Tuesday, July 08, 2014
We looked at Thor #316 some years back, featuring Thor and Iron Man against the Bi-Beast and Man-Beast, guest-starring the Man-Thing for good measure. That was the second of two parts, but I didn't realize the Man-Beast--who looked either dead or in bad shape after a crash at the end of #316--would return to give Thor the hassle again. Or at least, I didn't think he would the very next issue. From 1982, Thor #317, "Chaos at Canaveral" Written by Doug Moench; layouts by Keith Pollard; inks by Brett Breeding, Chic Stone, Pablo Marcos, and Joe Rubinstein.
Iron Man has a brief appearance here: having finished his business at Cape Canaveral for a satellite launch, he had to split; but Thor was enjoying checking it out. IM offers him a tour, and as Donald Blake Thor accepts. Iron Man introduces Donald to Diane LaMarr, an astronaut trainee. She was more than happy to give him the tour, but was sad that it might be one of her last official duties: with budget cuts looming, latest hired meant first fired. Diane does find a kindred spirit in Donald, who had recently lost his job at a New York clinic and wasn't sure what he was going to do next. (As Thor, though, he sounds a little homesick for Asgard.)
Meanwhile, the Man-Thing, having witnessed the Man-Beast's crash landing, pulls the hateful monster out of the wreck out of mere curiosity. The mindless muck-monster drags the Man-Beast to the Cape, then forgets what it was doing and wanders off. (Remember, in Marvel's Florida, it's like 95% swamp...) The Man-Beast awakens, right where he wanted to be, somehow: he's convinced he crash-landed and stumbled there himself. He uses his hate-blasts to turn the staff and onlookers at the Cape against each other, then recaps his origin for them while they riot. He planned on hijacking the weather satellite launch, so he could return to his homeworld, Counter-Earth. You may remember Counter-Earth from old, pre-Jim Starlin Warlock stories; but as an editorial footnote points out, MB was unaware that it had been moved from its orbit opposite Earth's. Man, Man-Beast can not catch a break; but I don't know how he intended to ride there in a weather satellite, either.
While the Man-Thing seemingly realizes that he's let Man-Beast cause a lot of havoc, it tries to make amends by leading Thor to the rocket. (Which Thor probably could've figured out himself; the Man-Beast probably wasn't there to raid the commissary.) Diane's already there, suited up as well: she realizes she can't stop the launch, but fears if it doesn't go well, the space program could lose even more funding. (Yes, because a congressional appropriations committee isn't going to buy your little story about a space wolfman fouling things up.) Thor and Man-Beast punch it out a bit on the gantry to the rocket--which apparently could've been manned, since there's an open hatch Diane gets in, and then Mjolnir falls into. As the countdown ends and the rocket launches, "now begins a different kind of countdown--a countdown in reverse..." since Thor has sixty seconds to get Mjolnir back, or he'll turn into Donald Blake!
That sixty-second countdown was woefully overused in Thor--I think Walt Simonson used it once, in his first issue, before getting rid of it and the Donald Blake identity--but this isn't bad. Thor grabs the rocket, straining to climb his way in; while the Man-Beast is apparently unfazed by the gravitational pressure of the launch and instead busies himself trying and failing to pick up Mjolnir. Meanwhile, almost forgotten, Diane blows the hatch, throwing herself, Man-Beast, and Mjolnir into space. (She had set a lifeline for herself, but of course it snapped.) Mjolnir in hand, Thor is saved, and the Man-Beast throws himself into trying to kill him, even though he should be more concerned with how he's surviving in hard vacuum, with no oxygen. Man-Beast seems fine, until a punch from Thor knocks him off the rocket, and he drifts helplessly into space. Aww...I don't know why I have a soft spot for Man-Beast, but every time he seemingly dies makes me sad.
Thor casts his hammer to the drifting Diane, saving her easily (way faster than Gravity!) then they return to earth, where the Man-Beast's hate-rays have worn off, and everyone's a little surprised their satellite launch apparently went off flawlessly. Diane's bosses are pretty damn impressed with her, and assure her they'll find something else to cut rather than their astronauts. She wants to tell Donald thanks, to see if her luck might rub off on him; while outside the Cape, the Man-Thing has once again forgotten why he was there, and shambled back into the swamp...