Tuesday, November 11, 2014

To Perish By The Sword!

Things didn't look too good for Asgard when, as we saw last time, the fire demon Surtur had arrived at the golden realm and fought his way to within sight of the brazier of eternal flame. Surtur, like the death goddess Hela, is somewhat unique among the figures of Norse legend who have a specific part to play in the history of Asgard. His role is to cleanse the nine worlds through fire at the culmination of Ragnarok; but he's not willing to wait until his destined time, and, just as with Hela, occasionally gears up to take a more aggressive stance against the Asgardians. We've already seen a prior attempt on his part to escape his realm and openly move against Asgard--but now, having reforged his sword, "Twilight," long ago destroyed by Odin and his two brothers, as well as marshaling his demon forces to invade Earth, Surtur makes an all-out attempt to reach the flames which will light his sword and allow him to destroy all who live.

On Earth, things are equally desperate, as hordes of attacking demons from Muspelheim pour through dimensional warps, while the entire planet is blanketed in fierce cold released from the broken Casket of Ancient Winters. The Asgardians have joined with Earth's heroes in an attempt to staunch the opposition and prevent more demons from deploying, while a two-man team works on resealing the Casket.

The forces for life are stretched pretty thin--particularly in Asgard, where Thor has been soundly beaten by Surtur, and no one remains to prevent the fire demon's approach into the city. No one but one resolute, angry god:

And so the gauntlet is thrown down, as two of Marvel's oldest and most powerful beings prepare to battle to the death, while the fate of the nine worlds hangs in the balance. (Which, unfortunately, includes you and I, folks.)

Surtur, now armed with his sword of doom, has every right to posture as if his reaching the brazier of flames was a foregone conclusion. And Odin no doubt realizes he has a fight on his hands--which is made very clear in this opening exchange by both combatants:

I don't know about you, but I felt that one in my chair.

Meanwhile, on Earth, writer/artist Walt Simonson keeps this story cooking on all fronts, providing an exciting, in-depth look at Asgardian forces in their element: arrayed against overwhelming forces in a near-hopeless cause, yet more than willing to fight to the death in glory for their king and their realm. Simonson displays their ferocity as well as their grasp of tactics beautifully, and it's a real treat to see all of them--and I mean all of them, from villains to Norns to the deceased hordes of Valhalla--united in battle against an enemy which threatens them all.

Simonson also gives generous attention to his own creation, Beta Ray Bill, who proved his humble worth to wield Thor's hammer and, here, proves to be a wise second-in-command choice of Thor's to lead his forces while he joins the fight against Surtur in Asgard. And it's Bill's strategy we have to thank for this tremendous maneuver that leads the so-called Sons of Muspell directly into a well-laid trap:

What a hell of a scene this would have made in one of the Thor films, eh?

But Bill also shares one thing more with Thor--his love of the lady Sif, who has not reappeared after the rout of Surtur's forces. And Volstagg, who has been in the thick of battle himself--yes, you read that correctly--reminds him of the importance of staying focused on the task at hand:

And so Bill recovers himself, and makes plans to enter the dimensional warp in New York and strike at the main gate used by the demons:

...while Roger Willis, who is well familiar with the Casket of Ancient Winters from his prior dealings with Malekith, is joined by the Human Torch on a mission to quash the frigid cold blanketing the Earth, using a little old-fashioned human ingenuity on a mystic artifact that dates back to the beginning of time:

Back in Asgard, Odin pulls himself together after Surtur's strike, and realizes he must find a way to sever Surtur's link to the brazier:

Odin's gambit is successful--and, ordinarily, Surtur, as before, might find himself at a disadvantage. Yet he still wields Twilight, and he takes advantage of one other force that's been unleashed:

With Odin virtually entombed, nothing remains to stop Surtur's approach to the brazier. You may be thinking right now that we haven't seen Thor at all in this issue, and that he'll somehow make a last-minute appearance to stop or at least delay Surtur from bringing his sword into contact with the flames--and if Surtur had been less thorough in the Thunder God's defeat, that might well have been the case. But we have to give Surtur his due. He's planned well for this attack, and overwhelmed his opposition to the point of having a clear path to the brazier--so it indeed looks like he'll prevail here.

And so begins the end of everything. Maybe.

Assuming we're all still alive, we'll learn next time if Surtur has experienced triumph--or trickery. And which Asgardian excels in the latter, do you think?

Mighty Thor #352

Script, Pencils and Inks: Walt Simonson
Letterer: John Workman, Jr.


Anonymous said...

I love that visual effect, when Surter is swinging his sword around, with the flashes that look like protons and electrons around the nucleus of an atom!
I first saw that when Thor was getting ready to clobber the Absorbing Man, and later when he was preparing to put some hurt down on Ego, The Living Planet.
It gives you an idea of how powerful these entities really are. They are, in a sense, nuclear weapons! mp

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, just to sit back and flip through the covers during the run. From the first appearance of Beta Ray Bill, the Casket of Ancient Winters, Surtur, as each chapter came out. For me, this was visual storytelling at it's most epic. I was post The Hobbit/Lord Of The Rings, Dune, Elric and the Grey Mane of Morning. Books I had read and reread and painted the pictures in my mind. Simonson wove a story to equal those. Simonson's run could easily equal the LOTR trilogy, and I'm talking the director's cut not the theatre versions.

The Prowler (doo doo doo doodoo doo doo time keeps on slipping slipping slipping into the future).

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