Friday, December 20, 2013

Hark, The Herald Angel Returns!

'Tis the season to rough up Santa Claus--at least, that's how it looks to Thor, as he flies over the upper west side of New York City on a snowy December eve. And so the decision is made to intervene, though perhaps it was made too hastily in this case:

"Santa" has since taken a powder, of course, and so Thor will have to hunt for him another day. But there is another hunter lying in wait just thirty miles north, in a ruined barn where Captain America once battled the villainous Machinesmith. And it's a powerful enemy of the entire human race, now flickering back to its approximation of life:

Yes--Gabriel, the Air-Walker, long thought destroyed, but apparently salvaged by the Machinesmith and put on the back burner in favor of a scheme involving the use of Dragon Man. And it looks like Gabriel has quite the auto-repair system, because look what shape he was in when Cap finally had it out with Machinesmith:

And that image can't help but prompt questions by Gabriel, who was sent plunging to his doom by the Silver Surfer before fully learning of his true nature as a robot. Here, we learn that Gabriel seems to vaguely believe he was originally mortal when Galactus made him his herald, and that it's the Surfer who's responsible for his present state:

And as Gabriel prepares to set out again, to seek answers as to what developments occurred after his defeat by the Surfer and to learn of Galactus, a young boy who lives in the adjacent farmhouse has seen the lights of Gabriel's rebirth--and, seemingly not knowing of Gabriel's earlier arrival on Earth and his subsequent rampage (jeez, that's some isolated farm), Kevin Matheson takes a far different attitude toward Gabriel than those who desperately sought to bring his madness to an end:

And so this unlikely pair of travelers heads to New York, where the Air-Walker just might pick up where he left off: heralding the end of all of humanity.

It takes the rest of the night before the two approach the city--and during that time, Kevin, a curious young boy who has met a real live alien, has naturally filled the time with questions and nonsensical conversation. And Gabriel finds himself at odds with his growing attachment to a being whom he knows will in all likelihood die with the rest of his race. And to that end, it makes sense for the story to make Gabriel's first stop the headquarters of the Fantastic Four, the humans who first opposed him and who are likely to have the answers he seeks:

Finally, though, after concluding his business with the FF, Gabriel easily reverts to the destructive being who thought of humanity as little more than ants, compounded by the thought of his bitter fate:

Yet there's another being more close at hand than the Surfer who would quickly realize and be able to deal with a sudden storm gone berserk:

Thor then seeks out the storm's cause--and with Gabriel's annoyance at Thor's appearance and intervention, the battle is on!

Throughout these exchanges, Gabriel has noted that much of the power in Thor's attack resides in his hammer, which would make the perfect tool to give him an edge in his upcoming battle with the Surfer. But gaining it also proves to be a turning point in this battle:

With Thor at his mercy, Gabriel shows no hesitation in preparing to finish him off. Yet it's one shrill but insistent voice which manages to stave off the killing blow:

With the unexpected breather, Thor puts two and two together and realizes the true nature of the Air-Walker, and acts accordingly to end his threat:

It seems like the threat of the Air-Walker has been finally ended (assuming that pesky auto-repair circuitry has also been smashed this time). But for Thor, the battle's collateral damage comes in the form of Kevin, who it turns out has also associated the alien Gabriel's demise with a more human memory:

There's more to discover about this robot Air-Walker and its history with Galactus, but the knowledge will come in the form of fiery vengeance against the Thunder God. All this tragedy and battle isn't really what we signed on for this time of year, is it? I'm starting to think that drug-dealing Santa Claus might have had more Christmas spirit.

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