Saturday, November 01, 2008

Single Issue Review: Thor #159

In Thor #158, Marvel reprinted the origin of Thor story from Journey into Mystery #83. While on vacation in Norway Don Blake had heard strange stories of an alien invasion. Investigating, the lame doctor found himself being pursued by the aliens. He managed to find his way into a cave, where he found a cane. He discovered that by tapping the cane, he was suddenly transformed into the mighty Thor, with extraordinary powers and abilities. He repelled the alien invasion and began fighting crime while maintaining his secret identity.

While it is certainly a very unusual origin, it presented some problems, especially since early on Stan introduced the concept of Asgard, where Thor was a god with his father Odin and numerous friends and enemies. It wasn't long before the fans noticed the problem with this. If Thor had existed all along, who was Don Blake? What had happened to the mighty Thor that his magic hammer/cane was sitting in that cavern?

This was the subject of an almost endless series of letters to the editor speculating on possibilities, and in Thor #159, Stan decided to finally settle the matter. Thor had been exiled to Earth by Odin as a punishment for his lack of humility. We learned that Don Blake had only actually existed for a few years, having been created by Odin with a lame leg in order to humble the Thunder God.

Of course, the idea that he had learned some real humility is rather silly; if ever there was a character who was full of himself, it was Thor. This is part of his character as a god, so maybe Odin was grading on the curve.

The story is solid, with new details about the origin of a major character in the Marvel Universe. At last we understand why Don Blake himself has no life aside from his doctor's office. Indeed, Blake had no friends or continuing characters from his earthly life, with the exception of Jane Foster, who of course was gone by then.

On the art side, I am not a huge fan of Jack Kirby's Silver Age work, but I must acknowledge that this issue was terrific. Check out this full-pager:

What's not to like there? Simply beautiful, as is the rest of the book.