Sunday, November 9, 2014

Beware, The Approach of Twilight!

When we last checked in on Surtur, the fire demon who has a crucial role during Ragnarok but often doesn't like to wait until then to bring a fiery wave of destruction to Asgard and the nine worlds, he was on the verge of triumph over the forces which opposed him, until Odin appeared and handily banished him again. To get a handle on how Odin so easily disposed of such a creature, when Surtur doesn't at all seem like the easily disposable type, we have to go back a bit to olden days (whatever constitutes olden days for immortal gods), to when Odin and his two brothers, Vili and Ve, were exploring the land of Muspelheim, and were introduced to its powerful ruler. And what they hear from Surtur convinces them that they have a mortal enemy in him:

Obviously, Odin and his brothers aren't thinking down the road to Surtur's role in the cycle of life--nor has Surtur given them any real indication (aside from general haughtiness) that he's going to act before it's time for him to do so. They only see a deadly threat, and take it upon themselves to end it.

But Surtur is a tough customer--and only when the brothers merge themselves into one powerful form are they able to destroy his sword and temporarily defeat him. While Surtur is incapacitated, they capture Surtur's brazier and attempt to escape, knowing that his power to cause such conflagration is useless if there's no flame of destruction to light his weapon, even if he reforges the sword. But with Surtur hot on their heels, the three brothers run out of time--and two of them, Vili and Ve, make the ultimate sacrifice.

And in that sacrifice, we finally learn the origin of the Odin-Power:

In time, Surtur indeed reforges "Twilight," his sword of doom--and you can be sure this demon has carried quite a grudge all this time. We can reasonably assume that after Asgard's last encounter with Surtur, his lack of his sword allowed Odin to deal with him and save the realm. (At least that's how I'm rationalizing it--sing out if you have something better.) But now, Surtur, armed again with Twilight, makes an all-out effort to bring fiery doom to the nine worlds (which includes Muspelheim, though I suppose a land of fire demons wouldn't be bothered by a little extra fire), as Odin explains:

Nor does Surtur fool around with this invasion. Complicating matters are demons from Muspelheim who also invade Earth in an effort to provide cover for Surtur to locate the foot of Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, and ascend to Asgard. The tactic compels the Asgardians to send their forces to Earth to join the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and Beta Ray Bill (Thor's alien brother-in-arms) to deal with the demons. Yet, through trickery in his battle with Thor, Surtur indeed discovers the bridge and leaves his forces on Earth to battle on while he makes his way to Asgard.

And just to make sure that Asgard is isolated in its hour of need, he takes an additional destructive precaution after dealing with the bridge's faithful guardian, Heimdall:

Good grief! It looks like curtains for Asgard.  Maybe for all of us.

Yet Thor has managed to follow in Surtur's wake--and, after tending to Heimdall, the battle is on!

In these stories, you'll notice strong differences between this work of writer/artist Walt Simonson and Jack Kirby's earlier story (with Stan Lee). Simonson's pencils, when inked by himself as they are here, can give the appearance of being "unfinished" and lacking detail--yet they nevertheless tell a fine story, particularly in depicting the battles involving the legions of Asgard on Earth and the presence of the lady Sif in particular.

Whatever may be lacking of the finer details in Simonson's art is more than made up for in his writing, as well as the care he gives to the many characters he introduces. But his efforts are hampered by letterer John Workman, whose minimal style here doesn't really suit the incredible events which are playing out before us--to say nothing of the almost stencilled sound effects being delivered.

Thor makes an impressive stand against Surtur--but this is a demon which can challenge Odin, and Thor realizes that nothing less than his full power will be needed. Given how Surtur overwhelmed him in their last encounter, you'd think Thor would know that going in--but better late than never, though this encounter will end much the same for him:

Surtur now approaches the gates of Asgard--but, in the fury of the battle, haven't we forgotten someone? What of Asgard's chief defender? The one that Vili and Ve charged to guard the brazier of destructive flame from this demon? If nothing else, that individual knows how to make an entrance:


(You shouldn't look forward to another slam-dunk for Odin, folks.)

Mighty Thor #351

Script, Pencils & Inks: Walt Simonson
Letterer: John Workman, Jr.


Super-Duper ToyBox said...

EPIC! Stuff like this set Thor apart- I read the Jergens/JRJ Thor booksand loved it...

Comicsfan said...

That's a good word for it, SDTB--and this is one epic that's about to be taken up a notch!

Anonymous said...

There were three runs at Marvel that I really enjoyed reading. Claremont/Byrne on X-Men, Byrne on FF and Simonson on Thor. He added a scope and reach to the title that had been missing since Lee/Kirby. The introduction of Beta Ray Bill as a worthy wielder of Mlon...Mjlrn....the Hammer was, to quote SDTB "EPIC"! Worth every dime......I still have most of my run.

The Prowler (Hold on to what you been given lately Hold on to what you know you got hold on to what you been given lately hold on cause the world will turn if you're ready or not).

Marcus said...

I know this is after the fact but Workman was Simonson's hand picked letterer and Salt himself often penciled the sound effects.

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