Thursday, July 2, 2015

My Jailer, My Enemy!

Even when Thor wasn't whirling his hammer and sending it hurtling toward a foe, you could still find a good read in a Thor comic by its story unfolding at a slower pace, and featuring the other Asgardians of the "eternal realm." An example of this kind of story would have been the old "Tales of Asgard" installments; but there were many others, such as the times when Loki gained power, or watching the Asgardians gird themselves for a new threat, or when they would interact with other players in various parts of the universe (such as the Rigellians).

And then of course there's Odin, whose gaze is cast at any number of points of interest, and whose ponderings could spell trouble at any moment. If Odin starts rustling the curtains, the tension level in the palace royal begins to rise, and warriors and advisors find themselves being shifted about and taking on tasks they're not quite clear on. Such would be the case in the issues following Loki's exile from Asgard after making a failed power play with a second attempt at using the stolen Odin ring; and in the midst of celebration, Odin discovers he's made a monumental blunder where Loki is concerned.

You'd think that such an alarming portent of disaster--one that sends even Odin into a tizzy--would have this title kicking into overdrive. Instead, writer Gerry Conway begins a series of issues that would build on this threat and use it to spawn several stories that would reach even past the book's 200th issue. (Heck, perhaps for Conway, a twisting and drawn-out story is overdrive!) The first of these issues lays a good deal of the groundwork, and is a bit low-key in comparison with the ones which follow--but thanks to the clever format of its cover, it looks like Thor is still going to play a part in selling his book.

The beginning of this issue still finds the Asgardians downing wine and ale and celebrating Loki's defeat--but Odin's dour posture can't help but catch the eye of Thor, who, after approaching his liege in concern, might end up wishing he'd left well enough alone.

What Odin probably meant to say was, "Jeez, Sif, are you an Asgardian goddess or a terrified little crybaby?" But Sif is going to soon be too distracted to worry about Thor, as, with the introduction of the formidable Hildegarde, Odin has a little doom and gloom in mind for her, as well.

As we can see, Odin has begun moving his subjects about like chess pieces. (Though with apologies to Conway, it's Thor, not Sif, who's unknowingly been entrusted with the fate of Asgard.  But let's not get ahead of ourselves.)

We might be at first inclined to think that Odin has made these decisions in order to accomplish exactly what he's told Sif--to save these individuals from the dire fate he suspects is coming. Yet there's more at work here, with Sif practically panicking at the ominous threats of World's End, Kartag the Keeper, and Blackworld. Whatever happens to Asgard, it's clear that Thor, Sif, and the others are not out of danger--but apparently they have parts to play that are of key importance to Odin, assuming that he'll be around to greet them if and when they return.

Conway has even more characters to introduce to us--old battle comrades of Odin's, with the emphasis on "old." Yet still these remain Asgardians, eager to face the enemy and fight alongside their liege to the death. (Sif should have a tenth of their character.) And in the company of his inner circle, Odin reveals the identity of the foe they will soon face.

The thought that's likely crossed your mind at this point, dear reader, is precisely the observation that Conway must side-step (or outright ignore) in order to proceed with this story: basically, that there was really nothing stopping Odin from intervening here and preventing Loki's actions before the damage was done and Mangog freed. Hasn't Conway already said it? "And to Odin's power, time and space are as nothing." We've already seen that Odin knew of his mistake and of Loki's intention in plenty of time to act, in any one of a dozen different ways available to him. You and I could probably think of a few solutions, just shooting from the hip: (a) Retrieve Loki before he acts. (b) Render Loki powerless. (Odin has done it with Thor often enough.) (c) Imprison Loki as he did Mangog. Or even how about (d) Diverting Thor to stop him. (Which seems more important than dispatching him on an errand to a well.) At least Odin had the good sense not to confide in Sif. Jeez, at this news, the poor thing would crumble in despair and sobs.

Instead, beyond all reason, Odin behaves as if he's helpless to prevent Loki from acting. Regardless, given the power and disposition of Mangog, Loki unfortunately won't be reaping any rewards from successfully completing his scheme.

Gee, what do you know--Mangog imprisoned Loki. Was that so hard?

As for Thor, he and his comrades mostly spend the issue encountering hostile creature-sentries as well as indigenous trolls that attempt to keep them from advancing further. After dealing with their opposition, Thor saves the life of one of the trolls--Kygar--who in repayment offers to guide them through the territory toward their goal.

Odin seems to have placed a lot of stock in the success of Thor's quest to the "Twilight Well," but Conway won't be providing the reason why in this issue--nor is there time, as Mangog's advance has brought him within striking distance of Asgard. And with his enduring hatred of all Asgardians, and most especially Odin, strike he will!

Don't worry, Sif--what you don't know can't hurt you!


Hey, you heard the man!

Mighty Thor #195

Script: Gerry Conway
Pencils: John Buscema
Inks: Vince Colletta
Letterer: Artie Simek


Anonymous said...

CF, surely you meant "Realm Eternal" rather than Eternal Realm - it always sounds more noble and majestic if you reverse the words, like "The Power Cosmic". All the "thees" and "thous" and "versooths" sound so tedious and pompous now in my opinion, verily methinks the Asgardians would speak in old Norse rather than Shakespearean English anyway :)

Comicsfan said...

A good point about "the realm eternal," Colin--though with the fate awaiting Asgard, we may not have to worry about including "eternal" in its description at all.

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