Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ruled by Gruel


Name This Marvel Villain??

Considering the plunder that he and his allies, the Vrellnexians, acquired as they hopped from planet to planet, the name of Sssthgar should at least be familiar to you. Though you can be excused, since the name apparently wasn't familiar to even Odin, the Omnipotent, when the Vrellnexians suddenly appeared on Asgard's doorstep to conquer the Asgardians:

Sssthgar's people and the Vrellnexians were basically profiting from conquering different species from other worlds, and then selling them at auction. Though how settling for the highest bid offsets the enormous costs of conducting planetary invasions in order to acquire your stock is something that someone will need to explain to me. Anyway, though Sssthgar and the Vrellnexians are partners in crime, it seems the Vrellnexians were growing tired of their alliance with Sssthgar--and after the invasion of Asgard was wrapped up, they marooned Sssthgar and his army there.

The story in Thor takes place while Thor and his company of Asgardian friends are exiled on Earth--and they don't discover what's happened until they are visited by Balder, who has arrived from Asgard in an insane state of mind:

When Thor's party returns to Asgard to investigate, they find Sssthgar, who spins a tale that he and his people were also invaded and captured by the Vrellnexians, but escaped when the Asgardians were captured. To make a long story short, Thor falls for it and allies himself with Sssthgar, who is simply using Thor to defeat the Vrellnexians for him. Once that's done, Sssthgar captures Thor and the others and imprisons them with the rest of the Asgardians, who have been drugged into subservience by consuming specially-prepared gruel. With the aid of an underground movement, Thor escapes and frees the others, leaving Sssthgar to the mercies of the now-freed victims of his conquests.

It certainly wasn't an easy set of circumstances that writer Gerry Conway was asking us to swallow. For one thing, it's hard to imagine Balder the Brave, who has doubtless seen more terrifying sights in his life as an Asgardian, being driven to insanity by the sight of Sssthgar and his hordes. For another, Odin certainly picked an odd time to forsake his massive powers in favor of a sword. But this was more Conway's dictate than Odin's, so that he could deal with the conquest of Asgard with dispatch.

Have a look and see just how short a war on Asgard can be:

You're probably shouting the same thing I was:  "Now might be a good time to unleash that Odin-power, gramps!"

As for Sssthgar, Thor and the other Asgardians made a very under-the-radar escape from his world, rather than battling to a decisive victory--which is the one thing that made sense, given how outnumbered they were by their foes and the fact that almost all the other Asgardians were still doped on Sssthgar's drugs. Though how an entire kingdom's worth of lethargic Asgardians escaped from the surveillance of Sssthgar's army--let alone all being able to pile into that one ship of Thor's--were other things that Conway swiftly slid past, in order to conclude the story. Sssthgar may not go down as one of Marvel's more memorable villains--but when all was said and done, his story proved that all you need to defeat a bunch of gods and their leader is strength in numbers and some ray guns.

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