Sunday, August 19, 2012

And Now--Galactus

Even when the Sentry became the go-to guy when Marvel needed to pull out all the stops and send in the heaviest hitter they had to deal with a threat, the character who's had the longest claim to that distinction has arguably been Thor, the God of Thunder.

I say "arguably" because Thor has had his share of defeats--most recently when the Red Hulk decisively out-thought and out-fought him. In point of fact, it's been the Hulk who Thor has yet to put down. An issue of The Defenders seemed to settle the matter once and for all, when it locked the two in a test of strength for over an hour, with neither character giving an inch.

Nor could they. Since each of these characters had a successful title of his own, Marvel would risk losing readers of the loser's book if a clear-cut winner were declared. After all, if the main character of a comic book you're reading every month were beaten by a character in another book, what point would there be to reading their further adventures?  That would be one thing if the character didn't have their own comic book--but it's quite another if they're each billed on their own masthead.

Yet, for all the controversy about who was stronger, in Marvel's Silver Age it was Thor who was the informal holder of the title of Marvel's most powerful hero. So it generated no small amount of excitement when the time came to pit Thor against none other than Galactus, who until then had only appeared in Fantastic Four. This would be their first meeting. Thor had been approached by an alien race called the Rigellians, who told him of the decimation of countless worlds at the hands of Galactus, and solicited his help in stopping him. Thor, alarmed and angered at the destruction, vowed to put an end to his threat.

At the time, Galactus was engaged in a struggle with Ego, the Living Planet. Consequently, Thor was walking into a hornet's nest--but his duty was clear. It was time to hammer down.

As humiliating as you or I might think of being tossed away like so much trash, Thor just takes the breathing room he's been given to come up with a new approach--deciding to harness his own power with that of his hammer, and unleash it against Galactus. Apparently, Thor hasn't caught onto the fact that Galactus can digest the life force of whole planets; nevertheless, it works.

Gosh, who needs an Ultimate Nullifier when you've got Thor?

You may have noticed that Marvel has sneakily managed to maintain the status quo with these two. I.e., Galactus wasn't beaten--he was driven off. Thor got to keep his pride--and Galactus goes off to lick his wounds and continue with planet-consuming another time. Now, if you think that Thor isn't the type to let the matter drop, considering his vow to end the threat of Galactus, you're right. Just a few issues later, Odin sends Thor to Galactus to learn his origin from his own lips--and subsequently, Odin comes to the conclusion that... well, "Galactus' time hath not yet come!", and withdraws Thor. Thor has the matter settled for him--and that seems to apply to our expectations, as well.  After all, when Odin says it's over, that's that.

Of course, the illogic of this fight escaped those of us who anticipated it. Thor has gone head to head with the Hulk and gotten absolutely nowhere; yet now he wants to go up against a being who could swat the Hulk like a fly. Galactus was correct in basically telling Thor that he might want to rethink his definition of "godhood"--and he punctuated the point perfectly, by hurling him toward a planet. Yet those of us reading the story for the first time just thought of it as Galactus temporarily having the upper hand. (Heh--we were all such thralls of Marvel.) But the meetup was all we wanted. It was fierce--brief--and when it was over, we knew that we might someday be treated to another one. Not a bad deal for 12¢.

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