Journey into Mystery 18

The Master Plan of Mr. Hyde!

Balder the Brave was many things. Along with the Warriors Three, he considered himself a staunch ally to Thor. Tasked to bring Jane Foster back to Asgard to stand trial, the four of them plotted to amend Odin's orders. "Odin is taking more orders from Loki with each passing day. I fear if Thor is not restored to Asgard all hope may be lost."

He knew Sif and her daughter Thurd dwelled somewhere on Midgard, but he wasn't sure if bringing them into the fold would work. "We do the most dangerous work of all; yet if we are discovered it might very mean death. Best to spare them the added grief; if Thor won't return then we must convince Lady Thor to fight for Asgard proper."

Arriving in a flash of light, he and the Warriors Three went their separate ways. Donning a disguise to blend into the mortal crowds, and avoid the all seeing glare of Heimdall's eyes, Balder made his way through the crowded streets of Manhattan in search of Jane Foster while the Warriors Three searched for the imposter Lady Thor.

"I recall Thor's mortal form is a doctor. Mayhap I shall have better fortune if I inquire with the locals first?"

-B

After asking and searching for some time, Balder finally arrived at the offices of Donald Blake. Granted, it had taken him far longer than he would have liked but then again the mortal realm had changed quite a bit since he last walked the Earth. Balder threw away a large wad of paper that had been steadily growing with every passing person he talked. "I have no idea why mortal women would all give me scraps of parchment with numbers on them. Are they runes? Spells?"

He entered the offices. Jane Foster was sitting behind the desk. "Can I help you?"

"You are Jane Foster?" Balder approached slowly as she pulled a gnarled cane from under the desk.

"Who wants to know?" She narrowed her eyes as Don Blake entered the room.

"I am Balder the Brave of Asgard, and I come seeking your aid."

Jane jumped to her feet. "Look buddy, I've had just bout enough of this!" She started to swing the walking stick down but Don stopped her.

"Jane, wait, Balder is a good! He's the god of light, the bravest of Norse gods!" Don marveled at their visitor.

Balder bowed at Don's words. "I thank you, but time is short. Odin is speaking of banishing you both for your imposter's actions. I feel that if we confront the All-Father together we may yet sway his hand."

Jane sighed. "You think we stand that much a chance?"

Balder shrugged. "I can not say for certain but any hope is better than none." He glanced around the office. "Tell me, how goes the search for the imposter?"

"Not well I'm afraid." Don stood up and made his way over. "The Avengers have put out a statement but the public opinion is starting to turn." He gestured towards the latest Daily Bugle, its headline demanding Lady Thor's arrest. "Whoever this character is, she appears and disappears so fast I'd be tempted to say it was one of you. We haven't been able to find any evidence of any super strong blond women running around either."

"Doubtful," Balder shook his head, "the road to Midgard is watched. Loki has the ability and we four only made it barely. If it were someone of the golden realm, surely we would know of it."

"Ok, that limits that, but that still doesn't explain who she is." Jane was lost in thought. "Wait, you said four of you?"

"Aye, Hogun the Grim, Fandral the Dashing, and Volstagg the…" he seemed almost at a loss for words, "Voluminous".

"Well, where are they?" Jane looked around, expecting to see three more be-suited gods loitering around outside.

"They are on a quest for your imposter. We felt it best to bring this miscreant to justice first, lest your other self battles her and confuses the public."

"Makes sense, but I'm not one to stand around while others do the work for me." She picked up the gnarled cane. "Don, can you see to Balder here?"

Don nodded absent mindedly. "Of course."

-W

Zelda DuBois, formerly known as Princess Python, flexed her arms in front a mirror. The formerly slender woman marveled at the sheer size and definition of her biceps. "Maybe I should be 'Queen' Python now?"

Calvin Zabo glared at her from his easy chair and lowered his newspaper. "My dear, right now you could call yourself grand pooba of outer wherever and I couldn't care less. Unless you're going to be supplementing our income in the next hour, I'd suggest you come down and take a nap. My formula isn't permanent."

"Yeah, but why can't you make it like that?" Zelda picked up the phony Mjolnir and poked the paper with it. "Heck, with these babies I wouldn't take my snakes with me on jobs anymore."

Calvin shuddered as she mentioned the snakes. As part of her recruitment they had been forced to drag the slimy things with them. "Because it was never meant to be permanent, just to unlock the inner id of humanity, something we can't do when you're juicing up every half hour!"

The phone ringing interrupted the conversation. Zabo picked up with a muttered 'what'. His teeth began to grind as soon as he put the receiver to his ear. "I see, thank you." Slamming the phone down, he gathered up his equipment. "We have to leave."

"What? Why?"

"Because we have been compromised you fool! The manager down front was tasked to call me if anyone came looking for me and three people did, ergo we have to vacate the area now!"

"Ok, you go sneaking out of the back like a chump," Zelda grinned broadly as she opened the window. "Me? I think a little exercise is just what I need!" Before Zabo could protest, she snagged her phony Mjolnir and leapt from the window.

He sighed as she impacted hard on the pavement. She issued the general challenge and swung her hammer around, gathering a large crowd of onlookers. "Well, this might be a good opportunity to see how she handles herself in live combat." He absently took out a notepad and began to scribble as three costumed figures exited the motel.

-W

"Sounds, do mine eyes deceive me?" Fandral gasped as the faux Lady Thor stomped over to them.

"Clearly this be the imposter which Loki told Odin about." Hogun unhooked his mace. "A crime she shall pay dearly for!"

"Hold fellows!" Volstagg pushed his way to the front of the crowd. "Thou cannot seriously consider battling without the might of Volstagg, the Lion of Asgard itself, at your side?"

"You mean fighting with us doing the hard work?" Fandral rolled his eyes as he unsheathed his sword. To Zelda he pointed the blade at her directly. "Mortal, I know not how thou fooled even the All-Father, but if thou surrender quarter will be given."

"Not a chance!" Zelda charged towards them, swinging her hammer as hard as she could. The cement block was effortlessly sliced in two by Fandral's singing blade. The momentum carried her forward into an arm lock by the golden haired god.

"Your strength is impressive," Fandral grunted as he gripped her forearm tightly, "but your arms shoddy."

"Says you!" She slammed her knee into his midsection, doubling the dashing god over. A blue flash and Hogun the Grim was on her back, his mace slammed into her windpipe. She easily flipped him over and drove him into the pavement.

"Hold villain!" Volstagg marched forth. "Thou may have lain mine comrades low but now thou must face the fury of Asgard's greatest champion!" Volstagg towered over her yet Zelda was unafraid.

Before she could make her move, a green garbed figure burst out of the sewers before the immense god. With a practiced ease, the Cobra picked up the manhole cover and slammed it over Volstagg's head, driving his helmet down over his eyes.

While Volstagg tried to vain to free himself, the Cobra slinked over to Zelda. "Pretty fancy work there. Men call me the Cobra."

"I used to be Princess Python," Zelda extended her hand, "but lately I've been thinking about a name change."

"Charming." He slipped a capsule out of his belt as Hogun freed himself from the asphalt and Fandral caught his breath. With a well-timed aimed he broke the capsule on the ground. Thick green smoked rose and obscured the area. By the time all three warriors recovered the two of them were gone.

_H

"So, Mister… Vorhees, is it?" Zabo glanced at the man as the Cobra sat in the under-stuffed easy chair.

"Friends call me Klaus but I'd prefer the Cobra if it's all the same to you." Zabo had been less than thrilled when Zelda arrived back their flophouse rooms with the Cobra in tow but a quick recount of his actions allowed him inside the room at any rate.

While Zelda cooled down and changed back to normal, Zabo appraised the Cobra. "Quite the contortionist, eh? Plus with your strength and assorted gadgets I could see some use in bringing you into our little group."

The Cobra eyed the bathroom, the steam coming from under the door. It was clear he was thinking about Zelda. "Flattered, so what's the job?"

Zabo smiled and flattened his newspaper on the dinged coffee table between them. 'Navy unveils new submarine!' blared the headline. "Simple, we're going to become pirates."

_L

In the fabled realm of Asgard, Loki watched the preceding events with glee. "My, even left on their own my toys continue to provide me with amusement." He stepped away from the mystic cauldron and laughed heartily. "Those foolish four honestly thought they could escape to Midgard undetected? I feel dear Odin must be made aware of this!"

He stopped. "Yet why stop there? The devastating things are often the truth. What if I captured them? What if Loki became the hero for once?" His grin grew wider. "After I edit the story to my dear 'father' first, of course."

Moments later, thanks in part to his magic, Loki appeared before the grand court. Odin sat in silence upon his throne, alone save for his ravens pecking at his feet. Loki threw himself before the All-Father. "Merciful All-Father, I come bearing dreadful news!"

"What is it my son?" Odin's voice rasped.

"I fear more of your subjects have disobeyed you. I spied Balder, Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg on Midgard wrecking havoc!"

Odin snapped to attention. "What?"

"Please spare your wraith father; I'm sure there is a good reason why they disobeyed you. Perhaps they seek to restore my brother's honor and bring that mortal imposter here?"

Odin considered Loki's words. "Aye, perhaps, perhaps. It does seem like the foolish thing those three would partake in, but Balder's actions sicken me. As one so high born, he should know better than to go against his elder's orders." Standing up to his full glory, Odin boomed. "Loki, my last true son, I have a quest for you. Go forth to Midgard and bring the Warriors Three, plus Balder and that mortal upstart Jane Foster here for my judgment!"

Loki bowed with flourish. "As you command oh mighty Odin!"

_H

"Don, I can't believe it!" Jane marveled at their surroundings. The Ritz Terrence was the most exclusive restaurant in town, nestled on top of skyscraper. With barely a nod from Balder, the three of them were transported to a fancy table overlooking the city.

"I can't believe these prices. Balder, why on Earth would you take us here?"

Balder shrugged. "This is one of the higher points in your city, affording me a chance to scan the land for miles, plus it affords me a chance to conduct our business without," the sun god stopped as three figures burst onto the patio.

"What ho Balder!" Volstagg marched towards. "I see thou were more successful in thy quest than we were in ours!"

Jane never saw a god sigh before. "We were trying to conduct ourselves with some subtlety." Hogun and Fandral stepped out from behind Volstagg and sat down next to Jane and Don.

"Aye, but the time for that is past." Hogun hefted his mace onto the table. "The imposter has gained an ally, some mortal guised as a serpent."

"The Cobra!" Jane shook her head. "Could this get any worse?"

_L

Loki, unobserved by all, floated invisibly above the assembled group. "Hmm, an interesting question sister. Let's see if Loki can rise to thy challenge!" Weaving a spell, he spied Zabo in his room as the scientist had just finished transforming back into Mr. Hyde. "A perfect cat's paw!" With few gestures, Loki transported Hyde and the Cobra into the restaurant. With a grin, he sat back and observed.

_H

Mr. Hyde, unlike Calvin Zabo, possessed no great sense of curiosity. So when he and the Cobra suddenly appeared in a high class restaurant with both Don Blake and Jane Foster before him he didn't question his luck. "Blake!" Hyde roared with triumph as he grabbed Jane and slung her over his shoulder.

Charging through the crowd, he easily put people between him and the assembled gods before sliding off the balcony. The Cobra, latched onto his back, shouted over the screams. "Where are we going?"

"Like I said before," Hyde grinned as Jane trashed against him, "We're gong to become pirates." He ripped a taxi's door off and threw the driver out. Tossing Jane in the front seat, he squeezed himself in after her. The Cobra had to make do in the back. Hyde grinned as he looked at Jane. "Except now we have something to bargain with!"

Back at the Ritz, Don shakily got to his feet when he noticed something under a table: Jane's walking stick. "Oh no!"

_H

"I had no idea you could transport people across areas." Hyde's voice rumbled in his throat.

The Cobra shrugged. "Not really, but it does happen to me sometimes. I don't question it." Escaping from the restaurant, they only stopped by long enough to pick up Zelda before making their way to the docks.

"So, what exactly are we going to do?" Zelda fidgeted in her seat. The three of them had stolen another cab, Jane being tossed in the back like luggage. With the Cobra driving they made it to the docks quickly.

"Like I said before, we're going to steal the Navy's new toy. With a nuclear submarine at our disposal the world will give us all exactly what we want!"

"And I'm to be used as a bargaining chip?" Jane spat.

Hyde smiled. Jane found that she didn't care for that. "Or a human shield, depending on my mood. Princess Python here will distract the guards, plus draw attention away from us. After all, who would think to bother an Avenger, eh?"

The shipyards were quiet. "Not too many guards around, you sure you got the right place?" The Cobra glanced around.

"Quite, and if you question me again I'll break your legs off." Hyde roughly pushed Jane aside as Princess Python slipped on her Lady Thor costume. "From what my sources told me they are taking a hiding in plain sight approach." Rounding a corner, Hyde's grin grew when he spied a control tower sticking out of the water. "To the sheep of this city it is nothing more than a regular submarine. Python, if you're ready?" He tossed her a few vials from his under his cape.

Breaking open one, Princess Python downed the contents in one gulp. She sported a feral grin as the chemicals took effect. Jane marveled as the woman grew. Muscles stretched out the costume as her brown hair turned to bright blonde. Jane could see the resemblance, at least up close.

Hyde wasn't impressed with her show. "Finished? Now go and distract the guards."

_H

Princess Python, or Lady Thor as she reminded herself, casually walked out into the open. Spotlights opened on her as a few well armed guards appeared. "Halt!"

"Forsooth! Don't you recognize an Avenger?" Zelda tried to sound Asgardian, but her South Carolinian roots proved to be too strong. The sentries, however, were clearly not paying attention to her accent. "I need to be alone on yon submarine, verily."

One guard managed to tear his eyes away from her breastplate. "Uh, I'm afraid I'm going to need to see some form of identification ma'am."

"Uh, aye!" Lady Thor stammered. A large hand grasped the guard by the head and yanked him back. The guards snapped to attention too late. Mr. Hyde and the Cobra made short work of the defenses.

"The ship is ours!" Hyde cackled as he marched towards the submarine. Alarm klaxons blared as the four of them entered the sub. Hyde leapt down into the body of the metal beast. The skeleton crew was surprised to see him.

"Who are you?"

"Your new captain!" Hyde puffed up with pride.

"Not any more." A yeoman countered. Hyde gripped the man by the neck.

"What do you mean?"

The yeoman gasped. "I mean, this ship is still being tested. Our engines were taken out to be fitted with some new kind of technology. We're dead in the water!"

Hyde shoved the man to the ground. The Cobra and Princess Python folded their arms. "Well, what are we going to do now?"

Hyde cast his eyes at Jane and the crew. "We still have hostages. Let the pathetic fools outside know what we are doing." He pointed at a radio operator. "You! Tell those on the outside we'll start killing hostages every half hour unless we're given five million dollars!"

-D

Don and the rest of the Asgardians stood behind the police barricades as attempts were made to negotiate. "Blast it, we must find a way to help!" Fandral swore.

"The rest of the Avengers are on their way but there is no way they can get here in time." Don looked at the gnarled piece of wood in his hand. "Balder, come with me. The rest of you stay here in case we fail." He slipped under the ropes and limped towards the sub. Flashing Jane's Avengers ID made the cops back off. Taking a bullhorn from one of them, he stepped near the edge of the dock.

"Hyde, I'm here! Let the hostages go and you can have me!"

Hyde's voice cackled over the radio. "Don? Well, this is an unexpected bonus! I can bear to part with a few but the lovely Miss Foster is staying with us for the immediate future."

"Are you crazy?" A police captain whispered but Don shook his head.

"I've got a plan," he silently added "I hope" as the tower door opened and several Navy crewmen rushed out. Don walked across the gangplank and entered the sub as Balder stripped off his suit and dove into the water.

-LT

Don descended down into the sub as Hyde's laughter grew. "Oh this is too rich! I don't care if we don't get a dime from this, having you here Donny boy makes it all worth it!"

Don shifted onto his good foot. "'Donny boy'? Do I know you?"

Hyde went silent. At length he spoke. "Oh, you might say we've run in the same circles, but that's not important right now." He picked Don up by the collar and shook him. He chucked him aside, laughing as Don crashed into an instrument panel. Hyde focused his attention on his partners. "You two, what have you been doing to secure the money?"

The Cobra spat. "Nothing because there isn't any! You blasted fool, how can we make a profit on this? We're stuck in a floating coffin that we can't operate without food or water." The Cobra's cursing was cut short as the submarine suddenly listed to the side and the lights flickered.

Jane, thrown to her side, caught Don as he stumbled. "What's going on?"

Don thrust the walking stick into her hands as the three criminals dashed off to see the cause of the alarm. "Just a timely distraction that's all." Don shielded his eyes as Jane struck the cane against the metal floor.

-H

"How did this happen?" Hyde raged as water poured into the engine room.

"I don't know!" The engineer spat sea water from his mouth. "One second we're fine, the next thing I know the side just caved in!"

"Some caper!" Princess Python sneered. "This hunk of junk would have sunk the moment we took it out of the harbor!"

"Shut up!" Hyde punched the wall in frustration, leaving a sizable dent in the metal. He turned to the crewmen. "Fix it, now!"

"With what? Our tools are all on the dock." Before Hyde could strangle the man, a clap of thunder knocked everyone down.

"Python, go check on our guests. I fear we may have left them alone for too long." Hyde paled. As the henchwoman moved towards the door, the door was punched free of its hinges. Princess Python tried to block the heavy weight but her strength was not in the same league as the person whose costume she wore.

"Hyde!" Lady Thor, the genuine article, strolled towards the pair, taking care to step heavily on the ruined door and the moaning figure under it. She pointed Mjolnir directly at Hyde and Cobra. "Villains! No quarter shall be given!"

Despite the cramped quarters Lady Thor swung her hammer in a powerful arc. Lighting arched and cackled off the ancient uru metal, driving Hyde and the Cobra back. "Well, this is your mess, you fix it!" The Cobra eyed an escape hatch as Lady Thor drove Mjolnir directly into Hyde's gut. The larger man doubled over in pain as Lady Thor hip tossed him through the open doorway. So intent on vengeance was she that the Cobra found him self alone with a dazed and now de-powered Princess Python.

Helping her out from under the door, he jerked a thumb towards the hatch. "Feel like leaving?"

She felt her breastplate and inwardly smiled when she felt the vials of Hyde's formula unbroken. "Best idea I've heard all day. Let's blow this scene."

_LT

Hyde found himself outmatched. The cramped corridors of the sub proved to be his undoing. With every swipe of his massive arms, Lady Thor was able to move around them and slam Mjolnir into something vital. With a few well placed strikes he felt his kneecaps give way.

Energy crackled off the mystic mallet as she brought it overhead. Hyde's leering gave way to pure terror. "I give, I give!"

"No quarter!" The energy increased.

"He gives." Don Blake stepped from behind a bulkhead. Not close enough for Hyde to grab, but close enough to talk. "You've won, let's get out of here."

Lady Thor lowered her hammer. Hyde smiled with a dark intent in his eyes. In a flash she brought the hammer down across his face. Not hard to kill but certainly hard enough to knock the man monster out. "Now we may leave."

Balder appeared, dripping wet. "Mayhaps I suggest an alternative escape? Yon authorities may still see thee as the imposter."

"No, if we are to get this cleared now would be the time." She hooked Mjolnir to her belt climbed out through the tower.

The police were there to greet her with raised weapons. Don slipped in front, waving his arms. "Hold your fire!"

She stepped out from behind him. "Aye, mortals, know that who stands before you is the one true goddess of thunder!" She hefted Mjolnir to the sky. A bolt of lighting shot through the clear evening air while thunder rolled. The police lowered their weapons.

"Captain, I think she's the real deal." One officer whispered to his commander.

Dumping the beaten and battered Hyde at their feet, Lady Thor stayed to answer further questions. Unseen by her, the police, or the other Asgardians, Loki watched the events with a growing glee. "Most impressive dear sister, but I fear this night shall reflect poorly on you!"

_L

Loki marched towards the throne room, his shoulder bent and his brow furrowed. "Father, I come bearing terrible news!"

Odin sat listlessly on the throne. "What has transpired on Midgard my son?"

Loki pulled a crystal ball from under his robe. Scenes of Lady Thor battling Hyde played across the crystal. "The pretender battled fiercely but I fear in her incompetence she allowed two foes to escape, including the one whom so besmirched her title."

Odin drew himself up. "Fool! That charlatan has dishonored my son's name for the last time!"

"Father, may I make a suggestion?" Loki moved closer to the throne. Whispering in Odin's ear, Loki unveiled his plan. "We've seen how she reacts to a test and I agree, she is most unsuited for such things, but why not a formal trial?"

Odin contemplated the words. "What do you suggest? That I bring this upstart here?"

"No father, such an action would only confuse her feeble mortal mind. I agree she is not worthy of Thor's power, and even my dear nephews have been unable to accomplish anything. Why don't you seal away some of her power and then have her fight a foe of your choosing?"

"Seal away Mjonlir's power? To what end?"

"Why, to see how worthy she truly is; so far she can use Mjonlir to its full extent against every foe, but if the power was lessened in anyway how would she fare in battle?"

"Your plan has merit my son." Odin ran his fingers through his beard. "Very well! I shall seal away exactly half of Mjonlir's powers. Loki, I task you to find her a worthy opponent. Search high and low but I want her to face a foe in worthy combat. Then, and only then, shall I have her brought before me. Your brother shall be restored in power if not in name!"

"Your every wish shall be obeyed father." Loki bowed deeply and walked backwards from the throne. His thoughts were a torrent as he retired back to his keep. "A proper foe, eh? I believe I know the perfect subject, yes, the perfect subject in deed!"

The end

Based on "The Master Plan of Mr. Hyde!", which was first published in Journey Into Mystery I#100 (January 1964) with credits to Stan Lee (script), Don Heck (pencils/inks), and Sam Rosen (letters)

Next issue: The Return of Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man!

Journey into a Mailbox

From They Call me Bruce

He can run but he can't hyde.

I'll handle the puns around here, thank you very much. Thanks for sticking with the series though.

From Wolvmbm

Nice story, I guess we will see Mr. Hyde again pretty soon, am I right? I must say Loki is truly ever so clever, I can't wait to see how he falls and gets punished by Odin. Also I do wonder how Sif takes the upcoming engagement between Donald Blake and Jane Foster? All this and the upcoming appearance of the Warriors 3, I do wonder how they take the change of their comrade Thor? And I also wonder if Lady Thor will cross paths with Princess Python in the future, given her cameo in this story? Please do keep up the good work upon such a great storyline like this one as I can't wait to see what happens next in this series of yours.

Thanks!

From Darci

Terrific skein of threads in Journey into Mystery#17 "The Mysterious Mr. Hyde". Loki pressing our heroes on one side, and Mr. Hyde (and surprise, Princess Python!) on the other. BTW this marks Zelda DuBois's earliest appearance (she debuted in Amazing Spider-Man#22 (March 1965), though the Circus of Crime had appeared previously in Incredible Hulk#3 (September 1962) and Amazing Spider-Man#16 (September 1964). Later, she would move on from the Circus to the second Serpent Squad, when its leader the Cobra (we just met him in your previous issue) was replaced by the second Viper (formerly Madame Hydra). Is this your version of the team-up of Mr. Hyde and Cobra? Keep up the good work!

True, and right on about Zelda, but I figured she was there behind the scenes. And yes, this is the big Hyde/Cobra partnership, such as it is.

From colt131

Quality as usual. Now I have fantasies of Natalie Portman as Lady Thor.

From Tiffani

Yes, you did a great job on this. Thanks for sharing!

And thanks to everyone to read or wrote in!

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