Marvel Masterworks The Mighty Thor Vol: 1
With Thor being my favorite comic, I’m glad for the opportunity to go back and collect all the comics from the start with Marvel Masterworks. The first volume includes the Journey into Mystery comics where Thor first appeared as Dr. Donald Blake and then continues on, including all the comics he was in! There are also a handful of Odin-centered comics included in this collection. There are a LOT of Thor-related comics, though, so there are a whole bunch of Mighty Thor Masterworks volumes I don’t yet have.
The Masterworks books can be pretty expensive sometimes, but I got mine for a pretty good deal on amazon.com. They have new ones for under $15.00, last time I checked!
When reviewing this collection, I have to keep in consideration that these comics back in the 1960s were targeted towards kids.
Marvel uses the Journey into Mystery comic to try out new characters a lot and gauge the reaction to them before investing a lot of time on a stand alone comic, which is a really great way to do it! It seems to me that the Norse mythology and the conflicts that Thor finds himself in are not extensively researched at this point in Thor’s comic life beginnings, nor are his powers and weaknesses completely mapped out. For these reasons there is an overall feeling a lot of the time that they were struggling to come up with a new villain, and when they did Thor would suddenly have a weakness that wasn’t clear before, or the foe would suddenly have a super power that could counter Thor’s might. For example, Mister Hyde in issues #99 and #100 was boasted to have the strength of twelve men. Anyone familiar with Thor as the god we know him for now would laugh about such a puny adversary. I can see, though, how all these random powers and weaknesses, even though they can get really confusing, worked perfectly later on when they realized this comic was a keeper. They had to go back through these comics and make sure to permanently endow them all with these characteristics or explain why it is suddenly different. I think the labyrinth that was created here worked to the advantage once deeper mythological research was done, Asgard was brought to life in the comics, and all the other gods/monsters began to take on a comic book form out of the ashes of their dormant mythological state.
Perhaps I am wrong and this was all extensively researched right off the bat, but reading it I get the impression otherwise. Sometimes the conflicts seem to move along like two eight year old kids battling in the back yard. The first one says, “I attack with a blast of ice!” The other laughs and counters, “I use my fire shield and it bounces right off back at you! Now you are frozen!” The first kid hadn’t remembered anything about the second kid saying he had a fire shield, but he throws himself to the side anyway to avoid the blast and yells, “I use my super speed to dodge the blast!” The second kid is all like, “You don’t have super speed! But fine! I jump into my super car that can go faster than super speed!” This collection seems to move like that at times, but as I said before, I really think that works out for the best later on because once it’s in writing they have to get creative on how to elaborate or annihilate the reasons for it happening in the first place.
I have heard some people say that this collection is too simple and cheesy. Well, I ADORE these parts of the battles, and if you’re a true Thor fan I can’t see how you could not be eating up every page of this! Maybe Loki would be nice enough to turn the book into candy for you to make it more tasty just like he mischievously turned everything into candy in Journey Into Mystery #88: The Vengeance of Loki! He does that right before he just so happens to choose to stop a Russian nuclear bomb test that was meant to intimidate America. Perfect!
Loki was so crafty and definitely did not disappoint! So mischievous!!
Overall, the search for new bad guys is hit or miss at this point. The main villain throughout is Loki, whether he is directly facing off with Thor or if he is manipulating other villains to target Thor while he watches and laughs. This really helps develop Loki as the central, ultimate conflict in Thor’s life and helps to mold the hero into who he is, (and the other way around). Thor and Loki need each other to play off of in the Thor world, and I think that the time and intensity that goes into Loki from the start of these comics is one of the foundations that makes it so great. Loki does all he can to point out that Thor and the other gods are flawed, and I think people can identify better with flawed heroes. In the same sense, Loki really believes himself to be justified for the things he does. He isn’t some two dimensional passing villain that was tossed into the story only to be forgotten. It’s made clear even in these early comics that Loki is a central force that is vital to Thor’s entire world. Journey Into Mystery #88 is one of my favorite issues because it really shows Loki’s versatility. What does Loki choose to do once he has Thor incapacitated? Why, turn everything into candy to confuse people and then turn people into blank ‘nothings’ so they panic. He laughs at their terror, but states to himself that he’ll change them back in a moment. Then there’s the whole accidental hero thing he does when he stops the Russian nuclear bomb in the midst of his anarchy. Loki’s character development early on is one of the best moves I believe that Marvel (Stan Lee) ever made.
The artwork is basically what’s to be expected from classic 60s comic books. It’s colorful and fun, but not super detailed at all. Often times there isn’t even a background behind the characters at all. It is all in color. I had heard of another comic company reprinting their old issues in large tomes and making them black and white for no reason at all. I would’ve had a stroke had I opened this comic and found out I’d been cheated from the seeing the rainbow bridge in all it’s glory!
It’s hard for me to empathize with Donald Blake, Thor’s human counterpart who walks with a cane and has an eternal crush on his nurse, Jane, who he is too frightened to confess his feelings to early on in the story. Maybe it’s because in current times no one is calling someone half a man just because they walk with a limp. Maybe back in the 60s things were different and a secure job as a very sympathetic doctor who respects your female nurse was frowned upon if one of your legs didn’t work like normal.
Or maybe Jane’s weird attitude has something to do with it. She’s always thinking to herself that she knows Dr. Blake likes her and how she thinks he’s not much of a man because he won’t confess it. Of course he can read that on her face when he walks up to her and thinks about coming clean about his feelings. Then she does things like wish for Dr. Blake’s attention and then in the same breath leans on the desk and starts talking out loud to Dr. Blake about how manly and powerful Thor is. I’m sure he fills in the blanks of what she means. The worst part of that, the thing that irks me to death, is that Dr. Blake is really brave and pretty hardcore. For instance, they go to a warring foreign country to give medical aid to people that need it. They all get captured, but Dr Blake can’t turn into Thor without giving himself away, so he stands up to the rebels in his mortal form and challenges the leader to fight like a real man and let Jane go. I mean…that’s balls right there, and does Jane remember any of that later? No. All she remembers is how awesome Thor was and how much of a wimp Dr. Blake is for not confessing his love. See Jane. See Jane run from rebels. See Jane be a superficial prep. Later this romantic situation is complicated further when Odin forbids Thor to tell Jane who he really is and says he may not marry a mortal.
Now is where I need to remind myself that these comics used to be targeted towards kids. I notice that everyone states what they are doing in the pictures just to make absolute sure we’re understanding what we’re seeing, even when it’s super obvious! As a Thor-obsessed fan, I find that so charming, but I could see how it could drive others crazy. I found I can even read the comic out loud to Master Betty (my husband) and he can see what’s going on in his head just by the statements alone without even glancing over at the pictures. It gets pretty repetitive in places, though. I feel like this is what’s going on: Thor wants to throw his hammer, so he thinks to himself that he wants to throw his hammer. Then he throws it and states out loud, “Verily, I throw my hammer!” Then a bystander says, “Look! He’s throwing his hammer at the bad guy!” The hammer hits the bad guy, and sometimes there’s an editor’s note that says something like, “Editor’s note: Thor’s hammer is so heavy that no one can pick it up or stop it’s force once he throws it!” Then a bystander will say after the panel where it obviously knocks out the villain, “It knocked him out cold! That must be a super heavy hammer!” And…so you get the picture.
The villain and hero talk, though over the top, is very pleasing to me. One of my favorite comic conflict dialogues ever comes from Journey Into Mystery issue #97: The Mighty Thor Battles the Lava Man!
But suddenly, like a blazing streak of unchained fury, Thor, God of Thunder, leaps to the attack!
[Thor says] “Back, you demon from the nameless depths! The surface belongs to mankind, and Thor is their protector!”
[Lava Man counters] “Your words are as futile as your deeds, costumed one! The day of the humans is over! Do not prolong their agony!”
All in all, as an avid Thor fan, I give this volume a green heart, (which means if you’re already a fan and can’t get enough then this is perfect for you, especially as far as history/origins go and definitely worth the buy), and a three heart normal rating.
One last thing! Remember that picture I drew where I made Master Betty = Thor, and I was Loki and hiding behind him because our pet Turtle had turned into Turtle=Hulk and she was mad at me again? Yeah! That was fun. The end, lolz!