Review:Journey into Mystery #116

“The Trial of the Gods!”,Published: March 4th,1965
Writer: Stan Lee,Penciler: Jack Kirby,Inks: Vince Colletta,Letters: Art Simek

Throughout this entire week,the Journey into Mystery’s I’m reading are basically telling one big story. The individual issues feature different adventures,but there is one overarching plot – Loki’s multi-faceted scheme to finally do away with Thor.

In the last issue,Odin decreed that Thor &Loki would have to undergo trials to resolve a dispute. It seemed rather silly – Odin basically called Loki a liar and then believed what Loki said,so this all seems like overkill. Then again,the trial the pair must undergo almost kills Thor and certainly would’ve killed Loki where he to play fair. Maybe Odin was hoping to see Loki lose…

Death? I mean,I guess he can
always have more kids,but geez...

This issue glosses over the events leading up to this point and simply states that these trials will determine which one of the pair lied to Odin. I don’t think Stan &Jack are trying to get me to hate Odin,but I’m starting too. Loki has already made the jump from eternal prisoner to trusted advisor which was hard enough to swallow,but now we have Odin really not sure about which one is lying to him? If I have two kids and one lies all the time,well,I don’t really need to have them walk down a dangerous alley to determine which one is telling the truth,y’know?

But this is Odin,and we always do what Odin says. The pair are sent to Skornheim,a brutal place “beyond the pale of Asgard”. Odin makes it sound so awful that perhaps neither would survive (proving who lied must be a really important thing to Odin…). Since survival must be by wits alone,Thor gives up his hammer and the pair are transported to Skornheim.

Is that his lack of concern showing?

As you can imagine,Loki waits all of five seconds before cheating. Turns out,he hid a bag of enchanted stones beneath his tunic. First,he distracts Thor by telling him that everything,including this challenge,is going according to plan. Worse still,he shows Thor that he’s dispatched the Enchantress &the Executioner to pay Jane a visit while Thor is unable to help her. Thor gets angry,but Loki uses the stones to escape Thor and starts his quest to escape Skornheim. For the rest of the issue,Loki cheats his way out of each of the deadly trials,using them to levitate,become intangible,and as a plant repellent. Okay…

I love stuff like this. Modern
comics need to bring this back!

Interspersed with the Skornheim scenes,is the story of Jane and her ordeal with the Executioner &Enchantress. I loved –loved –this part of the book. Jane flees the pair and runs out into the street crying for help. And what do the good citizens of New York do? They try to help! It was awesome seeing the crowd confront the Executioner and doing their best in a hopeless fight. Ultimately,the Enchantress used her magic to stop the would-be heroes,but Jane will soon get help from another source. My current favorite character,Balder,is keeping an eye on her. Balder humorously interrupts Odin’s bath (it’s an upright tub too,so he’s starting to show his age) to inform Odin of Loki’s treachery and asks to provide her assistance. Balder’s fight with the deadly duo will have to wait until next issue,but I’m looking forward to it. I hope that he gets a chance to shine.

Back on Skornheim,Thor has to legitimately face all the obstacles that Loki easily circumvented. This issue is actually a great showcase for Thor because we see him have to solve problems without his strength,without his deus ex machina hammer. He survives quicksand,a deadly briar patch,and defeats Yagg the “Invincible Slayer of All”. He does swim around the man-eating plants,but Loki had a plant-repellent stone,so that’s wash either way.

Some random panels of Thor navigating the various trials. I love his proclamation while crossing the desert.

In the end though,Thor comes ashore and watches helplessly as Loki enters the portal back to Asgard. Despite all his efforts,Thor lost the trial. And that my friends,is one hell of a cliffhanger…

Crap.

I really enjoyed this issue. I do grow tired of Odin and his issues with Loki,but the script and the art combined to make Skornheim a truly dreadful place and the solutions to survival were all great (except for the forest of man-eating plant ones). The interaction between Thor &Loki is getting tenser by the issue and I really hope it’s leading somewhere good. The b-story,with Balder taking on Enchantress &the Executioner was equally exciting. It was mostly setup for next issue,but I was happy to see those two villains (love &war) return as a pair and even happier that Balder will get some time in the spotlight battling with them. This issue definitely kept me happy and has me really looking forward to tomorrow.

Don't let the outcome fool you,Thor meant to kill that dude!

In the Tales of Asgard backup,we’re still showcasing Loki’s new status quo as a much darker character. In this issue,he arranges events so that King Hymir issues Thor a challenge he must accept and,should he lose,Thor will become his slave. The challenge is simple,to destroy an unbreakable cup. Try as he might,Thor truly can’t break it,not even with the hammer. Thor,in a moment of unintentional hilarity,determines that his only recourse may be to kill King Hymir so that the challenge is null &void. Damn,Thor! Thor does worry for his daughter Rinda,who he’ kinda developed a thing for,but she counsels Thor to go for it. Thor does and throws the invincible cup at Hymir’s head – where it shatters against his crown,which was made from the same enchanted metal. Hymir feels lucky to be alive and believes that Loki betrayed him to Thor in an effort to get him killed. The only thing that saves Loki’s life is that Hymir is too afraid of Thor to seek retribution. That has to sting,huh,Loki?

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As we close,here’s a bigger look at the cover of #116 along with some more panels from the issue:

Though I didn't cover it in the summary,this issue had a ton of guest stars. A member of Rick Jone's Teen Brigade also attempted to get Jane some help. He tried to wrangle the Avengers,Daredevil,&the Fantastic Four (with Editor's Notes explaining why they couldn't help). Also,Balder's appearance atop the Baxter Building scared off an attack by the Frightful Four.

3 comments to Review:Journey into Mystery #116

  • He-Mullet

    I’m not certain but I think this issue was reprinted with ML Loki…

  • Drew

    I don’t think Thor was really endangered by that sea of lava. He’d taken a bath in the stuff in Avengers #5 and it didn’t seem to bother him then!

    Loki cheats by using those magic stones to levitate himself,
    but in just a few years he’d be able to fly perfectly well without them!

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