Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Temple At The End of Time!

In this fourth and last installment to the Time-Twisters story, we didn't expect to find much of anything after Part 3 concluded, did we? The Time-Twisters had caused a cosmic upheaval which incinerated 50th century Earth--and Thor and his fellow Asgardians had said their goodbyes to each other and waited for the end. All except for Jane Foster, who refused to accept the inevitable:

Now, in other centuries where the Time-Twisters were destroying the Earth, I'm sure there were a lot of people crying out--yet cries of despair and helplessness don't generally stop conflagration, and their worlds perished nonetheless. So imagine our surprise when the world ends, yet leaves four gods and one mortal untouched:

Thor and his party may understandably be feeling a little down right now, but at least they're alive. What rabbit could writer Len Wein pull out of his hat to let these five people avoid planetary destruction without a scratch, or at least a burned finger or two?

It turns out Wein knows his Thor lore:

Gosh, Thor, maybe that's something you should have thought of. But since I already vented about that last time, why don't we get started with concluding this story, as we see a very ticked-off Zarrko, the Tomorrow Man, reappear to do a little venting of his own. And with tempers high and enough blame to go around, we see there's also trouble brewing with Thor and the Servitor:

In past issues, we've seen the Servitor pitching in to occasionally lend Thor a hand in the skirmishes which have occurred on their journey through time; but, oddly, Thor has mistaken those gestures as a sign of warming relations between them, even though the Servitor's loyalty and fealty to Zarrko have been unmistakable. I think it's more fair to say that the Servitor respects Thor's might and his skill as a warrior, concluding that the Asgardian will be an asset on Zarrko's mission. Here, though, Thor clearly had made assumptions of the Servitor as more of a comrade, despite the giant giving every indication that he's wholly in Zarrko's service. Here, Thor responds to the Servitor's strike by saying he had "no call" to act as he did, as if their joint mission had made them allies--words which probably meant little to nothing to the Servitor.

However, Thor's harsh retaliatory strike did have meaning to the giant. Yet in contrast to Thor, there is no sentiment attached to the Servitor's words, and his fight with Thor is personal only in respect to how his worth is seen in the eyes of his master:

Of course, this battle, taking place on a dead world, is pointless--and a waste of valuable (of all things) time, as Jane points out when she breaks it up and reminds them that 20th century Earth is the next port of call for the Time-Twisters. That doesn't matter much to Zarrko, having lost his rule of this particular Earth--but Thor has a way of salvaging the situation which will not only give them another crack at the Time-Twisters, but will render this destruction moot if they're successful:

And so Wein's adventure is jump-started in this final issue, with a clever twist that can't help but pique our curiosity--a journey to the end of time. Personally, I would have settled for 80th century Earth--but I can see how wrong that would have been for the story, for two reasons. For one thing, stopping off at another future Earth only grinds the story to a halt again with variations of events we've already seen, including another battle with the Time-Twisters that we've no reason to believe would end any more successfully. But the twist to the story also provides the added benefit of saving a number of other future Earths (as well as other worlds, I'm assuming) if the Time-Twisters are prevented from ever beginning their descent through the centuries.

Still, maybe Thor should have insisted to Zarrko that they switch to a DeLorean for this trip:

More overtures from the Servitor--yet Thor still holds out optimism for more meaning to them, instead of considering that, for the Servitor, they may simply facilitate the successful fulfillment of Zarrko's wishes. Soon, though, such matters are put aside, as the time-cube materializes at its destination:

The temple that presumably houses the Time-Twisters at their inception isn't going to be a place where you can just walk up and knock, so Thor and his party must first breach its defenses--one of which is a force field which, again, the Servitor offers his assistance to Thor to deal with. But afterward, the group comes under attack by--I can't believe I'm saying this out loud--the "Protectroids":

It's here, unfortunately, that we see the Servitor meet his end--originally a mere mining robot, but ultimately Zarrko's greatest (and perhaps only) defender:

The incident gives Thor a chance to deal with the remaining Protectroids. And afterward, Zarrko gives a somewhat unexpected epitaph to his creation:

Finally, inside the temple, the Asgardians reach their goal:

Zarrko, back to his old self it seems, calls for the immediate destruction of the pods which the beings who will eventually be known as the Time-Twisters sleep in. And while Thor is reluctant to do so, he nevertheless raises his hammer to carry out the act. But before he can destroy the pods, he's stopped in mid-swing by the temple's one last protector:

It's certainly an audacious goal--to create repositories of all available knowledge, and have them survive the end of the universe in order to bring that knowledge (and, hopefully, wisdom) to the next one in order to create a more enlightened existence. But Jane brings to light the one flaw in the plan which anyone hoping to survive death should probably already know. And stuck at the starting gate, the "Time-Twisters" will start their search for time's beginning--except that it will be the wrong beginning, still in the time they were meant to transcend:

At that moment, the primal sun erupts, and the first shockwave hits the temple, signalling the beginning of the cataclysm. At Zarrko's urging, everyone scrambles to head back to the time-cube--except for Thor, who urges the old keeper to accompany them. But he's called "He Who Remains" for good reason--and Thor understands that he's now remaining to fulfill a vital task:

The time-cube makes one last stop--back on 50th century Earth, where the entire planet is now the utopia that formerly was limited to just the perimeter of Zarrko's palace. And it's here we find "Derek," one of the inhabitants that Wein had focused on during Zarrko's rule in order to highlight the squalor that the humans were living in, but who is now "First Citizen" of a now idyllic Earth:

There's a sort of poetic justice in snatching tomorrow out from under the Tomorrow Man, isn't there. Of course, grasping at straws, Zarrko turns to the Asgardians to help him regain his rule. But his reach definitely exceeds his grasp in this case:

And so the Asgardians return to Jane's apartment, where the beginnings of this adventure now never took place and we're back to the same moment in time. Thor has returned with Jane to find the Warriors Three; Jane's refrigerator has met its match in Volstagg; and there is no Servitor reaching through Jane's wall to herald Earth's end.  Let's hope Zarrko doesn't feel like dropping in for lemonade.

You can read the Time-Twisters saga in its entirety--as well as eight additional issues of Wein/Buscema stories--in the TPB, "If Asgard Should Perish."


Anonymous said...

The Time-Twisters saga reminded me a lot of the old 60's Star Trek and the classic Twilight Zone episodes, by which I mean I really liked it.
I appreciated how the "villians" of the story all showed their humanity in the end, which had it's own nice little twist. But I'm a little puzzled as why Thor would put up with so much grief from a robot, a really obnoxious robot, without making paperclips out of him. Guess they caught Goldilocks in a mellow mood.

Comicsfan said...

Wein seemed to be on the fence regarding the relationship between Thor and the Servitor throughout this story, which, as you note, was a little puzzling. Ordinarily, Thor would treat any other hostile attacker who abducted Jane Foster and threatened her life with an air of distrust, as well as making it clear to that person to keep their distance; yet with the Servitor, it's almost like Thor is trying to reform him. In contrast, Thor has made about a tenth of the effort he's made with the Servitor when trying to come to terms with a somewhat similar character: the Hulk, with whom he instead takes a terse "you're either with me or against me" approach.