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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Mjolnir knocked some sense into me

Well at the beginning of Summer I decided I needed another big big series to complete. After reading the masterful Walt Simonson run, I decided on Thor. Now Thor "starts" in Journey into Mystery #83 and ends in #125. So chose to start collecting Thor #126 (first book in own title) and end at #502 (end of vol#1).

But after getting more and more Silver and Bronze Age books, the modern ones started to pale in comparision. And then I got hit by the mighty Uru hammer and had a brainfart....Why oh why was I going to spend money on issues #401 through to #502 ?? Most of them are pretty crappy 90's dreck and they would take in yet more space...

So I decided to stop at #400. Issue #382 is a better choice as it's not only the end of the Simonson run, it's also the end of a an era in Thor mythology. But I've always been a sucker for even numbers, so #400 it is.

This is the earliest Thor I have so far,second issue from the run, it's surprisingly high grade for me, but don't you just love that cover ? Story and art are equally impressive. Early 60's comics just blow you away sometimes



Thursday, September 01, 2005

The new Roy in town

Ok, ok I know I'm way late on this, but as per usual, life got in the way again..sorry folks.

Next up is Avengers #31 though to #40 and the big change this time is in the writing department. As Stan Lee's responsibilities within Marvel Comics Group grew, he had less and less time to do the scripting chores and was replaced (here) by Roy "The Boy" Thomas. The penultimate fan-who-turned-pro, and as some say the spiritual son of Stan Lee.

The first story line is pretty weak by most standards.A Goliath solo-trip to find some cure for some disease...easily forgettable, but the next one...(#32 & #33) was solid gold. The Avengers Vs. "Sons of the Serpent" a bunch of race-baiting fascists dressed like snakes trying to get the American public to swing over to the extreme right.Quite cutting and controversial for the mid-60s.

The next two-parter (#34 & #35) involves "the Living Laser" and is about as light as a chocolate soufflé. Crazy bad guy has the hots for the Wasp and ends up robbing banks and fighting the Avengers to show he's worthy. You know the kind of filler issues I'm talking about. A fun read, but nothing you remember a few months later.

Issue #36, Roy's first full story line, is the battle with the Ultroids, some run of the mill robots, this time not made by a mad scientist, but by that other popular cliché of the time...The Alien. We also see Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver return to active duty,which makes for more tense moments as now the team has two "hotheads"; Hawkeye and Quicksilver. So expect a lot of bickering and fiery tempers in these and the next issues.

And the the absolute cherry on top, issues #38 - #40 feature the one and only "Lion of Olympus"..Hercules !!. Technically he's not an Avenger here (just living with them in exile) but he steals the show on every page...This is where Roy Thomas' writing comes into bloom. Away from the boundaries and plots that were Stan's and out on his own with the inclusion of a new (for the Avengers) character.

Throughout most of these issues we also have Hawkeye's girlfriend, the former Russian double-agent Natasha Romanoff, aka the Black Widow! Appearing in battle alongside the Avengers in several issues, she is constantly on the cusp of membership. Will she join, or won't she? And is she a spy,a double agent or a triple agent ?

On the art-front, we're still with Don Heck and these issues are among the best superhero work Don ever did. Solid, colourful, great action shots but without too much flash. You'll never look in awe at the pages, but you'll never be disgusted by them either.

Ok, this is getting way too long, let me just finish with mentioning that we see (butler) Jarvis for the first time in Avengers #38 and for the real Marvel Zombie, yes that is Bill Foster in Avengers #33, the lab aide to Hank Pym who later later turns into (and get his own short lived series) Black Goliath.

Oh and issue #35 had a letter printed from a then young fan called Dave Cockrum, who of course, would turn out to be one of Marvel's most important artists only ten years later and co-creator of the Uncanny X-men.