Friday, July 3, 2015

When Asgard Ends!

We've already seen the prologue of the quest that would lead the mighty Thor to World's End to seek out the Twilight Well--part of a multi-pronged story by Gerry Conway that would take several issues to play out in full. In Part One, however, Thor has no knowledge that the realm of Asgard has been besieged by the malevolent Mangog, who even now attacks the city without mercy. Indeed, as Part Two opens, and Thor and his party encounter yet another sentry that intercepts them on their way to the well, it seems that malevolence is the last thing on anyone's mind. Or is it?

The instincts of Thor's trollish guide, Kyger (f/k/a Kygar), however, are paid little heed, thanks to the placations of the woman known as Satrina, who lures the Asgardians into her dwelling with promises of hospitality and rest. Yet, all too soon, she makes her move--and as Thor and the others fall, we learn that she serves the one the Asgardians have travelled to find--the keeper of the well, Kartag. Their quest nears its end--but will Satrina allow them to reach their goal?

When the warriors awaken, they find their thoughts dulled, but their surroundings inviting--with both women and ale in plentiful supply. Kyger, however, is unaffected by the deception, and attempts to warn Thor that everything around him is part of an elaborate deception. The warning forces Satrina's hand, and she murders Kyger on the spot--and the shock to Thor is such that he's able to shake off Satrina's ruse and see that his friends' accommodating companions are instead monsters, of the kind they've battled before in this realm. Unfortunately, Fandral and the others remain bewitched, and move against Thor when he attempts to deal with what they still believe are gentle, alluring women--and Thor is forced to keep them at bay with his hammer, so that he can confront Satrina. Yet she remains elusive:

And so Thor and the others (at last free from their illusions) now must regroup and make their way ever closer to where waits the one who guards the Twilight Well--a threat so great he even gets prominent cover space:

Wait a minute! We've been waiting all this time to see Thor go up against what amounts to a storm giant with a battle axe? We've seen Thor take down storm giants without even breathing hard!

Is there more to Kartag than meets the eye?

But we don't want to ignore the situation in Asgard, which has become explosive--and grave, as Mangog carves a deadly path through Odin's legions as if they weren't even there. And as if an omen of the outcome of this battle, Odin receives a personal call from none other than the Goddess of Death, Hela, who can't resist twisting the knife in Odin's most desperate hour.

Mangog, of course, is of a more singular mind, his hatred for Odin persisting even after the reason for that hatred has been lifted. With little to no elaboration from Conway as to how Mangog could retain the might of an entire race when that race is no longer part of his makeup, we could perhaps conclude that Mangog bears the mother of all grudges against Odin, perhaps taking vengeance on his race's behalf--a race which, despite being once again among the living, seems no less furious with Odin. However it endures, it's that fury--the hatred of billions of beings--which provides Mangog with virtually unlimited power. Power enough to challenge Odin; and, apparently, more than enough power to decimate the Asgardians.

Another party that Odin has banished from Asgard for reasons unknown (other than to save their lives) consists of the lady Sif and her staunch protectress, Hildegarde, sent to the mysterious Blackworld and, equally mysteriously, encountering an indigenous population they hadn't expected to be present. Unfortunately, the natives are proving to be restless--for all the good that does them when facing Hildegarde and, believe it or not, Sif unleashed.

After the utter (and embarrassing) lack of fortitude and decorum Sif exhibited in Odin's presence earlier, it's gratifying to see Conway have her reclaim her courage as well as her eagerness to cross swords with her enemies. Considering it's her battle prowess that caught Thor's eye in the first place, it really didn't make any sense when we began seeing her adopt the uncertainty and fretful nature of the likes of Sue Storm. Welcome back, Sif. Given a choice between the lady Sif and the goddess Sif, it's no contest.

Back at world's end, Thor and the Warriors Three have been attacked and nearly killed by the serpent-demon Redguard, another monstrous sentry whose task is to prevent their passage--created by Satrina, who learns of the warriors' purpose and is delighted to escort them to what will likely be their doom.

While in Asgard, the body count mounts. But following the death of one of his friends--as well as seeing Mangog continuing his destruction of the city--Odin makes a dramatic decision that consigns the entire realm to seeming oblivion.

Again the reference to Thor's quest, and that somehow the waters of the Twilight Well would have made some sort of difference in the struggle against Mangog. Given what we've just seen, it looks like the point has been rendered moot; but Thor, in blessed ignorance of these events, must still proceed with the task he's been given, and he finally reaches the fearsome keeper of the Twilight Well.

Phooey. A storm giant by any other name.


Mighty Thor #196

Script: Gerry Conway
Pencils: John Buscema
Inks: Vince Colletta
Letterer: John Costanza (as Jon Costa)

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