Friday, March 27, 2015

Convalescence


After the apparent death of Odin, the mighty Thor departed the halls of Asgard in order to take his solace in Asgard's northern region, where it was said the cold was such that no living thing could survive. That nearly proved true for Thor as well, when the death goddess Hela caused an avalanche to strike him down. Yet there is indeed a living being in these icy wastes, who finds the unconscious and injured Thor and returns with him to his dwelling--and in a disarming tale by Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema, Thor recovers from both his injuries and his grief in the care of one who is both cloaked in mystery and yet oddly familiar.






"The Icy Hearts" sees Thor in the care of Tiwaz, who long ago decided to "retire" from his life as a god and relocate to this desolate northern region. As for the "disarming" part, we come to understand that the word applies to more than the mysterious yet welcoming environment that Thor finds himself in, for Tiwaz can set aside his "gentle old man" facade when need be:



Yet it's clear that for Tiwaz, this is all in good fun, and Thor (who, after his experiences with storm giants, Galactus, and even Giant-Man, is really only daunted by his opponent's size because of the challenge it poses to him in his weakened state) realizes that the match will be one of sportsmanship rather than aggression--and he begins to enjoy the fellowship that Tiwaz offers, as well as the distraction.

But Tiwaz knows that distraction serves no purpose when feelings of loss are not aired and dealt with:




The next day, Tiwaz escorts Thor on a trek through the canyons and glaciers of this domain, his home--and Thor feels more and more at ease in the company of one who reminds him so much of his father. Throughout the day, he discovers that these lands are hardly as barren and lifeless as the stories he's heard have led him to believe, and the hours pass serenely in the company of his wizened companion.

When the two return to Tiwaz's dwelling as night approaches, however, Thor sees evidence of why Tiwaz reminds him of his lost father:




Thor realizes he has jumped to conclusions here--though you and I know that Tiwaz has side-stepped the truth for reasons of his own. Even so, we get no sense of malice in Tiwaz's "lie"; indeed, his ice servants might well have transported Thor's hammer to the dwelling, as he claims, and he's simply omitted details which Thor is unaware of. The story of Tiwaz is yet unfolding, and Simonson's pacing seems to counsel patience.

You'll also notice that the cagey giant has quickly changed the subject, as another wrestling match begins! Alas, Thor is not yet ready to offer the challenge that he enthusiastically wishes to:



Once more, the two partake of a sumptuous meal, and Tiwaz again has Thor asleep before he knows it.

When Thor awakens in the morning, Tiwaz is at work on yet another of his ice sculptures. But what Thor ends up seeing is far, far more than simple sculpting--and with his longing for his father's presence still felt, he makes the only assumption he can under the circumstances:





And so we know nearly the truth of the one called Tiwaz. We have still more to learn; but for Thor, the more important matter is that his suspicions of Tiwaz's identity have been laid to rest, and this is not Odin who has taken him in and counseled him while nursing him back to health. And speaking of Odin, it's here that Simonson formally breaks with Roy Thomas's earlier origin tale, which saw Odin rising fully formed from the ashes of a prior Ragnarok, without his own history or legend:





Though I must say that, speaking through Tiwaz, Simonson nudges Thomas's account aside quite tactfully:




I've already gone on record that I prefer Simonson's take on Odin's origin (as well as on Asgard and the Asgardians), and I'm glad to see Simonson even suggest in this fashion that the story the Eye of Odin spun was dubious at best. I've always been of the opinion that Thomas's Ring of the Nibelung diversion leading up to Thor #300 was a colossal waste of time, and I'm firmly in Tiwaz's corner on this one.

But we've dallied long enough on this subject. Let's get to that last wrestling match!





Needless to say, Thor stands ready to rejoin the world. Yet he and Tiwaz have one last conversation in this story's closing pages regarding the burdens and responsibilities of life, which you would enjoy reading for yourself. Throughout the story of Tiwaz, you can't help but marvel at artist Sal Buscema's ability to tell it, and to blend with Simonson's words so perfectly. His work seems tailor-made for practically any writer to bring to life and craft into a meaningful story with intriguing characters. Simonson could ably have pencilled this issue himself--but with all due respect to his artistry, I found that I didn't miss him this one time.

The time comes for farewells between Thor and his host--though Tiwaz manages to send Thor in the direction which will see to the return of more than the God of Thunder to Asgard:





And only when the children of Asgard begin their hike toward home do we learn the truth of "Tiwaz":



If I'm following the family tree correctly, that would make Tiwaz Buri, the first of the gods, formed when the cow Audumbla licked down a portion of the northern ice to reveal his form. (See Steve Englehart's "Dawn Of The Gods!" prologue in the 1976 Thor Annual, which Thomas apparently chose to disregard for his own version of Odin's origin.) It's anyone's guess why Tiwaz would choose to keep his true identity a secret from Thor; he seems quite happy and content in his "retirement," so perhaps he was concerned with other Asgardians making the trek to his home and intruding on his solitude. Or perhaps he thought that Thor, in his current state, might grow too dependent on a relative and instead simply needed the counsel of an objective friend. Whatever his reasons, given the result of his labors, he seems to have made the right call.

Mighty Thor #355

Script: Walt Simonson
Pencils and Inks: Sal Buscema
Letterer: John Workman

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Never trust an eyeball with a grudge.
I remember this comic, and it made me think of both my grandfathers, (I know Buri is actually a great-grandfather, but you know what I mean) as I'm sure it did for many. Fortunately for me, neither one made me wrestle them for my supper!
I always had the sense that Odin did indeed have a "job," being something like a cosmic sheriff or protector, a title it seems he inherited.
A wonderful issue, and a great review. Thanks, C.F.
M.P.

Comicsfan said...

My pleasure, M.P.--this issue is such enjoyable reading, and it was great fun looking at it in depth.

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