of Asgard backup again focuses on young Loki. It really feels like Stan &Jack are making sure we notice the transition of Loki from annoying trickster to menacing threat. This five page backup tale has Thor &Loki on the hunt for Ghan,a deadly storm giant. Loki pulls a win-win out of this issue. Just when Thor is about to deliver a killing blow to Ghan,Loki secretly removes him from the battlefield. This not only embarrasses Thor,making his quest end in failure,but it also puts Ghan into Loki’s debt. A debt which I have no doubt will be repaid soon.
As we close,here’s a bigger look at the cover of #115 along with some more panels from the issue: