Monday, May 25, 2015

None Dare Stand 'gainst Ego-Prime!

Even before Asgard returned from the edges of space/time after the realm's forces faced Pluto and his hordes, its ruler, Odin, had launched one of his intricately woven plans in order to accomplish a goal for the greater good (or at least Odin's idea of the greater good)--its timetable perhaps accelerated due to the looming threat of Mangog and the feared destruction of Asgard. This plan would turn out to involve several people, all unknowingly and independently assembling the pieces of Odin's scheme--and in the end, it would have grave consequences for the people of Earth, if only for the duration. The consequences for Odin's son--Thor, the God of Thunder--would be another matter, and would not be remedied so easily.

But for readers of Mighty Thor, the two-part conclusion to this saga--published in late 1972 and written by Gerry Conway--would cap a heck of a ride, a story involving many elements and which would have repercussions which would reach all the way to Thor #300. But don't jump ahead just yet! Because it's important to keep in mind that Conway had written these events without the foresight of what the end result of Odin's plan would portend for that 300th anniversary issue, eight years ahead--and if taken on its own merits, his story here is perhaps all the more remarkable in its depth. So, one step at a time, shall we?

Aside from Thor and the Warriors Three being sent to fetch waters from the Well at World's End, Odin sends the lady Sif and her staunch protectress, Hildegarde, to the mysterious planet called Blackworld--mysterious, mostly, because only the Asgardians have named it "Blackworld," and we really don't discover why. But Sif and Hildegarde discover that the planet's inhabitants are evolving at a phenomenal rate. Whether that's the reason why the planet is important to Odin is anyone's guess; but it's also apparently important for some reason to Tana Nile, of the Rigellian Colonizers, whom the two Asgardians discover fleeing from a creature who seems responsible for the planet's evolution:

"Ego-Prime," as Tana Nile calls him, is, in effect, a mobile piece of Ego, the Living Planet, from which the Rigellians have extracted a sample to experiment on, in an attempt to use to create habitable worlds to colonize. The first world they test this process on turns out to be Blackworld; but when Tana Nile begins to infuse the Ego-matter with energy, let's just say this is what's meant by an experiment getting away from you:

And so "Ego-Prime" escapes Tana Nile's control and begins evolving the inhabitants of Blackworld unchecked. Eventually, Sif and Hildegarde have no choice but to attempt to flee the creature's assault with Tana Nile (apparently these are the only two Asgardians who turn in the other direction when a foe charges). But Sif notices another danger:

It's the one part of Conway's story that doesn't hold water. Sif, not a scientist by any means, has no basis to believe that Blackworld's evolution has any direct connection with Earth beyond the fact that its evolved humanoids look like 20th century Earthlings and have developed a culture that resembles that of Earth; yet she implies that Ego-Prime's actions here will spell disaster for Earth, as well, when Blackworld's timeline matches that of Earth. However shaky such a conclusion is--and Conway never proves it to be otherwise--it soon becomes moot when Blackworld reaches the point of nuclear conflagration. And with the blinding flash of Blackworld's presumed end, Sif and her party appear on Earth without explanation.

Unfortunately, Ego-Prime has arrived with them, and has evolved to its final form:

At this point, Ego-Prime has become as deadly a menace to the planet Earth as Galactus, with only Thor and his Asgardian party able to stand against it. Whether they have a chance of success remains to be seen--but the cover's bold caption makes it crystal clear what we're in for in this penultimate issue of Conway's story:

You'll also find in these concluding issues that artists John Buscema and Vince Colletta have stepped up to the plate to deliver some amazing work, which not only keeps pace with Conway's advancing story but also adjusts to the ebb and flow of that pace as Conway segues to different plot points. It's hard to say which creative branch is inspiring the other the most; but with the issue's splash page, it's clear that everybody is going to be giving it 150%:

As Ego-Prime, a living extension of Ego himself, we learn that this creature--unthinkingly given form and empowered by Tana Nile's misguided experimentation--intends to extend Ego's mad vision of its "bioverse" to Earth and its adjacent space. A vision which doesn't include the human race, at least in its current form:

And so the "war," as Hogun the Grim so instinctively named it, is on. But while the Asgardians offer resistance, Ego-Prime has the numbers of an entire world to draw on, inhabitants whom he sacrifices without a thought:

I don't know of any would-be world conquerors who wouldn't "anticipate conflict," as Ego-Prime seems so astonished at. It's also a little astonishing to see an attack based on evolution have the effect of turning humans into monsters, when beings such as Alpha, the Futurist, the High Evolutionary, et al. seem to indicate the way we're headed on the evolutionary scale.  Of course, for Conway to go that route would have resulted in Ego-Prime having many more advanced foes set against him.

One odd part of Conway's story is in the form of the repeated references he makes through others to Ego-Prime being part of a plan of Odin's--perhaps done mostly for our benefit, in order to more readily take part in the story's climax. For instance, both Sif and Fandral have each mulled over the possiblity, though for the life of me I can't see why it would occur to either of them (though in Sif's case, being sent to Blackworld for no apparent reason probably raised an eyebrow when things started to spiral out of control). But then, at last, Conway makes it official, in this very nice sequence by Buscema:

Meanwhile, Thor has noticed the blasts from his hammer are making matters worse, though it seems to be the only strategy he's employing at the moment:

Ego-Prime is also employing a single strategy in his attacks--but, unlike with Thor, each use of it brings a deadlier attack, using an inexhaustible supply of soldiers which, like the transformed humans, attack on sight:

As for Thor, Ego-Prime reaches a point where he's had enough interference from the Thunder God, and so separates him from his most powerful weapon:

With Thor's comrades down, Thor himself buried alive, and yes, Sif shrieking in despair as if she were Sue Storm instead of a so-called goddess born, Ego-Prime stands poised to complete his conquest of Earth! And would you believe that it's all going according to plan!?

COMING UP, the exciting conclusion:

Mighty Thor #202

Script: Gerry Conway
Pencils: John Buscema
Inks: Vince Colletta (with prior sequences by Jim Mooney)
Letterer: Artie Simek


Anonymous said...

I completely agree, C.F.,..this was really an outstanding arc where everything came together wonderfully. And, chock full of the cosmic weirdness I love. Brilliant bronze age bombast!
A pleasure to revisit it.

Anonymous said...

P.S....I always really dug Tana Nile! She's a cutie.
Not really a villain, just a source of headaches for the thunder god. She's just not good at her job of conquering other planets for Rigel. m.p.

david_b said...

Wow and WOW. Love Big John's art here.., love the framed-cover action, prevalent at the time for Marvel.

Will have to pick this up.

Great post, sir.

Comicsfan said...

She's just not good at her job of conquering other planets for Rigel.

But she tries hard, M.P.! :)

david, thanks! As for Buscema, I think I was more partial to his work with inkers on Thor other than Colletta, such as Esposito and Mooney. Check out the Black Stars saga for great examples of each.

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