At the end of 1969, Jack Kirby's time as penciller on Mighty Thor was nearing its end, with only seven more issues before he would conclude his distinctive run on the title--while closing the door on this chapter of his work at Marvel Comics altogether, and moving on to hopefully greener pastures. Reading Thor around this time was something of a mixed blessing, since writer Stan Lee's scripting was barely present in Kirby's panels--only contributing insofar as what it took to move things along, with little to none of Lee's usual depth added to either characterization or the elements of the story. It was much the same in issues of Fantastic Four published at the same time, with Kirby ending his time there, as well. You and I can only imagine the upheaval Kirby's departure was causing in the Marvel offices, and not just in terms of scheduling. There seems to be general consensus that Kirby was not leaving Marvel under pleasant or even cordial circumstances--and, whether coincidentally or otherwise, that air of discontent was evident in these final stories.
Yet the Marvel promotional machinery was still going strong--and this house ad was pleasing to come across, even though a tight lid was being kept on what was going on behind closed doors:
If the cover to this issue of Thor was any indication, Kirby had no intention of throwing in the towel on his work before punching his time card for the final time. Kirby would later end his time on Thor with a battle between the warriors of Asgard and Surtur, the fire-god of legend who would one day put the final touches on Ragnarok. Inbetween, we'd see the first appearance of the Crypto-Man, which would eventually end the life of the Hulk's betrothed, Jarella, and pay the price. There was an encounter with billionaire Kronin Krask, who involved Thor in a mad scheme to gain the Thunder God's immortality. Kirby also presented another bombastic battle with the rock troll, Ulik, who had fallen in thrall to the Ringmaster (I simply have to get my hands on one of those hypnotic hats)--as well as a story where Loki seizes the throne of Asgard by laying claim to the Odin-ring.
And beginning this home stretch of issues was a rematch between Thor and the ruthless Wrecker, a common thief who was mistakenly granted Asgardian power by Karnilla, Queen of the Norns. In their first battle, the Wrecker almost succeeded in slaying Thor, who had been deprived of his Asgardian might by Odin--but through the intervention of the Destroyer, the Wrecker was beaten and subsequently carted off to a holding facility.
Trouble is, no one on Earth had really counted on having to incarcerate a super-villain with Asgardian power coursing through him--and so they drugged him, hoping to keep him sedated until proper facilities could be prepared for him.
Their time ran out.