Journey Into Mystery #114-119
Issue(s): Journey Into Mystery #114, Journey Into Mystery #115, Journey Into Mystery #116, Journey Into Mystery #117, Journey Into Mystery #118, Journey Into Mystery #119
While Thor awesomely fights an evil race car driver...
...Loki decides to power up another Earthling to fight Thor. This time he picks a prisoner, Crusher Creel, who is "brutal, savage, consumed with hatred for society".
The power he is granted is incredibly potent: the ability to absorb the strength of anything he touches (actually in these issues it's said that he only needs to be near the object he's absorbing but that will get sorted out).
As Thor soon learns, this doesn't just include physical objects, but even Thor's whirlwind...
The Absorbing Man's powers basically make him impossible to defeat.
The battle is interrupted, however, when Balder brings Thor back to Asgard because while Thor was fighting Creel, Loki kidnapped Jane Foster.
Odin catches Thor and Loki fighting, and while he's inclined to believe that Loki is the cause of the fight, the presence of Jane Foster makes him see red, so he orders a Trial of the Gods. Thor requests that he be allowed to return Jane to Earth and finish up with the Absorbing Man first, and Odin agrees.
The Absorbing Man has meanwhile taken over some poor couple's home, but Thor is able to lure him out, and the epic battle continues.
I love how Thor tells the Absorbing Man he's gone too far with that third scan above. Really? Absorbing the power of the Earth itself! Outrageous!
Thor wins by kicking up an element-transmuting storm that forces the Absorbing Man to turn into Helium...
...and float out into space.
Yeah, we'll chalk that up to Godly Power and not worry about the science.
Really a fun, massive battle. Absorbing Man of course goes on to be a major villain in the Marvel Universe.
The Absorbing Man story also introduces intrepid reporter Harris Hobbs.
Thor checks in on the sleeping Foster again before heading back to Asgard for the Trial of the Gods.
Now, years before i ever got to read this issue, i had seen the reference to the Trial in Avengers #16, and had seen the cover, so i kind of thought the Trial would be an actual trial, like, with Odin holding court and people presenting evidence. It turns out it's actually a physical contest between Loki and Thor. The contest takes place in the realm of Skornheim, "where even an immortal may find death".
Fans of Walt Simonson's Thor run may recognize the similarity to Thor #338's Skartheim, "where even Gods may perish", and where Thor and Beta Ray Bill fought for the right to Mjolnir.
I don't know why Odin thinks a race across Skornheim should determine who was right or wrong about starting a fight in Asgard, but hey, it's the Norse Gods, right?
Loki, of course, is a dirty cheater, and he's brought along a pouch of Norn stones with him.
The stones helps him slip through all of Skornheim's challenges...
...while Thor has to take a more physical approach.
Skornheim offers many challenges, including a battle with the (giant?) warrior Yagg.
Meanwhile, to keep Thor rattled, Loki has employed the Enchantress and the Executioner to harass Jane Foster back on Earth.
A nameless member of the Teen Brigade tries contacting Rick Jones, then the Avengers, then tries yelling out the window to Daredevil, and then tries reaching the Fantastic Four, but no one's available.
The Fantastic Four, in particular, have currently been defeated by the Frightful Four, who are about to take over the Baxter Building but get scared away by a ball of flame, thinking it's the Torch.
In fact it is Balder, come to Earth to help Jane.
Loki makes it out of Skornheim before Thor, but Thor tells Odin about the Norn stones. Loki has already thrown the stones to Earth, however, so Odin tells Thor he'd better go find it if he wants to prove that Loki cheated.
This gets us off on a weird tangent where Thor trails the stones to Vietnam and finds a family oppressed by the evil Communists and it turns out that the missing eldest son is in fact the leader of this group of Commies and he kills himself after accidentally killing his brother and mother.
Meanwhile the Norn Queen shows up looking for her stones. This is Karnilla's first appearance outside of the Tales of Asgard.
Thor drops off the remaining member of the Vietnamese family with the US military and gets ready to head back to Asgard. But that doesn't end the story! Because Loki has more mischief to make to prevent Thor from proving that he cheated during the Trial of the Gods. He influences an (unnamed) evil (and jackass) hunter...
...inspiring him to attack Thor with an anesthetic shell, knocking him out. Loki then leaves clues guiding the hunter to the Temple of the Destroyer.
I'm not quite sure where we are at this point. Thor was in Vietnam so i guess we're not too far from there. But as the hunter points out, it's odd for Norse artifacts to be in this area. It's vaguely a sort of Chariot of the Gods type of idea (e.g., the question of why so many different cultures built pyramids), and it's one that Kirby will come back to with the origin of the Inhumans and then especially the Eternals, and that's actually interesting because the Destroyer, introduced here, will later be explained to be a device that Odin created to defeat the Celestials.
The hunter's soul is sucked into the Destroyer, and when Thor wakes up and finds his way to the Temple... well, there's a big fight.
The Destroyer is immensely powerful, but even though Thor just recently fought the also immensely powerful Absorbing Man, this fight is on a whole new level. For one thing, the Destroyer, made all-powerful by Odin, is able to wield Thor's hammer...
...and later destroy it (luckily Thor still has the Norn stones, and he puts them to use).
Beyond that he has an array of energy beams.
If you're looking for anything to support the Destroyer being an anti-Celestial device, Thor does say that Odin built it "to fight for Earth, should danger threaten!! The time has not yet come!!".
But he also says that the armor was created to destroy the first thing it saw upon awakening. Although i feel like that is contradicted by the fact that the hunter still has some degree of control of the armor, as we'll see when the fight ends.
Before we get to that, though, we check back in with Loki, who realizes that the Destroyer is powerful enough to actually kill Thor, and if that were to happen Odin would figure out pretty quickly who to blame. So he decides to confess to Odin. But Odin is sleeping (and isn't he adorable?).
This Sleep of Life, later called the Odinsleep, is a neat little plot device designed to keep the omnipotent All-Father out of the picture to prevent deus ex machina resolutions. It also adds a cool bit of weirdness to Marvel's Asgardian lore.
I don't know why Odin had to sleep in the middle of all this business surrounding Loki being accused of cheating at the Trial of the Gods, but who doesn't enjoy a nice nap?
Loki is imprisoned for trying to wake Odin, but from his cell he helps Thor by first casting a spell that makes Thor intangible...
...and then by reaching out to the Norn Queen and asking her to wake Odin.
But despite fighting a seemingly losing battle, Thor requests that Odin not interfere, and he ultimately wins the fight by using the hunter's body as a shield.
For his part in all of this, Odin sentences Loki to work as an apprentice for the warlock Ularic. It's a pretty mild punishment, i think, but Loki's use of the Norn stones during the Trial is still not known.
Whew. A pretty heavy collection of stories. We're only stopping here because the issues finally present something of a break; we'll next see Thor in JIM #120 repairing his hammer in a factory in Pittsburgh, and i'm declaring that to be enough of a gap to merit a new entry. I think perhaps with Thor now off the Avengers (which happens during this run; see the Considerations section below), Lee & Kirby were freed up to do longer continuing stories. The effect is a little rambling, but still a lot of fun.
A few random additional things from these issues. I usually comment on Odin's wonderful hats, but Loki's got a nice one too:
And so does one of Thor's generic friends.
Later Loki wears a much more subdued hat. Just rebelling against his father and Asgardian cultural norms, i guess.
On a non-hat subject, when Thor was fighting the Absorbing Man for the first time and then got whisked back to Asgard by Balder, what actually happened was the Rainbow Bridge suddenly materialized under his feet.
Just a little data for anyone trying to figure out what/where the Bridge is.
As for the Tales of Asgard, issue #114, gives us the origin of the Little Red Riding Hood story, with Iduna (later Idunn), on her way to deliver golden apples to Odin, playing Red Riding Hood, a hunter named Haakun (his only appearance), and the wolf Fenris, who has disguised himself as a human (albeit one with whiskers).
In #115, Thor and a group of Asgardians come across the giant Ghan...
...but Loki uses his sorcery to hide the giant, putting Ghan in Loki's debt.
#116 introduces possibly the greatest Asgardian hat of all. It belongs to a King Hymir.
Loki convinces Hymir to challenge Thor to a contest. If Thor can break a goblet, he wins and is worthy to keep hitting on his sister, Princess Rinda. If not, he becomes Hymir's slave. Thor wins by smashing the goblet against Hymir's hat.
#117's Tales of Asgard begins a long storyline where we are introduced to the Odinsword...
....and Loki and Thor are sent on a quest to find out why it is cracking. Somehow Loki is put in charge of lining up a group of companion questors. But Thor is given a Mystic Glove of Truth that forces people to reveal their true intentions, so at least one guy is outed.
With that, we should be suspicious of the other recruits, but as we'll find, three of them are destined to be counted among Thor's closest friends.
We'll cover the rest of this Tales of Asgard saga in the next Thor entry. Even the back-ups are epic!
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: At the end of issue #115, Thor is seen heading up the Rainbow Bridge to Asgard to participate in the Trial of the Gods. That trial was mentioned in Avengers #16 (Wasp: "[Thor] can't be here today! He muttered something about a Trial of the Gods and ran off!"). That occurs after the battle with the Masters of Evil and after a cutaway to Captain America's battle with some of Baron Zemo's leftover mercenaries. Avengers #15 runs into #16, so the battle with the Absorbing Man must take place after the fight with MOE in #16 and then these issues run concurrently with Avengers #16 and beyond. The original Avengers team (minus Thor) is shown still together in JIM #116, meaning that the Trial also takes place before the change in Avengers line-up. Daredevil #7 takes place during #116, and the Frightful Four's defeat of the FF in Fantastic Four #38 needs to take place prior to this arc. This long arc ends with Thor's hammer having been damaged, so placing him elsewhere prior to JIM #120 should be avoided.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Marvel Masterworks: The Mighty Thor vol. 3
Inbound References (12): show
Keep in mind that the Vikings in the Marvel Universe got around a lot- for example, we see a Viking settlement in Quebec in the X-Men/ Alpha Flight series.
Posted by: Michael | January 23, 2013 12:19 AM
ive loved the Absorbing man since Secret Wars. He had some of the best lines.
Posted by: Kveto from Prague | January 23, 2013 3:41 PM
*snort* Odin wears footy pajamas.
Posted by: min | March 13, 2013 8:37 AM
That King Hymir splash page is fantastic. My brain can't handle it.
Posted by: Wanyas The Self-Proclaimed | March 14, 2013 10:56 PM
This is when Thor goes from being an OK book to one of the best Marvel was putting out at the time. Only the Ditko Spider-Man and FF are at the same quality. Kirby really starts hitting things out of the ballpark and taking Thor in all sorts of directions. He's becoming the true top level hero of Marvel, not just one who deals with routine threats.
The ancient Norse and Germans believed in trial by ordeal, so the trial in Skornheim makes perfect sense. In a magical world, fate can truly determine the just will win such contests.
Posted by: Chris | March 22, 2014 3:44 PM
Hi! But why ITM #114 stand after Avengers #16? It's march! I mean it's not chronology (on plot).
Posted by: Star Ocean | August 19, 2014 6:21 PM
Star Ocean, as i mention in the Chronological Placement Considerations, this issue must take place concurrently with Avengers #16. Thor appears in Avengers #16 but then it's later said that he's left for the Trial of the Gods, which is shown in these issues. When stories overlap i place them as close to each other as possible.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 19, 2014 6:37 PM
fnord12, cool! I mean, i don't read some of these issues. But i sure you know what doing.
Posted by: Star Ocean | August 20, 2014 8:46 AM
Looking through the evolution of Thor through this site again, I think the reason this is the point the comic becomes so epic is simply this is the point where they fully go through with figuring out Thor's position as a "God" instead of merely a man who can become a god. Prior to this arc, Thor was just a super-hero and the fact he was a Norse god was just background material. Sure you had access to characters like Odin and Loki and Balder and occasional aspects like his battle with Hercules, but Thor mostly fought the same weird stuff like Communists, super villains, criminals and the like. He was basically Donald Blake who happened to become Thor the God, keeping a doctors practice and pining for Jane Foster. Sure he did have notable villains that emerged early on like Eel, Mr. Hyde or the Grey Gargoyle, but obviously the god threats like Loki and later Amora and the Executioner or matters like fighting Hercules were more interesting, let alone Kirby was allowed to get wild with the Tales of Asgard setting up this fantastic world...which was locked away and only seen in flashback due to Donald Blake being Thor.
But this is the point where it finally reverses: the Norse matters are just so much more interesting and the gods are so engrained in the series now that this is what makes the series, not Donald Blake pining for Jane Foster and running around as a Norse thunder god on the side. People want to see the craziness that Kirby can come up with in this landscape and Kirby wants to really unleash here as he is doing with the Fantastic Four. And thus, from this point with the Absorbing Man, the Trial of the Gods and the Destroyer (which more or less is Kirby's own admiration or acknowledgement of "Chariot of the Gods"), Thor is the dominant one, so dominant that eventually we get the "Donald Blake was a construct all along" retcon. It was all for the better as Kirby finally was able to unleash the golden age of this comic in full. (even if the humanizing aspects of why Donald Blake exists gets lost in the process)
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 24, 2014 4:45 PM
Eel- Ataru, you mean Cobra right?
Posted by: Michael | October 27, 2014 7:11 PM
Yeah, somehow got Eel and Cobra mixed up in my little comments.
Posted by: Ataru320 | October 28, 2014 9:22 AM
The whole "Trial of the Gods" isn't so different from Arthurian legends of choosing a champion to decide who is right in a conflict (see the scene in Excalibur).
I love how they manage to grab all the other characters in the Marvel Universe and shove them in at one point or another.
And Thor does quite well here - he has his first battles with the Absorbing Man and Destroyer - that's a hell of a lot of firepower (not to mention Loki).
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 3, 2015 9:45 AM
The Absorbing Man is an interesting character design; Kirby makes him rather gorilla-like to contrast to Thor's godly bearing.
That evil racer guy up top sure looks like a HYDRA agent in the reprint coloring.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | June 13, 2016 5:26 PM
The panel of the original Avengers meeting looks almost like the panels just before they announce the new team to the press and part ways in "Avengers" 16. I'm wondering if that part was meant to take place simultaneously. Doesn't "Avengers" 16 also have a word balloon to the effect of "Too bad Thor isn't here."?
Posted by: Jeff | August 25, 2016 10:41 AM
Jeff, you are correct. See the Considerations on this entry.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 25, 2016 10:48 AM
Okay, again there is a lot of stuff here. This where this series really hit its stride. The battle with the Absorbing Man was epic in the truest sense. I placed the first part of their battle and the trip to Asgard to rescue Jane Foster before Avengers#15. The Thor returns to Earth and defeats the Absorbing Man. He goes to tell the Avengers that he has to leave and helps defeat the Masters of Evil. He tells the Wasp that he is leaving the Avengers and goes home for the Trial of the Gods which was awesome. He then goes to Vietnam which was a good story in itself and then the Destroyer. As far as the temple being in Vietnam or Southeast Asia, the Vikings didn't build it Odin did so he could place it wherever he wants. The back up stories were outstanding as well especially the quest. According to Lee, Fandral was modeled on Errol Flynn, Hogun the Grim on Attila the Hun and Volstagg the Braggart on the character of Falstaff from Shakespeare. The cameos of Daredevil and the Frightful Four were because Daredevil#7 and FF#38 were all going at this time as well.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | November 1, 2016 6:27 PM
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