In this issue of Mighty Thor that displays a cover image of two Gods of Thunder, would you feel gypped if it turned out that neither of them was... Thor??
Or that Thor--the son of Odin, that is--isn't present in even one of this issue's stories?
We've been looking this week at issues from 1981-'92 that have covers with a composite format such as this one, indicating that each of the (half-)characters pictured has a part to play in the story inside. From a glance at this cover, those characters will be Eric Masterson, who's taken on the role of the Thunder God in the absence of the true Thor, and Beta Ray Bill, the alien who was granted by Odin the power of a Thunder God as well as his own enchanted hammer. But what about Dr. Don Blake, who's also pictured here? Doesn't he count as the real Thor?
Ay, there's the rub.* You'll have to wait a bit for that question to be addressed; to give you an answer now would spoil the big reveal. Let's just say that you shouldn't read too much into the first story's title, "The Day Of His Return!"
To give you a quick recap on where things stand with this book, the search by Eric Masterson, Balder the Brave, and the lady Sif for the real Thor continues, following his banishment by Odin's will after Thor slew his half-brother, Loki, after an epic battle--with Sif and Balder using some Norn stones to guide them to this realm or that while they follow leads. Meanwhile, Masterson has quite a lead of his own to investigate--the mysterious return of Blake, who's been called in to operate on the injured Susan Austin and whose appearance has Masterson drawing a hasty if sensible conclusion.
And so Masterson arrives at the hospital to meet Dr. Blake personally--and the more he picks up from Blake, the more convinced he is that he's guessed right. Everything checks out; everything adds up. Even the Enchantress, disguised as the mortal Leena Moran, is certain that Blake is the real deal. And so Masterson resolves to meet with Blake again later and assess how to convince Blake of his true nature and return Thor's power to him.
Meanwhile, the Norn stones have brought Sif and Balder to a world where Bill and his people have resettled following the exodus from their world. While the suspicion and fear that Bill's people exhibit toward strangers isn't entirely unjustified considering what they've been through, they still may not be quite what you'd expect--for they are also distrustful of their guardian and protector, Bill, indignant that he no longer functions as their cyborg creation and fearful that he now possesses too much power to use through his own judgment.
Dar Mal Goth has exaggerated Bill's defensive action against the crowd that was threatening Sif and Balder, using his hammer to harmlessly disperse them by wind while also voicing understanding for their fearful and callous actions. Nevertheless, an imperial council is convened to debate Bill's status--and despite Sif's impassioned defense of him, the council's verdict is not in his favor.
Dar Mal Goth is predictably the first to seize the former hammer and attempt to use it to transform himself, only to be foiled by Odin's enchantment. And so, one by one, others try their hand, hoping to be selected as worthy to be the new guardian--and as Sif and Balder make preparations to depart, Bill sees that the results of his trial might be for the best, after all.
While, back on Earth, another transfer of power is being attempted, hopefully with better results--all hinging on Masterson's assumption that Donald Blake has indeed been reborn to harbor the spirit of the true Thor during his period of banishment, and that his memory and power can be restored by his own hammer's enchantment. But while a transformation indeed takes place, the result is far more startling--and terrifying--than Masterson could possibly have expected.
The search for Thor has turned into little more than a wild goose chase** that's been strung out interminably and been used like a carrot stick dangled in front of readers in order to keep the concept from getting stale. It seems to have occurred to none of Thor's friends that locating him doesn't release him from his banishment--but who am I to talk sense into these crazies. What we can do is to cut through all of the red tape and jump directly to the issue featuring Thor's return, and perhaps discover that there's a reason why he needs to be found.
*Hamlet, Act III, Scene I
**Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene IV
Invincible Disabled Iron Man!