Friday, July 15, 2016

The Judgment of Tyr!

It seems the Asgardian God of War, Tyr, so rarely receives any story exposure in the pages of Mighty Thor; by comparison, his Olympian counterpart, Ares, has several stories under his belt, as well as an Avengers I.D. tucked in there somewhere. As often as we've seen the Asgardians go to war, not to see Tyr heading the charge at either Thor's or Odin's side seems an oversight; nor is he anywhere to be seen when Loki usurps the throne or the forces of evil storm the gates.  Thor has eclipsed the war god as Asgard's most visible and galvanizing warrior--a fact which would understandably have a proud god such as Tyr wanting to take action.

In a Thor story from 1981, however, it appears at first that Tyr would much rather make love, not war--specifically, with the lady Sif, who pines for the God of Thunder while he resides on Earth and no doubt finds herself in the thoughts of many male Asgardians, a group which we learn includes the war god. Yet Tyr is about to discover in no uncertain terms that his feelings for Sif are not, nor are they ever likely be, reciprocated.

In the face of Sif's rebuff, Tyr storms off, warning that this matter isn't over. And so, as with any of his campaigns, Tyr begins to lay out a well-considered plan to gain his objective--and as he maps out his strategy, we learn that Tyr holds little to no regard for the son of Odin, either in prowess or in hierarchy, and now finds himself at last having good reason for taking action against him. Action which out of necessity must include not only the war god's boldness and cunning, but also a certain level of deception.

The law that Tyr has had the Vizier blow the cobwebs off of probably has any Thor reader crying "baloney," since gods depart Asgard all the time, for any number of reasons, without going through this kind of red tape--much less having the other gods assemble for a vote on the matter. Tyr himself prepares to depart Asgard, and we don't see him petitioning anyone but Odin. Somewhere in that law must be the stipulation that the word "depart" refers to an extended absence, though of course you and I aren't privy to the fine print.  Regardless, having Odin's reluctant agreement as well as Asgardian law backing him up on this mission, Tyr makes one last stop before his departure--the Avenue of Heroes, where he breaks out of its casing the Mace of the Myth-Wars, an invincible weapon once wielded by Odin, in order to use it against Thor. (Because all-powerful weapons can always be found unguarded and on display in a public thoroughfare--anyone knows that.)

Wasting no time, Tyr lands in the vicinity of his target, and attempts a quick strike without providing any reasonable explanation for his actions, most likely to take advantage of the element of surprise and avoid a battle with Thor if he can help it.

Tyr's opening move comes off as a cowardly act on the part of the God of War, to say nothing of an Asgardian. Yet it seems to have been part of his plan. If he succeeded in slaying Thor, Tyr could always claim later that Thor did refuse to come and decided to fight, forcing Tyr's hand; he's also careful to voice only the parts of the law that to his mind will satisfy his honor and justify attacking Thor in order to avoid the possibility that Thor might agree to return to Asgard. But Donald Blake's quick thinking has deprived Tyr of making this battle short and sweet--and though Tyr continues to lie through his teeth in an effort to save face, Thor has no choice but to respond to Tyr's hostile actions toward him.

As it turns out, Odin's "sacred mace" never sees much action beyond Tyr's initial strikes, even as fiercely as this battle is playing out. Whether that's due to Tyr's sense of strategy or artist Keith Pollard is unclear; for instance, above we see Tyr racing toward Thor and apparently about to strike with the mace, only to instead clobber Thor with a left cross (while at the same time declaring how fervently he's going to use this weapon). Maybe he's just seeing red while engaging with Thor and not staying focused--though that would seem to be out of character for a seasoned war god, and unwise considering who he's up against.

But the issue will become moot, as Thor disarms Tyr in a literally shocking display of power.

Yet Tyr is far from out of this fight, and closes with Thor while not being able to withhold his contempt for the Thunder God in stinging words that betray his underlying jealousy and resentment. But in the final confrontation, it becomes clear who holds more power on this field of battle--and, considering Tyr's motives, clear who carries the greater cause to prevail, as well.

Still, Tyr gets his wish, at least in part, as Thor indeed decides to return to Asgard with Tyr, albeit with the war god as his prisoner. And while Thor must still endure a vote on whether or not to be allowed to return to Earth, Tyr's treachery is revealed when Sif appears and discloses Tyr's true reason for his deception. Nobly, Thor intercedes with Odin when his father prepares to banish Tyr--though Tyr's actions have cast a blight on his character as well as his status at court.

Tyr would go on to redeem himself as a warrior of Asgard by helping to lead its forces in Asgard's war against Surtur, an epic tale by Walt Simonson which has the war god in his element, in what was arguably Asgard's finest hour.

Mighty Thor #312

Script: Doug Moench
Pencils: Keith Pollard
Inks: Gene Day
Letterer: Joe Rosen


George Chambers said...

Tyr: "I love you, Sif!"
Sif: "Go away. I love Thor."
Tyr: "Aha! I'll kill Thor, and then you'll love me!"
Sif: "In the unlikely event that you succeeded in killing Thor, I would kill YOU, and if I failed, Odin wouldn't."

Did he keep his brains in his severed hand?

Comicsfan said...

Yes, war gods don't seem to be the brightest tools in the shed, George. Tyr was likely counting on Thor's resistance to the enforcement of that dusty law to cover his tracks sufficiently so that he would be seen as doing his duty if Thor had been killed; that way, his honor would remain intact (if tarnished), and neither Sif nor Odin would hold him to blame, at least to his way of thinking. Sif and Odin would have to be blind to not wonder why Tyr would unearth this law after all this time--particularly Sif, who rubuffed Tyr's advances just prior to his audience with Odin.

Anonymous said...

He was a major Norse god! They even named Tuesday after him.
But he gets little respect from Marvel Comics.

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