Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Freaky Friday of Thor and Loki

Alert reader B Smith pointed out recently that, in our look at the last seven issues of Jack Kirby's run on Mighty Thor, Kirby's final issue on the title was actually #179, rather than #177. And since there are a couple of Thor-related matters on my plate that I've been meaning to get around to putting to rights, this is as good a time as any to profile that last Thor issue that Kirby turned in before he'd walk down the rainbow bridge toward new employment.

Though to see a Jack Kirby issue of Thor without a Jack Kirby cover takes a little getting used to:

The story, where Kirby is once again joined by inker Vince Colletta after a very nice series of issues with Bill Everett filling those shoes, picks up after a brief detour on the Stranger's world to find Thor and the warriors of Asgard given more thorough treatment in their return to Asgard than the "one size fits all" post-battle reception of the prior issue drawn by John Buscema--perhaps put in place to buy a little time while plans are made for wrapping up the Loki plot. Kirby begins that story here, with his final splash page for the book:

Part of me wishes that Kirby had devoted a two-page spread to this scene, since the Statue of Heroes would no doubt look magnificent in its entirety (and I'm more than a little curious as to how the staff inserted into the rest of the statue on the opposite base completes the work). As for the heroes themselves, they deserve the fanfare, having fought a near-hopeless battle against the rampaging Surtur. When Thor dismounts, he gives them their rightful due before heading in; and when Sif is there to welcome him, the two find that duty still calls:

(It took Odin all of five seconds to dispose of Surtur all by himself, so I suppose he's a little touchy about not yet getting his due.)

Once the knee-bending has been taken care of, Odin gets right to it:

Now that Loki presumably no longer has the Odin-Ring to augment his power, Thor's mission to apprehend him would seem to be a formality. But Loki will have the last laugh--and Thor will instead find that it's himself who has become the hunted.

Loki, enjoying the comforts of a posh hotel room in New York, certainly doesn't give the appearance of someone being on the run. And even though his plan to avoid capture is in the works, he's not about to pass up the mortal amenity of room service. Nor do his servers pass up his demands, since word has apparently gotten around that nobody tips like Loki:

As for Loki's cunning plan, he's once again availed himself of the services of his right-hand wizard, Igron, to assist in a mystic creation:

Meanwhile, Thor decides that a more subtle approach to finding his half-brother might bring faster results than an all-out manhunt. It's difficult to tell at this point in the story just who is playing into the hands of whom--but if we have to choose who might have the advantage, it may be wise to lay odds on the god with the pair of binoculars:

As for Igron--well, as usual, he's about to learn the meaning of "unappreciated":

We know how Igron escapes his imprisonment in the troll kingdom, though we'd once again see that he doesn't necessarily need to be involved with Loki for his plans to implode.

Finally, Loki makes his move--boldly showing himself in his true form which both demonstrates his contempt for the mortals around him as well as his confidence to prevail in his upcoming confrontation with Thor:

The interesting aspect to this scene in hindsight is that we know from this plot's conclusion that, had Loki indeed encountered Blake here instead of Thor, his plan might have backfired before it could succeed (as well as stopped this story cold), since it was the enchantment of Blake's change to Thor and vice versa which overrode the magic of Loki's construct. But since Blake has again changed to Thor, who thinks it's he who's sprung this trap, let's see just what this "mask" of Loki's is designed to do:

At first glance (ha ha!--get it?), it doesn't seem like much of a plan. Loki may have switched features with Thor, but Thor can still outmatch him and clobber him before the deception goes any further. However, Thor is in for a surprise in that regard:

It probably would have been less confusing if the plot instead made clear that Loki and Thor had switched bodies rather than simply features, since this plot depends on duplicity and Thor's comrades are certainly going to notice an obvious change in his build, despite his power. But artist Neal Adams has drawn a somewhat scrawny-looking Thor on this issue's cover, so I'd much rather assume he's been filled in on this plot than believe he'd intentionally draw Thor in such a way.

Once Loki switches clothes with Thor and departs (as Thor), Thor (as Loki) awakens and realizes the predicament he's in. And his problems are about to get worse, when Balder and Sif arrive to find Thor and instead find a raving loon making outrageous claims:

It's the perfect recipe for conflict. Who would believe the words of Loki, who's on the run and who would probably say anything to put his pursuers off their guard? Nor is Thor in any state of mind to take a more calm approach in convincing his friends of his identity; in fact, if he'd taken a moment to think, he would simply have surrendered and let Balder and Sif return him to face Odin, the one god who might have been convinced of this deception.

Instead, the battle erupts:

And so everything is pretty much falling into place for Loki. It's unclear why he didn't take measures to prevent Thor from trying to prove his case, as he likely would, given time. It doesn't really make sense for Loki to take the risk of simply hoping that things will come off without a hitch from this point:  Thor being attacked on sight, hounded and eventually imprisoned. But he throws caution to the wind, and instead proceeds with his own plans to destroy what Thor holds dear:

Yet, what of the battle--perhaps the first of many for Thor in his new form? Fortunately, he's realized that pleas of his real identity are falling on deaf ears, and so he focuses on bringing an end to the fight and hopefully picking up the pieces afterward. But since he's never acted as Loki, his plan carries great risk for his opponent whom he regards as a brother:

In Kirby's work here and elsewhere, you've probably noticed how he at times shifts angles unexpectedly, to very interesting effect. For instance, when Thor fires his bolts here, Kirby chooses to instead take us down to street-level to see the result, essentially looking through the eyes of any passers-by who might be watching this battle play out. He remains a gifted storyteller, even with Marvel in his rear-view mirror.

The fight over, the result is as Thor feared; but it actually works in his favor, since his reaction allows both Balder and Sif to reassess the situation:

The gods would have to go mad without Kirby, of course. Before this adventure is concluded, it would end up involving the Warriors Three, a very angry Odin, as well as Mephisto (thanks to that very angry Odin) before Thor is able to turn the tables on Loki.

Next time, another correction thanks to another alert reader: ODIN LIVES!
(And much sooner than we thought!)

Mighty Thor #179

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Vince Colletta
Letterer: Sam Rosen


Anonymous said...

Loki knows, when surveying the fruits of his diabolical plans from a distance, nothing beats a good set of binoculars.
His severance package leaves something to be desired, though. Poor Igron. mp

Rick said...

I'm surprised you didn't mention the shift in inkers that takes place throughout the book. I remember noticing when originally reading the book. Any idea who that could be. Possibly Royer?

Comicsfan said...

Rick, many sources list that additional work as being done by John Verpoorten.

The Prowler said...

All I can say is just imagine how THOR Loki must have been when all of this was over!!!

It's a cry for help, really!!!

(But Patty's only seen the sights a girl can see from Brooklyn Heights).