Monday, April 12, 2021

"Every Hand Against Him!"


It's hard to believe, but as we've seen, even as bizarre a partnership as that of the Cobra and Mister Hyde was enough of a challenge to the God of Thunder to occupy a good deal of Thor's time and effort in collaring them. Even so, our dastardly duo was well and truly thrashed by the time the dust settled--particularly Hyde, whose boasts about his strength being more than a match for Thor earned him a considerable dose of humility after meeting his foe in hand-to-hand combat.

So off to jail these two went--and normally, we wouldn't hear from captured and jailed super-criminals until a good deal of time had passed, enough for them to lick their wounds and presumably hire a good lawyer to get them out on parole well before their non-super-powered brothers behind bars. (Either that, or use their powers to escape at the first opportunity--there were no specialized detention facilities like Ryker's Island or the Vault for super-villains in those days.) But in this case, it took only a few issues for Hyde and the Cobra to reappear--all because Loki, the God of Evil, saw enough potential in them to post bail for them in the amount of $500K in order to make use of them against his half-brother, Thor--after making a considerable upgrade to their powers, that is.

Call me crazy, Loki, but somehow I don't think these two have any plans to show up for their trial. Then again, what's a half-million in mortal currency to you?

On paper, Loki's upgrades for Hyde and the Cobra might appear to be impressive, particularly in the case of Hyde whose strength is now doubled to that of two dozen men. But as for the Cobra, whose cobra-like abilities only amounted to speed and cunning, he received the short end of Loki's stick as he still must rely on specialized equipment like gas and poison darts against his foes, though his normal strength has now been doubled to that of two men--a trifle compared to Hyde, but he'll need every edge he can get if he and Hyde are going up against Thor again.

And so with five previous issues under their collective belt, we again are presented with the threat of the Cobra and Mister Hyde, more powerful and dangerous than ever--and who, thanks to Loki's plan, will also have the advantage of holding a hostage in the form of Jane Foster, nurse and love interest to Thor's alter-ego of Dr. Donald Blake. Yet from a look at this story's covers, it also appears that Asgard itself will play a major part in this conflict--but with Thor intent on saving the life of the mortal woman he is forbidden to love, will Odin be with the Thunder God, or against him?

Like bloodhounds set loose, Hyde and the Cobra move fast--snatching Jane out of Blake's office right under the doctor's nose, which puts Thor at a disadvantage when he catches up to them at street level. And not to spoil what's ahead for Jane, but it would be the last time during this conflict that Thor would see her conscious--and, barring a miracle, alive.

Meanwhile, in Asgard, Loki furthers his own ends in this scheme by beginning to manipulate Odin through what has become the all-father's sore point regarding Thor:  his son's preoccupation with both the mortal world of Earth and with Jane Foster in particular. Given what we've seen of Odin's at times toxic relationship with Thor as well as his own violent mood swings, it doesn't take much effort on Loki's part to provoke him into taking disciplinary action against his son--even to the point of taking steps you and I might consider extreme, under the circumstances.

By the same token, it doesn't take much for Thor to put two and two together and see Loki's hand in all of this. Fortunately, Odin hasn't made Thor's banishment effective beyond a formality (this time)--and so Thor quickly returns to Asgard to confront the true culprit, though word has travelled fast enough throughout the realm for Asgard's warriors to halt Thor's entrance by whatever means necessary. For all the good it does them.

As it happens, Odin's power deposits Thor within view of the hilltop hideout where the Cobra and Hyde have retreated with their captive--a house which the pair have rigged with deadly traps for the unsuspecting Thunder God. With a battle between the three imminent, clearly the story has quickly and quietly dispensed with the original scheme of these villains as far as their demand of Thor to surrender his hammer to them on a city street corner; what isn't clear is why the two of them have altered their plans to the extent of having had Thor where they wanted him but now deciding to essentially use their hostage only as a last resort.

That being the case, the odds of Jane surviving the coming battle may be slim, as Thor's cunning and ruthless foes remain willing to go to any lengths to destroy him.

With Hyde presuming Thor to be dead, he makes a tactical error in withdrawing in order to gleefully relay the news to the Cobra. But Thor rises only to discover that the true damage has been done, with Jane having been mortally wounded by the explosion--and all he can do at this point is to delay her final moments of life, even as his enemies return and close in for the kill.

Normally Thor's state of mind would have him wiping the floor with these two mortals whose actions have likely taken the life of the woman he loves; but to the story's credit, Hyde and the Cobra's enhanced power still proves to be formidable, and, as Hyde notes, it's still two against one.

With the Cobra dispatched at least for the time being, Thor is free to turn his full attention to Hyde--a brawler in every sense of the word, and a calculating foe to be sure, but a villain eventually done in by his own handiwork. And thanks to Thor's experience in Iron Man's company, the slithering Cobra isn't far behind.

Jeez, I don't suppose Thor gave any thought to Jane being struck by those electrical charges.

With his foes finally dealt with, Thor faces the unpleasant task of having to discontinue the stopgap measure he took to keep Jane from slipping away. But in Asgard, thanks to Balder the Brave, Odin has relented and arranged for him to obtain a healing elixir to be delivered to his son, which arrives with not a moment to spare. (The delay having been caused by--you guessed it--Loki.)

It would mercifully be the final appearance of the Cobra and Hyde as headliners in the Journey Into Mystery title, though they would return to cause more mischief in the pages of Daredevil, Captain America, and Amazing Spider-Man. At some point, though, the PPC will satisfy the *cough* high demand *cough* for the return of the Cobra by looking in on his upgrade to King Cobra. That probably has Thor quaking in his boots, eh?

A classic Thor pinup from this story, as rendered by Jack Kirby and (I believe) Chic Stone.



Colin Jones said...

Surely there must have been a clause in the Asgardian Constitution which allowed the other gods to vote Odin out of office on the grounds that the old fool was totally demented :D

The smiling Thor in the covers' corner boxes looks like a school photo from Asgard High (or Ye Asgard High Eternal as it was probably called).

Comicsfan said...

Colin, great minds think alike--you took the words right out of my mouth on that Thor box image! :D

Colin Jones said...

And my opinion of Odin chimed with MP's too in that previous post, CF!

Jason Atomic said...

I’m always blown away to see how Kirby depicted the Cobra in this.
In every panel he is either slithering or poised to strike. Such vivid and perfectly realised serpentine body language.

Comicsfan said...

Now that you mention it, Jason, it's curious why the Cobra is one of the few snake-based Marvel villains who lives up to his motif in terms of movement. With the exception of Bushmaster (for obvious reasons), few if any of the other villains who have adopted the appearance and attributes of a snake don't actually move in a snake-like manner, and there are plenty of them to go around (the members of the Serpent Society, for example).