Friday, June 28, 2013

Just In Time for Ragnarok--The New Thor!

Having already seen how much a one-sided battle can bring a story down, let's pivot to how a story can actually benefit from one--and it all starts in the pages of The Mighty Thor, and three presumptuous mortals who actually wanted to film Ragnarok. Meet Thor's old buddy, journalist Harris Hobbs, and his production crew, who have stowed away in some equipment Thor was bringing to Asgard:

As you can see, Thor wasn't too keen on allowing Hobbs and his crew to set foot in Asgard. Fortunately, for reasons of his own, Loki was. And those reasons became more clear when Hobbs' cameraman, "Red" Norvell, fell hopelessly in love with the lady Sif and was sorely tempted by Loki to be mystically transformed to be on equal standing with Thor so that he would have a chance with her. And to do that, he needed to accessorize:

Norvell is understandably a little overwhelmed at the prospect of using Asgardian ritual and possessions to risk his safety in untested waters. But, come on--this is a love-sick mortal who's being tempted by incredible power, and he's being egged on by a master of deceit like Loki. What do you think he's going to do?

So Norvell is now wearing Thor's legendary belt of strength, along with Thor's iron gloves. And thanks to his beard and the color of his hair, we now have all the imagery we need to have him debut as a Norse god of thunder that no one is likely to nickname "Goldilocks":

But where does Ragnarok fall within this turn of events? Writer Roy Thomas (along with artists John Buscema and Tom Palmer) are tackling the twilight of the gods--where the Asgardians meet their foretold end--in a six-part story that conforms more to myth than prior attempts to portray the cataclysm which used elements like the Odin-sword, Mangog, and Surtur in overwhelming, epic battles. Here, Thomas plays out the crisis step by legendary step, while using the opportunity to explore more aspects of Asgard that Stan Lee and Jack Kirby never got around to (e.g., the return of Asgard's goddesses, including the wives of both Loki and Odin). In fact, you almost feel that Thomas has whacked an Asgardian piƱata, with the many Norse items and minutiae that seem to be falling onto these pages. Thor's belt of strength and gloves; the Midgard Serpent; the tale of Loki's chained imprisonment and agony; as well as, notably, Balder's vulnerability only to mistletoe.

Thomas's treatment of Balder requires no small amount of suspension of disbelief, since it brushes aside all the other injuries to Balder in past issues of Thor from weapons that definitely weren't made of mistletoe (though, in all fairness, it was Lee and Kirby who originally uncorked the mistletoe bottle). But Balder's vulnerability issue is by necessity, since it's the linchpin of this entire story, as, according to prophecy, it's Balder's death which makes Ragnarok inevitable. Thus, when Balder's mortal wound by mistletoe finally happens (due to Loki's subtle manipulation), Odin places--what else?--an Odin-shield around him, keeping him a hairs breadth from death's door in order to stave off the final end of everything.

Of course, mythology didn't say squat about two Thors engaging in battle around this time; then again, mythology has us believing that Thor was more like Norvell in appearance than the Goldilocks we know in the comic. So what's going on? Come on--do you want me to go into that, or do you want to see these two throw down?

Yeah, I thought so.

Another big mystery right off the bat--how the heck is Norvell able to seize Mjolnir? He doesn't look "worthy" of it, does he? Also, his belt of strength makes him strong, yes, but it doesn't make him the God of Thunder--so how is he able to wallop Thor? It's a question on the mind of the original Thor, as well. Or IS he the original? Now I'm confused! But there's not much time for answers right now, because Thor's getting his ass handed to him by this guy:

Thor is now seriously on the ropes, and Norvell is trying to get him to just give up. He's taking out a lot of frustration on Thor, but he doesn't want to really kill him--he just wants Sif. But Thor is in the way, and he has no intention on getting out of the way. Neither does Norvell:

It's here that Thor's friends have had enough of watching this battle from the sidelines, and they finally move on Norvell. But, using Mjolnir, he throws up a barrier, and then poises to make his final attack on Thor. Yet, tragically, someone else will bear the brunt of his lack of mercy:

I don't know what this hammer's idea of "worthy" is, because you'd think something like this would make it fall from Norvell's hand and hit the ground like a safe. Suffice to say that it doesn't, and Norvell makes his move on Sif--threatening not only to kill Thor, but to cause far more than one death:

So, the battle ended, Norvell takes off for parts unknown. But there are still three issues to go in this story, with many unanswered questions hanging in the air at this point. And Norvell can't help but ask one that we'd like to know the answer to, ourselves:

With Ragnarok looming, let's hope he finds out what this is all about soon. He doesn't look like he has much interest in defending the realm, does he?

Mighty Thor #276

Script: Roy Thomas
Pencils: John Buscema
Inks: Tom Palmer
Letterers: Joe Rosen

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the Thor from Norse mythology and the comic book version were pretty different cats. Maybe more so for Odin, was originally written in comics like a more kindly version of God from the Old Testament, instead of the shape-shifting, conniving a$$#0!e he was in the myths.
I liked the Thor comics, but to portray him as a rebellious teenager who had an angry dad...c,mon. The guy's been around for a couple thousand years. In the myths Odin and Thor had nothing to do with each other. I think that the much later comics where Thor avoided Odin like the plague and didn't want anything to do him, were probably more consistent with the myths, I would guess.
But whatever makes a better story, I suppose. Look what they've done to Loki. Now that guy...