Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The World Is Lost!

As often as Thor and his father, almighty Odin, have argued in the past, it's a wonder that they've never come to blows and engaged in all-out battle. We've seen Thor battle a doppelganger of Odin, but of course that's not nearly as exciting as seeing an actual battle between the genuine articles. Have these two ever thrown down for real?

The closest we've come is the Infinity story from 1971, when Odin is possessed by a force which is slowly bringing an end to the universe, and he moves to stop Thor from interfering in Infinity's deadly plan. Now, consider: if Odin is snuffing out whole planets one by one without breaking a sweat (assuming one could break a sweat in the void of space), then we have to believe that even the God of Thunder isn't going to be able to give him pause. This is also the same Odin who gave Thor his hammer, a weapon which makes up arguably about 60% of Thor's power--so once he snatches that, it's pretty much game over for Thor.

Yet Mighty Thor #187 plays out on a much grander stage than the clash of Thor vs. Odin. Nothing has stopped Infinity's advance thus far; even Odin, embarking on a solo mission to confront it, failed to stop this mysterious force whose origin remains a secret. And as Infinity rampages through the stars, the effects of its power are felt light-years away. In this most desperate hour, Thor now seeks to join his father to battle this foe, only to find a horrifying sight--Odin, his will sapped, now in thrall to Infinity. And in Odin's first strike against the Thunder God, Thor summarizes his predicament as he recoils in despair:

Thor naturally attempts to reach his father on a familiarity level, but Odin is too far gone, Infinity's grip on him too tight. And so the life-or-death battle begins, with Thor given an impossible task where he must either strive to keep his father at bay or fight in earnest against the all-father of Asgard. Each far easier said than done:

This certainly isn't the "Thor vs. Odin" battle royale we might imagine, with Thor fighting almost entirely on the defensive while whining about the hopelessness of the situation, whereas under other circumstances Thor would be battling in anger and far more aggressively--in other words, like an Asgardian. But we should probably cut him some slack, since the stakes are high here--and with the takeover of Odin, Infinity is easily a power to be reckoned with. Thor can really make no headway until he gathers more facts against this overwhelming foe, crucial information which Odin learned too late. But his enemy isn't going to give him the time he needs:

Meanwhile, Infinity's effect has grown to the point where, on Earth, the population watches helplessly as their world comes to an end.

Like the Air-Walker story in Fantastic Four, or the scenes on Arkon's world of a once-flourishing civilization slowly facing its end, or the people of Zenn-La watching their doom approach, it's the kind of scenario which is so, well, enjoyable to watch artist John Buscema indulge in; but, in terms of the story, it literally illustrates the almost-insignificant state of mankind when reeling from the cataclysmic effects of a conflict which involves godlike forces beyond their ken:

While in Asgard, another effect of Infinity's attack makes a planet-wide catastrophe seem almost pale in comparison, as the Odin-sword begins to slowly unsheathe itself. And legend has it that, if the sword is ever pulled free of its scabbard, the universe will end. (Like that's not already happening??)

While these able warriors put their backs into it, we turn to Karnilla, Queen of the Norns, who is attempting to free the Warriors Three from the spell of Infinity:

(Which proves that even a mystic Norn Queen can have the occasional lame incantation.)

And what of Loki, the Prince of Evil? With Asgard crumbling all around him, he's delighted at its fate and, as usual, convinced that he's wily and strong enough to be the sole survivor. That is, until the Lady Sif gives him a little lesson in logic that he can't ignore:

Fandral, Volstagg, and Hogun unfortunately remember nothing of their encounter with Infinity, and so have no information to offer their comrades. A dearth of knowledge also faced by Thor, who abandons his battle with Odin in order to return to the realm and start putting two and two together:

And so Thor retires to another chamber with the Vizier and adopts his Donald Blake identity, hoping that a mortal will be beneath Infinity's notice and thus be able to glean valuable information without becoming mindlessly enslaved. The approach works--but in "meeting the enemy," Thor returns not resolved, but aghast:

This penultimate story sets up the final issue of the tale beautifully. With the end of everything fast approaching, and their all-powerful ruler lost to them, the Asgardians are finally on the cusp of learning the truth about Infinity--and, thanks to seeing their mightiest warrior stagger in fear from the, er, chamber of secrets, their uphill fight already seems hopeless.

You can find the details to this story's resolution in a separate post, which also spotlights the very first issue of Thor I ever read.  As for the Thor/Odin rumble that we left hanging here, there's another battle between them we'll take a look at that was fought more fiercely.  Odin has gone mad; an old foe (or two) makes an appearance; and the Odin-sword again plays a deadly part in the story.  All this, and Jane Foster, too!  (Does that mean Thor might need a nurse?)

Mighty Thor #187

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: John Buscema
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterers: Sam Rosen

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