Comics : Thor (Vol. 1) #391

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: Worst of the Worst

This review was first published on: 2009.

Background...

Peter and Mary Jane Watson were recently married1. Within weeks of his happy event, a new member of his rogues' gallery appears going by the name of Venom2. He is psychotic ex-journalist Eddie Brock who bonded with his alien sybmiote costume. Unlike other enemies, Venom knows his identity. He appears in their apartment and terrorizes MJ. Once Venom is defeated, MJ admits that she can't stand to look at Peter's black costume any longer. For that reason, Peter decides to start wearing his red-and-blue costume once again.

For his part, Thor no longer has a secret identity. "Donald Blake" was one of Mjolnir's enchantments that Odin transferred to Beta Ray Bill. Thor and Nick Fury create the identity of "Sigurd Jarlson" to give Thor some level of privacy.3

In Detail...

"The Madness of Mongoose!"
Thor (Vol. 1) #391
May 1988 : SM Guest
Summary: Spider-Man Appears
Editor:  Ralph Macchio
Writer:  Tom DeFalco
Pencils:  Ron Frenz
Inker:  Brett Breeding
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Spider-Man is web-swinging around Manhattan in his classic costume, feeling unusually happy. His recent marriage to MJ is going great although he feels a bit inadequate since MJ's makes more money than he does. It's not the fact she makes more money, its that she makes so much more.

At the Biltwell hotel an unidentified man with sharp teeth is waiting in his room. He stares at a device he refers to as a "cellsmograph". Through the power of exposition, he explains to the audience that his target has returned to the city and that the time has come to complete his mission, hunt his target, and consume his flesh. (No, this isn't disturbing at all).

Elsewhere Thor has returned to Earth after month off-planet. He is waking down the street in his "secret identity" and discovers that his apartment building has been torn down. Unable to return to Asgard at the moment since the Rainbow Bridge was shattered4, he calls up his friend Jerry Sapristi, who gives him a job working at a construction site.

Thor is introduced to architect Eric Masterson (he-who-will-be-Thor-then-Thunderstrike) who has designed the building. They are trying to humor Aloysius R. Jamesly, the "artiste" who is paying for the construction. He is portrayed as a one-dimensional character: high on concept, low on reality.

The unidentified stranger uses the cellsmograph to locates Thor on the construction site and attacks him, introducing himself as ... The Merciless Mongoose. (Alliteration doesn't strike fear, it induces laughter). Mongoose proves to be too fast for Thor, who is trying to keep his secret identity and is separated from his hammer. When Thor is thrown off the building, he is saved by Spider-Man, who happens to be passing by. Unaware of the true identity of his passenger, Spidey tells "Sigurd" to stand back and leave it to the professionals. He then attacks Mongoose, who remembers him from earlier5.

Thor retrieves his uru hammer and changes costume. When he arrives, he returns the favor to Spider-Man, saving him from the Mongoose. Thor and Mongoose then battle each other in full, describing the extent of their respective powers as they go along. Mongoose proves to be extremely fast and vicious but is unable to do anything directly to Thor.

When it becomes clear that Mongoose is going to lose, he lures Thor and Spider-Man to the building's foundation. He destroys the support columns to cover his escape. Without hesitation, Thor supports the entire weight of the building. He tells Spider-Man that many will die if the building collapses and to replace the damaged support beams. In absolute awe over the display of strength, Spider-Man does as requested. Once outside, they discover Masterson was injured during their fight. Thor takes him to the hospital.

In Asgard, Hogun volunteers to participate in a radical experiment to return to Earth to find the missing Thor.

In General...

To be honest, I knew very little about mongooses (which is the correct pluralization) prior to this story. My very brief research indicates that a mongoose is a nondiscriminatory predator with average speed and brown or gray fur. I could not find any evidence that indicated a mongoose could reach the cheetah-like speeds depicted here nor have Chester Cheetah©-colored fur. His costume may be yellow on the cover, but is a light orange for the interiors. So there aren't many similarities between a real mongoose and this one aside from the name.

This issue does nothing more than give DeFalco the opportunity to write a story featuring Spider-Man. Before I continue, I will state that overall, he did a good job during his original run on Amazing Spider-Man6. He was replaced for reasons that only a few truly understand. Due to this, he tends to add a Spider-Man appearance every chance he can (see his work on Fantastic Four). I have no problem with guest appearances, but only if it's essential to the story. This is not the case here.

This is a continuation of something that was started in Amazing Spider-Man that DeFalco wanted to finish. He should have thought twice about this. The Mongoose comes across as a bland villain of the month that would give Spider-Man a decent fight, but not Thor. Thor should have knocked him cold in under two minutes. He took slightly longer due to the fight taking place in a construction site. Mongoose is simply a variation on his long-time enemy Cobra with a goofy-sounding name.

Overall Rating...

1 web. This is given to Frenz & Breeding's art which is wasted with such a lame story. I will grant that having Thor hold up a skyscraper was impressive. However this one moment of "cool" doesn't make up for the rest of the story, which is best described as "meh".

Having the hero and villain describe their powers during a fight is one of my pet peeves. It makes no sense that you would come to a complete stop and explain to your opponent "you cannot defeat me, my matchless speed shall vanquish you". There has to be a better way to explain the nature of their powers without resorting to this. My other pet peeve is bad dialog, which litters this issue.

This issue marks the first appearance of Eric Masterson, who (as I mentioned) will be the next Thor and then Thunderstrike. This is only relevant if you like that sort of thing.

Footnote...

  1. Peter and MJ were married in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21
  2. Venom debuted in Amazing Spider-Man #300
  3. Odin altered Mjolnir's enchantment, eliminating the Donald Blake identity in Thor #340. "Sigurd Jarlson" was created in issue #341.
  4. The famous Rainbow Bridge to Asgard was shattered in Thor #351
  5. The Mongoose made a cameo in Amazing Spider-Man #283. No clue was given to his identity beyond a silhouette with sharp teeth.
  6. DeFalco's wrote or co-plotted Amazing Spider-Man #251 to Amazing Spider-Man #285 with very few exceptions.