Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Beginning Of The End!

There was a time in Thor's comic when the Norse gods lived each day of their lives trapped by their fate--knowing their immortal lives would nevertheless come to an end on the day of Ragnarok, the final conflagration which would engulf the gods and their monstrous enemies in one last battle which would consume them all. Writer Stan Lee gave us a preview of that last day, as foretold by Volla, the Prophetess; but later, in 1978, Roy Thomas would portray the series of events which inexorably led to the coming of Ragnarok in more detail, and with an emphasis on the presages of disaster as told through myth. For instance, in Lee's tale, Balder is fighting alongside Thor on that final day; but, according to myth, Balder's death beforehand was a portent to the gods that Ragnarok is imminent:

As Thomas makes clear, Earth isn't necessarily off the hook as far as escaping the ramifications of Ragnarok. Appropriately, he adds a clever twist to the story by playing on the ambition of our old friend, reporter Harris Hobbs, who worms his way into Asgard in order to profile it for a story--which effectively makes Hobbs our eyes and ears in Asgard as this drama plays out. Hobbs makes the observations and raises the questions we want to voice--though Thomas isn't talking, and, as a result, Hobbs leaves the issue pending:

It's unclear why Hobbs bothers with a signoff here, since he's only recording for later editing and not doing a live report. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume he's inserting it in case he decides later to split his reports over several nightly news shows. You have to admit this segment would make one heck of a teaser to bring viewers back the following night.

Of course, by the time this report airs, you and I might not be around to see it.

Hobbs didn't give us much detail here on exactly what mortals can expect from Ragnarok. But as for the gods--Loki, the god of mischief and/or evil depending on his mood, is all too happy to remind them of the doom that's even now mobilizing against them:

With Balder dead, there seems to be no hope to turn things around at this point. That doesn't stop the gods from trying, with Odin petitioning Hela, the Goddess of Death, for Balder to be restored. But in the meantime, Odin is sharpening his sword and preparing his forces. During this storyline, Thomas has taken the opportunity to introduce us to characters not often seen in the halls of Asgard--and now, with a call to arms, he brings back not only the God of War, but we also see the first appearance of none other than Loki's wife:

(Only the wife of Loki could swear undying love for her husband while threatening to kill him in the same breath.)

And speaking of Loki, he's slipped off to marshal his forces, gathering in Jotunheim--and, lucky for us, Hobbs' cameraman, "Red" Norvell, has been invited along to film it all for posterity. Talk about being in the line of fire:

Red Norvell is being groomed by Thomas to play more than the role of simply a cameraman, since it's likely Loki didn't bring him to Jotunheim to indulge a mortal's intention to film their end for consumption on the media networks of Midgard. Both Loki and Thomas have a deeper game in mind, though only Thomas is willing to tip his hand with this scene involving Norvell's earlier attempt to hook up with a goddess:

Obviously Norvell is nursing a growing bitterness toward Thor regarding Sif's affections, but that will have to wait. There's still that little matter of Balder's death, which Loki was responsible for. And, half-brother or not, Thor arrives to make him answer for it, with the handy excuse of Ragnarok allowing him to take off the gloves if necessary. Given Thor's current disposition, it's no surprise he's really hoping it's necessary:

The fight is a splendid segment featuring the art of John Buscema and Tom Palmer, letting Thor cut loose against enemies of Asgard with the stakes as high as they can possibly be. Normally, we could be reasonably confident that Thor could take Loki, even though the coming of Ragnarok would make such a skirmish superfluous--but try explaining "superfluous" to Norse gods who live for battle, whatever the circumstances. The irony is that it was Thor himself who put a halt to such an attack on Loki following Balder's death, citing greater concerns about dealing with Ragnarok--concerns which he now seems ready to put on the back burner. The contradiction makes no sense on Thomas's part. At any rate, Thor is in for a surprise, because Loki is crafty no matter when Thor encounters him:

Again, Thomas drops a dangling hint that Earth may or may not be connected to the end of Asgard. In all fairness, there can really be no definitive answer that Thomas can present here, given that "Ragnarök" is a myth. There are several writings of the event, and Earth gets it in pretty much all of them, even though it rises once again cleansed and ready to support new life--though that's understandably small comfort to Hobbs and his crew. Hobbs is familiar with Ragnarok, and one can only wonder at how he feels as he's assembling footage and watching the events of this "myth" happen right in front of him. Norvell's thoughts here, however, are perhaps mostly to name-drop Earth once more, since according to myth the victor of this fight between Thor and Loki is a moot point.

Thor, on the other hand, seems to think otherwise, knowing that the real battle still lies ahead:

With Loki down and assuredly out, his forces--already eager to begin their assault on Asgard--decide to warm up on Thor. And since we don't see Ulik with this group of trolls to run interference, they soon discover that the warm-up is on them:

And so Loki is hauled back to Asgard, where Odin has received news from Hela that he can go fiddle with his eye patch as far as restoring Balder to life is concerned. Thomas's next step in this story is curious, since there's nothing left to do at this point except for the Asgardians to mobilize and resign themselves to fighting to the end. Odin--King of the gods and Lord of Asgard--should know this; yet his course of action is, instead, to attempt to stave off Ragnarok, an event which has been foretold and which has all but arrived. And even though the method Odin chooses is about as off the table as it can get (considering that he's working with a corpse), there's only one way for Odin to stop the clock:

That hand you heard slamming down was Hela's, a goddess who should certainly know when "dead" means DEAD but who's been foiled once again by that darned Odinpower. But, what's up with Odin and this crazy plan? There may indeed be a method to his madness, which we'll learn more of as this story continues.

Mighty Thor #275

Script: Roy Thomas
Pencils: John Buscema
Inks: Tom Palmer
Letterers: Joe Rosen


Anonymous said...

It has been said by better far better than I could ever say it:

Inigo Montoya: He's dead. He can't talk.

Miracle Max: Whoo-hoo-hoo, look who knows so much. It just so happens that your friend here is only MOSTLY dead. There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there's usually only one thing you can do.

Inigo Montoya: What's that?

Miracle Max: Go through his clothes and look for loose change.

The Prowler (feels mostly alive when he's naked under his cowl).

Comicsfan said...

Indeed, Prowler--why would the Asgardians want to settle for Mimir, when they can have the services of Miracle Max?

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