Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Carnage of the Crypto-Man!

We've come to the fourth issue in our look at Jack Kirby's last seven issues as penciller of Mighty Thor, after which he would depart Marvel Comics and leave his defining work on the God of Thunder to be interpreted by many other artists to come. The first issue in this countdown saw the Thunder God dealing with the wrath of the Wrecker; issue 6 featured the return of Jane Foster, in a plot by Kronin Krask to gain the secret of immortality; and in issue 5, the rock troll Ulik came looking for Thor but found the Ringmaster, instead.

And now, in our fourth issue of the countdown, Thor encounters the Crypto-Man, a creation of the final mortal foe Thor would face during Kirby's tenure. As usual, Kirby delivers a provocative cover that has us wondering:  What the heck could have happened to Thor?

Judging by the satisfied grin of Jasper Whyte (the man pictured), and the still-smoking nozzle of his weapon, we can assume that he's the one responsible for Thor's plight (and plummet). Whatever he's using, no doubt a few storm giants and trolls would like the blueprints for it--once they're done with being doubled over in laughter at hearing that Thor was shot down by a mortal. As to how he managed it, our villain has apparently discovered an old weakness of Thor's:

The God of Thunder being so easily felled by nothing more than a stun ray based on hypnotism sounds far-fetched, yes; but as odd as it comes across, Thor has proven susceptible to methods of hypnosis in the past (both Loki and the Ringmaster handily brought Thor under their control on separate occasions). At least Whyte refrained from having him cluck like a chicken. Good grief, the Storm Giants would have never let him hear the end of that one.

On a separate note, Kirby's splash page is a marvel of simplicity--the "illusion beams" of Whyte are nothing to write home about, but the other elements of the page are so visually compelling. The detail of the city below and the sense of altitude it conveys in relation to Thor; the angle of Thor's flight, to say nothing of Thor's regal form itself; the feeling of motion we perceive in the shifting patterns in the sky as well as from Mjolnir. Kirby has come so far, on this title as well as others.

But, what is Whyte after--and why? Clearly he needs Thor for his purposes, so let's cover that base first:

Again, Whyte seems to be up on his Thor lore, inventing a device that does what Odin has often done to his son in the past. His reasons, however, would fit practically any villain created by Stan Lee who feels that life has dealt him a lousy hand:

While the "Crypto-Man" is really a cool name, it's unclear just how it applies to this robot. Robots don't come from crypts (well, unless they're being shipped somewhere); and if we're alluding to "cryptography," we're given firm proof that the Crypto-Man's three-word vocabulary doesn't exactly need decrypting:

As for Thor, he's discovering the effects of Whyte's procedure and concludes that he needs a doctor. Fortunately, he knows one of the best:

While it's pleasing to see Donald Blake brought into this story, I've lost count of the number of times he's been sought out to shed light on a situation, when it's a bit of a stretch to have him involved at all. In this case, Whyte's mother has looked him up in the hopes of easing her worries over her missing son:

Since Blake has no idea who's responsible for what's happened to Thor, the groundwork is being laid here for him to later connect the dots--though Mrs. Whyte could have sought out any number of actual scientists, rather than spend precious time waiting for Blake to show up in his office. For the sake of the story, however, the fact that Mrs. Whyte is distraught and that she's a patient of Blake's is sufficient to move things along in the direction they need to go.

And speaking of moving along, New York's finest are wishing that a certain Crypto-Man would move along out of their jurisdiction:

We couldn't wish for a better cue to check in with Mr. "no power on Earth" himself, who's even now contacting the police for any possible leads to Whyte's whereabouts. And if the following dialog doesn't make you gasp in delight, in a "I always KNEW I'd see this kind of scene in a comic book one day!" moment, then you should turn in your MMMS card right now:

Imagine hearing those words on "Law and Order," or a play, or any other audio medium--I think I'd fall out of my chair. Blake, however--putting two and two together and figuring this has something to do with Thor's sudden weakness--stamps his cane, and before you know it:

Yet Thor is in for quite a surprise when the Crypto-Man begins fighting back:

With Thor on the ropes, it's a perfect time for Whyte to make his appearance and take his bows, which allows Thor to not only find out Whyte's plans but provides him with a way to reach this man whose sole purpose in life was now in gaining the recognition that was always denied him, whatever the cost:

Thor's words hitting him like a bucket of cold water, Whyte then takes measures to stop the Crypto-Man's rampage. At the story's climax, that's not likely to involve something as simple as an "off" switch--and so Whyte pays the price for his actions, and the tragedy of his fate extends to one other:

It's a splendid cap to the story by Kirby that winds things down so nicely in these last few panels, and demonstrates how well the mortal aspect of Thor's life as Donald Blake works with this comic. A fitting segue that takes us into the final three issues of our countdown, as Kirby takes Thor back to Asgard to deal with another scheme of Loki's, only to eventually clash with Surtur, the fire demon! What this artist won't do to get a light to his stogie, eh?

Mighty Thor #174

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Bill Everett
Letterers: Sam Rosen


Anonymous said...

The chaotic catastrophe caused by the construct currently called...
Man, I don't know how you come up with a different alliteration, everyday, C.F. I find it exhausting!
This is your basic Frankenstein Monster story, not the most original thing to come out of Lee/Kirby, but still a fun read, and some nice art.
The Crypto-man (yeah, I don't get that title either) came back later to hassle the Hulk, if I'm not mistaken.
Kind of a fun late 60's comic book. Maybe Kirby's heart wasn't much in it anymore, at this point, I dunno, but he still put out a cool comic. mp

Comicsfan said...

I can't take the credit for this one, mp--that was all Stan Lee, from the story's title. (Though I was torn between that and "I--Possess--Power!")

Blaxkleric said...

Simply superb stuff from the "king". I actually think the drawings from this period in his career (as his discontent with Marvel finally reaches the point where he leaves for DC Comics) is some of his best stuff. Certainly its a lot better than his early Thor illustrations and there's far more detail in these panels than his later work too. I'm a huge Kirby fan (why else would I collect Kamandi!!) but his stuff for DC lacked a lot of detail imho. Perhaps his anger at Marvel made him think he was going to show them precisely what they were losing, and then when he joined DC he took his feet off the gas? Great posting though either way :-)

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