Monday, January 6, 2014

The Hammer and the Hellfire!


Or: "Time Waits For No Man, But It'll Slow To A Crawl for a Thunder God"

We've already looked at three battles involving Thor, God of Thunder, and Ulik, the most powerful troll in King Geirrodur's troll army, and each battle has seen Ulik meet the same end--laid out for the count. Add to that the fact that Ulik was also conscripted with ease into the Ringmaster's Circus of Crime, and Ulik's street cred as a deadly, formidable foe to Thor seems to be in serious doubt.

But as you might have guessed, Ulik isn't the type to just lie down and grumble about how he was this close to victory against the Thunder God. This time around, Ulik and Geirrodur have concluded that in order to be successful in any war against Earth and Asgard, they need to first launch a daring plan to take Thor out of the picture by depriving him of his greatest weapon:



This two-issue story by writer Gerry Conway and artist John Buscema has a few more things in play to keep us interested aside from just another Thor/Ulik battle. First, while we do have another troll war brewing against Asgard, the trolls using Earth as a stepping stone is going to be explored to greater extent. There's also a power play brewing, with Ulik using his stature among the trolls to effectively take control of Geirrodur's army and usurp his authority. Additionally, while Geirrodur is no less obsessed with launching attacks against Asgard, Conway's take on him presents him as somewhat more pragmatic, with Ulik the one instead throwing caution to the wind.

On the other hand, as this pair of uneasy allies formulates their strategy while spying on Thor, Geirrodur demonstrates he's still capable of making rash judgments:



For instance, even after Ulik points out that Thor is no less invincible on Earth, Geirrodur--apparently with a hearing problem--concludes that Earth is where they should attack him. Eventually, though, their little brainstorming session ends with a decision to instead bring Thor to them--and while the Thunder God sleeps, a contingent of trolls is sent to silently transport him to their fiery pits.

And, upon waking, he's not happy about it.


But guess who else isn't happy?



It isn't long before the main event sneaks up behind Thor and perhaps seeks to end the battle before it can begin:




As you might have noticed, though Conway now has this fight cooking on all cylinders, he seems to have overlooked a few trivial things--for instance, the misspelling of Geirrodur's name, along with the fact that these two have met in prior battle three times rather than twice. He also seemingly ignores that, in their fight in Karnilla's kingdom, Ulik has already played the card of insisting that Thor sheathe his hammer and battle him hand-to-hand; but in this instance, Ulik's ploy is part of a greater plan to confiscate the hammer while Thor is otherwise focused on the battle.

And speaking of that battle--here, as before, Thor has no intention of giving this troll the satisfaction of victory in even a fist fight:




Finally, though, the plan is launched, as a slab of uru metal carried by a group of trolls locks onto Thor's hammer, with Ulik playing his part well to distract Thor at the crucial moment:



All pretense of honor discarded, Ulik is now in this fight to win, using every dirty tactic at his disposal. And, with precious seconds already elapsed, Thor finally catches on to what the fight has really been about:



Thor then breaks into a run to recover his hammer. Conway now has less than a minute to play with--and by the time Thor reaches the trolls, who are already hoisting the uru slab over a furnace pit, only ten seconds remain before Thor changes back to Donald Blake. And we can probably say that it takes about five more seconds for this scene to play out:



So we can assume that the hammer has already reached the bottom of the furnace--and when Thor makes his leap, that gives him about 5 seconds to find and make contact with it. Five seconds to hurtle down to the bottom, make his way to his hammer, and pull it free. Assuming he isn't incinerated before then. It's an impossible situation on two fronts: Thor simply doesn't have the time to make the steep drop to the bottom--and even if he somehow survives plunging into a furnace of fire, Blake surely won't. This can't be done.

BUT IT IS. (You won't believe your eyes, but go ahead and take a look. We'll still be here when you get back.)

In the meantime, Ulik and the other trolls assume the worst for Thor, and feel feisty enough to take their victory lap:



When Thor returns to face the trolls, he finds that Geirrodur's armies have already begun their ascent to the surface, now aligning themselves with Ulik and not their king:



Thor takes off in pursuit, but the troll forces are already about to begin their war on unsuspecting mankind:




Whoa, ease off there, sport. Unless you've got a lot more trolls following you up that tunnel, I seriously doubt you're going to be able to take the entire planet. Maybe a few city blocks in New York.  Baby steps, pal.

Still, you do have a powerhouse like Ulik on your side, and that'll go a long way toward scattering the opposition:



But let's save Ulik and his trolls the embarrassment of being wasted by an air strike--or, for that matter, the Ringmaster. There's someone else who has some unfinished business with these enemies of Asgard and Earth:



Almost immediately, though, Thor must move to stop a damaged building full of people from toppling, which unfortunately leaves him vulnerable to being attacked by Ulik. But Thor's friends have also arrived at the site to pitch in, such as the Warriors Three (er, two, apparently):



As well as Tana Nile, who brings a Rigellian weapon which will eventually take its toll on Ulik. Assuming she has that kind of time:



But, once again, we'll see Thor deliver the blows which decide the battle, bringing to an end this fourth conflict between he and Ulik:




Which subsequently takes the fight out of the entire troll army.
You remember, the one that was going to conquer the entire planet:



Ulik's men cart his carcass back to Geirrodur, who, with Ulik being unofficially deposed, once again rules the troll kingdom with an iron hand and who wastes no time in disposing of this power-hungry troll:



But if you think a little thing like exile is going to put the brakes on Ulik or stop him from mixing it up with Thor again, you must have been standing too close to those stasis blasts.  If and when Ulik makes it out of those pits, he's going to be looking to take down Geirrodur--and he knows just the Thunder God to help him do it.

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