Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Stoned Love

In the first Secret Wars series, the mighty Thor slipped away with the Enchantress (just to talk, really!), only to return with the rumblings of disaster. He also found a little reception committee there to greet him:

Even though it's mortals he's facing, it's a formidable array of super-foes that Thor is going up against--pretty much the cream of the crop. Doom, the FF's arch-enemy; Doc Ock, who's pummelled Spider-Man on many occasions; the Absorbing Man, an original enemy of Thor who's gone up against him several times and still picking fights with him, which should tell you something; Kang, an Avengers enemy who's also taken on Thor; the Wrecking Crew, invested with the power of Asgard and headed by the Wrecker, a bruiser who's battled Thor and nearly caused his death; and Ultron, composed of a metal even Thor can't damage. There's also the Molecule Man, who could probably end Thor's resistance with a wave of his wand hand.

Adding the super-strong Titania, I'm only counting eleven adversaries (twelve if Doom is including the Enchantress), so I don't know where Doom is getting 13 from. I think I see Volcana in the background in one of these panels, though she never joins the fight.

Even with such odds against Thor, it's a confrontation that's still too close to call. Thor, after all, has fought hordes of gods and laid waste to them; on the other hand, the Masters of Evil piled on Hercules to deadly effect, and they didn't even have Ultron or the Molecule Man. But the bottom line here is: we want to see how Thor does. And the villains don't take long to get down to business:

Wait, that's it!? There wasn't much cutting loose here on Thor's part, to speak of. Though in all fairness, lightning bolts are nothing to sneeze at--and you're going to fight a mostly defensive battle with that many people wanting a piece of you.

Fortunately, three years later, an issue of Thor looks back on this fight and goes into more depth with it:

Yet, while the issue's cover leaves no doubt as to the story's main action, this issue by Tom DeFalco and artist Ron Frenz may surprise you. We know that the Enchantress sits out the battle between Thor and Doom's group in the Secret Wars story--so DeFalco takes the opportunity to tell this story from her perspective, as she attempts to give advice to her self-centered sister, Lorelei, on making wise choices in matters of love.

To form the basic framework of this story, DeFalco must first establish Lorelei's credentials as far as being irredeemable in her treatment of the opposite sex. And so we join her in a scene where a young suitor has fought his way to her, simply in the hope that she'll allow him to stay at her side. Callously, she does just that.

Enter the Enchantress, who seeks to reach her sister from a perspective of having spent too much of her immortal life in her sister's footsteps.

The Enchantress describes her time with Thor on "Battleworld," the Beyonder's planet where she and other villains were sent along with a select group of heroes to fight in a contest which would grant the winning group all they desired. But as Thor travels with the Enchantress to an isolated area, she decides to attempt to seduce Thor by way of a spell she places on her lips to subvert his will and make him pledge himself to her. Only she's filled with second thoughts, thanks to Thor's entreaties to her to be more than she is:

It's then that the Molecule Man strikes, dropping an entire mountain on Thor's comrades, sending shock waves throughout the region which alert Thor to the crisis. By this time, he and the Enchantress have spent a good deal of time together in isolation, and she has felt herself become swayed by Thor's faith in her. But when faced with choosing sides when they return to the battle site, she finds that desire has not yet transitioned to true love and self-sacrifice:

It's here that Frenz takes the basic layout of the battle which original artist Bob Layton put in place and builds upon it. Like jackals, the villains, thirsting for slaughter, are quick to step up to lay into Thor. But, separately or together, these super-criminals find that the Thunder God is a tough customer, one of the toughest they've ever encountered:

Given his power, the Absorbing Man should remain at the forefront of this battle, since he can absorb the properties of Thor's hammer and/or Thor himself with a mere touch. That is a deadly threat in itself, and, added to a group assault, it could be made to be the deciding factor in this fight; but many writers and artists only trot out that aspect of the Absorbing Man's power only to eventually side-step around it when it comes time to either show Thor rallying or end the villain's threat. Here, with so many villains to be dealt into this battle, the Absorbing Man is dispatched quickly.

The Wrecking Crew is a group of villains which also gets short shrift when shuffled in with others. They're quite a destructive force, particularly with the Wrecker leading them; but either their power doesn't live up to its rep, or Thor's stamina is incredible, even when beset by so many super-powered opponents who don't give him a chance to get his bearings:

Finally, Doom makes his move with Ultron, and that's all she wrote for Thor:

We know that Thor actually ditched the fight in order to go help his comrades, so he'll live to fight another day. The only one to truly lose here was the Enchantress, by abandoning Thor in his time of need. I never really understood why the Enchantress, of all people, was so cowed by this group. Doom might as well have her on a leash. In the past, this woman has been aggressive in all her dealings with her enemies--treating mortals in particular with contempt, and not even fearing the Avengers. There must be a dozen different ways she could deal with these people--and siding with Thor would have put the odds heavily in her favor. It doesn't really make sense for her to shrink in fear of retaliation; if anyone has written the book on retaliation, it's the Enchantress.

But, for the sake of this story, her behavior sets up its ending, where she makes one last attempt to get through to Lorelei before departing. Has Lorelei listened to her words--her regrets? Frenz and DeFalco provide the answer, in a closing scene which makes Lorelei's choice for her life's path all too clear:

It seems the devotion of Daillus the Daring, our hapless warrior now set in stone, is destined to be one-sided.

Mighty Thor #383

Script: Tom DeFalco
Pencils: Ron Frenz
Inks: Brett Breeding
Letterer: Diana Albers

1 comment:

Ben Herman said...

This was a good issue. I t really stuck in my head as a reader. DeFalco & Frenz did good work showing different sides of the Enchantress' character other than her usual haughty seductress / femme fatale persona.

I also liked how DeFalco & Frenz demonstrated just how scary & intimidating Doctor Doom could be. The Enchantress is someone who thumbed her nose at everyone from Asgard. She thought she was better than Odin, Thor, Loki and everyone else. Yet when Doom stress her down, the Enchantress collapses like a house of cards.