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Marvel Mayhem: Doctor Strange, The Wasp & More Torch Dreadfulnss

Back again with another installment of my read-through the entire Marvel Universe. The deeper I get into this project, the more I realize I'm tackling the Mount Everest of comic book geekery. The order, which is still being compiled as we speak by that saint of comic-dom, Travis Starnes, just cracked the 1990s. The number of issues in said order is creeping up on 8,000... and doesn't include the supplemental stuff like Sgt. Fury's Howling Commandoes or the Conan books, which I also plan on reading.

 

Oh, and the ambitious Mr. Starnes also has started putting together a reading order for Ultimate Marvel.

 

Yikes.

 

Better stop flapping my gums and keep reading, eh?

 

To the reviews we go!

 

 

58. Strange Tales #109

Publication Date: June 1963

Writers: Stan Lee & Robert Bernstein

Artist: Jack Kirby

 

In my last batch of reviews, I opined that the work of artists like Steve Ditko trumped that of Kirby, because Kirby had such a significant workload. This issue reinforces those thoughts. Both Johnny Storm and the villain in this one, The Sorcerer, look different from page to page and sometimes panel to panel within the same page.

 

The most amusing part is some of the evils that can be released from Pandora's Box. Hatred, I get... but Foolishness? Paralysis? And Cold? Cold?!?

 

Otherwise, this one belongs on the scrapheap.

 

Rating: 1 out of 5

 

 

59. Tales To Astonish #44

Publication Date: June 1963

Writers: Stan Lee & Ernie Hart

Artist: Jack Kirby

 

Easily the best Ant-Man yarn to date. Lots of historical signficance, as we get the debut of the Wasp, and a look at the back story behind Henry Pym. The latter comes off as a little bit of a Batman ripoff, but it is pretty well done.

 

The villain's not much (an inter-dimensional criminal made from chemical compounds) but he does actually kill a supporting character—a rare legitimate death for the Silver Age era. The real draw here, however, is the debut of the Wasp and the dynamic between these two miniature superheroes. There's a little bit of the same clueless writing about women (declarations about love while en route to battle, for instance) but Wasp is given much more room in this issue than, say, Sue Storm, who's probably still busy cleaning the headquarters and writing up letters as she was in Fantastic Four #14.

 

Also the creative debut of writer Ernie Hart, who's credited as H.E. Huntley here.

 

Rating: 4 out of 5

 

 

60. Tales of Suspense #42

Publication Date: June 1963

Writers: Stan Lee & Robert Bernstein

Artist: Don Heck

 

Iron Man officially is part of the Marvel Universe as he's now faced Communists and aliens. This issue is completely derivative. The Actor is a bad knockoff of the Chameleon, from the first issue of Amazing Spider-Man. The art is inconsistent. There's Screwball Science (Iron Man uses a powerful magnet early, but it doesn't affect him because of non-magnetic alloys in his metal uniform). And there's a huge continuity error, when one of the Actor's henchmen basically calls Iron Man Tony Stark.

 

Another swing and a miss by Stark Industries... let's move on to better things.

 

Rating: 1 out of 5

 

 

61. Strange Tales #110

Publication Date: June 1963

Writers: Stan Lee & H.E. Huntley

Artist: Dick Ayers / Steve Ditko

 

Paste-Pot Pete, the most ridiculous of Marvel villains to date makes his return here, teaming up with The Wizard. It's like the single-A baseball equivalent of when Dr. Doom and Namor joined forces!

 

The Wizard looks completely different here than he did in his debut appearance, but I can live with it. And, aside from one continuity issue where Torch talks about Wizard and Paste-Pot Pete both escaping from jail, there's nothing truly awful here... which is more that can be said about the typical Torch solo tale.

 

The second half of the book makes this a real collector, as it's the debut appearance of Dr. Strange (no, not the crappy version that faced Iron Man). Lee works solo as the author here, and my favorite Steve Ditko is handling the art. I'm immediately interested. What's here is way too short, which is a compliment to the quality. Everything is well drawn, and the story makes sense. The whole story provides a creepy, pulp-magazine type aspect to the Marvel Universe that had been lacking. There's also a nice plot twist toward the end.

 

Rating: 3 out of 5 (4 for the Good Doctor, 2 for the Torch)

 

 

62. Journey Into Mystery #94

Publication Date: July 1963

Writers: Stan Lee & Robert Bernstein

Artist: Joe Sinnott

 

Loki makes his fifth appearance, continuing to establish himself as one of the busiest antagonists in the Marvel Universe. And, once again, he finds a way to hypnotize or otherwise bewitch Thor, this time by striking him in the head with his own hammer at the precise spot that determines personality. I knew he was the god of mischief and trickery, but he's also apparently a neurological expert. That's one well-rounded Norseman. The unquestioned highlight is the art of Sinnott and continues to draw what I find as my favorite depiction of Thor... and the most consistent. I wish some of his panels of Thor and Loki wreaking havoc on Earth had been given more size and space. The story, however, is a hot mess... made worse by the ending that retcons the entire experience from the minds of mortals.

 

Rating: 1 out of 5

 

 

Supplemental 17. Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandoes #2

Publication Date: July 1963

Writer: Stan Lee

Artist: Jack Kirby

 

One common theme through these Fury issues... they are packed dense with plot and action. There's a lot that happens in these 26 pages. Fury and his team blow up a submarine base, sneak into a German town and wreak havoc, purposely let themselves get captured so they can infiltrate the nuclear research facility next to said concentration camp, and then demolish said facility with lot of small-arms fire, explosions and “Wah-Hoooooo!”s. The narrative-heavy style works, and while it's a little weird to see a WW2 title filled with so much comic relief and banter, those elements work as well. Just one example that not everything has to be “dark and gritty”, as is the current trend in modern comics.

 

Rating: 4 out of 5

 

 

 

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