This was the second of the two issues of MARVEL SPECTACULAR I picked up from my drugstore’s Big Bin of Slightly Older Comics when I went looking for more Thor adventures, and it was the Thor story that I enjoyed the most up to this point–largely, I expect, because the antagonist wasn’t some Asgardian god or far-out space menace, but rather a bona fide super-villain of the sort that I could relate to. It also helped that this was an issue produced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Even in these early days, before I had quite defined why, I liked most of the 1960s reprinted Marvel Comics even more than I did the brand new material that was then being released. It was more to my sensibility. (The same, really, was true over at DC, which is why I was always a sucker for big reprint comics.)
We pick things up where the previous story left off, with Odin’s anger-hurled bolt of cosmic power striking Loki, Sif and Balder who all have snuck away to Earth in order to either mess up or aid the powerless Thor. There’s a page dropped from this story early on that makes the set-up overt, but the end result of Odin’s strike is that Loki, Sif and Balder are now all in the same boat as Thor: all of their Asgardian abilities and indeed their immortality has been stripped from them. Which beggars the question: if Odin can summarily take Loki’s powers away, how has the God of Evil ever been a threat to the Realm Eternal? Anyway, Loki realizes that with his Asgardian power gone, Thor with his colossal strength will kick his ass, and so the Lord of Lies flees.
From here, events segue and we are introduced to the Wrecker, one of the great goon super-villains in the Marvel canon. When we first meet him, he’s simply a skilled burglar who carries a crowbar–but he’s been pulling jobs in high-rise skyscrapers and eluding the authorities with ease. Not much of a threat to Thor, though. But it turns out that Loki has a hole card. He intends to use a spell to contact the Norn Queen and have her restore his godly attributes in repayment of her debt to him. Loki sets up in a hotel room to do just that. But wouldn’t you know it, as soon as he completes his message, the Wrecker chooses that room to burst into and rob. He flattens Loki with his crowbar and puts the fallen Asgardian’s helmet on as a gag–and so the Norn Queen mistakes the Wrecker for Loki when she appears and spins her enchantments.
Thus, the Wrecker finds himself in possession of the power of an Asgardian God, and he wastes no time going on a rampage, knocking the stuffing out of the cops who show up to try to capture him and generally just drunk-reveling in his newfound might. Back at the medical office of Doctor Don Blake, Thor, Sif and Balder see breaking news coverage of the Wrecker’s rampage and recognize his moves as being backed by Asgardian power. Despite the fact that they are no longer Gods, the trio races out to confront the Wrecker. When they arrive, the second0story man has no idea who Balder or Sif are, and so he dispatches them back to Asgard with a gesture to get rid of them. But he knows who Thor is, and he figures that his reputation will be made if he demolishes the Thunder God in front of the whole world. Once again, Thor is battling a foe who is far more powerful than he in his diminished condition.
What follows is another spectacular Jack Kirby punch-’em-up, its kinetic energy blunted only somewhat by Vince Colletta’s soft and hasty inkwork. But the whole thing is a truly one-sided battle, as though Thor is as strong as ever, he doesn’t have his Godly endurance, his limitless reserves of energy, and his ability to withstand punishment. And so the Wrecker makes a meal of him. As the issue closes out, and the Wrecker is about to lower the boom on the overmatched ex-Thunder God, Balder and Sif race to Odin’s chambers to let the All-Father know what’s about to happen. But Odin is still pissed at them as well, and refuses to listen. Whatever is going to happen to Thor on Earth, Odin says that he will have no part in it. His son must serve out his penance, live or die. And on that note of hopelessness, the story is To Be Continued!
Afterwards came another Tales of Asgard installment, this one reprinted from an earlier issue of THOR. It opens with a very cool splash page that unfortunately isn’t reproduced all that well, and it leads off with Thor and his Warriors Three buddies dispatched to check out Nastrond, a domain that had defied Odin’s will in years past and that the old man torched to the ground. For all that Thor frames the natives as having been evil, this still smacks of genocide. Somehow, Odin was never quite as good and all-wise as he was often cracked up to be. Years later, still nothing grows in Nastrond.
That evening, after the heroes bed down for the night, Volstagg finds his name being called by a tiny old figure who beckons him to enter a nearby network of caves, promising him glory. The figure leads Volstagg to a radioactive pool which shimmers with strange energies (the story calls it a Radiant Pool, but what Kirby is intending here is pretty clear just from the art.) The fallout from the power that Odin used to destroy this land made it so, and its energies transformed the last surviving King of this region to allow him to survive in this unholy land. And the small figure drops his disguise, growing in size and power until he is revealed to Volstagg in his true form, as Fafnir, a mighty dragon-monster that desires revenge on Odin and Asgard. With Volstagg in his grasp, Fafnir intends to do murder unto Thor and his other comrades. And so this story is also To Be Continued. Of course, one of the problems with the Tales of Asgard stories in terms of their cliffhangers is that we know that all of these guys survived whatever Fafnir threw at them, because they were all also in the modern-set lead stories. But this was still a super-cool splash of Fafnir to go out on. I would have picked up more issues of MARVEL SPECTACULAR but this wound up being the final issue and the last THOR story from the era reprinted in monthly form.