Friday, January 29, 2016

A God Berserk!

While we've previously posed a trivia question on the identity of the golden-hued being that the mighty Thor is engaged in battle with here:

... it's likely you felt a little short-changed, since the question's answer failed to include the bludgeoning battle itself! And that would be regrettable, since what we're talking about here is:

Thor and his comrades, the lady Sif and Balder the Brave, have just wrapped up a battle with Pluto and his mutates from the future, and they return to investigate an alien specimen within the city's research center--a strange cocoon which bursts open to reveal Him, the creation of a group of scientists bent on world domination, but who escaped their influence and headed for outer space. Inadvertently discovered by the Watcher and mistakenly returned to Earth, Him now seeks companionship--and guess who's caught his eye?

No, I don't know how Balder concludes that Him has transported to another dimension--he could just as well have headed for the moon, or Kentucky. But I'm not one to argue with an Asgardian god, and it just so happens that he's right. Fortunately, Thor's hammer trails the pair to their destination, and the Thunder God makes another stab at getting Him to release Sif and stand down. The problem is that Him seems to be learning his sense of right and wrong as he goes along, and doesn't yet have any reason to heed the word "no."

It's then that Thor is distracted by an attempt of the queen of the Norns, Karnilla (through her servant, Haag), to abduct Balder, whom Karnilla loves but who has spurned her. (There seems to be a lot of abduction of unwilling lovers going around lately.) Thor foils Haag--but in the meantime, Him has taken advantage of the battle to once again whisk Sif away to parts unknown. And that calls for a splash page in Part 2 that tells us that Thor's anger has been kicked up a notch, to vengeance.

Thor of course has sought vengeance against other foes in the past, without going off the deep end. But here, Balder notices Thor exhibiting changes in behavior that give an indication that Thor's punishment of Him isn't going to fit the crime.

We've seen other instances of Thor being driven by "warrior madness," a term that's occasionally been repeated by other writers (which some have instead referred to as "berserker rage") but absent the context that this story provides. For the Asgardians, warrior madness, while considered an affliction, is in actuality a loss of honor, where the warrior's attack on a foe is out of proportion with the reason(s) for combat, and the warrior refuses his opponent's surrender. It's considered a severe breach of conduct, and a punishable one--though for the warrior in question that's a moot point, since by the time the "madness" is in effect the warrior is too swept away by his state to consider the consequences of his actions.

Balder, of course, is going to stick to Thor's side like glue, on the off chance that he can reach his friend before things go too far with Him. And in case you were wondering what "too far" might mean to Thor while he's in this state:

Once again, the hammer Mjolnir seeks out and transports the pair to Him's destination--and Balder tries another approach with Thor. But he finds that logic isn't any more effective than his direct pleas to Thor to reconsider.

Balder's assertions are difficult to be taken seriously--of course Thor has craved battle in his immortal past. So has Balder. So has Sif, and Tyr, and Hogun, and every Asgardian with time on their hands. Are they all playing chess in Asgard while there are enemies a'plenty outside of the gates? There's only so much time they're going to want to spend sharpening their blades before feeling the urge to head out and use them.

Be that as it may, the actions of Him defeat whatever hope Balder might have had of influencing Thor, as he uses his power to entrap one of the pair so that he may confront the other. In the process, Him says the wrong thing at the wrong time--and the battle is on.

During this fight, it's hard to believe that the being who would eventually become Warlock would ever turn away from the powers he gained from his original incubation period, since his abilities are most impressive. Anyone who can impassively stand and shrug off a direct strike from Mjolnir and then go the distance with the God of Thunder isn't exactly in need of a power makeover. But in this story, he lacks the drive to win, or, in Thor's case, the drive to crush his enemy. And in that respect, he's no match for Thor's current state of fury and lack of restraint. It's indeed one of Thor's finest battles--though regrettably under the most distasteful of circumstances.

Since his brief appearance at the close of his Fantastic Four story, this is the first time we've seen Him unleashed--and to prevent it from being his last time, he eventually decides that his best course of action is to retreat. Or, put another way: "No woman is worth this!" And with the battle over, Thor at last is made to realize that he's hardly acquitted himself with honor in this conflict.

Thor and his party return to Asgard to face the judgment of Odin, which is both grim and swift: Thor is to embark on a search for Galactus, a quest which may take an eternity. (Though we discover that Thor's search is a short one, indeed.) When that mission concludes, Thor's penance is served--and somewhere in space, a very bruised golden life form is rolling his eyes and muttering, "Some punishment. Asgardian justice 0, nepotism 1."

Mighty Thor #s 165-166

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Vince Colletta
Letterers: Artie Simek and Sam Rosen


Anonymous said...

CF, have you heard of "the red mist" ? It might be an exclusively British phrase but it refers to somebody becoming so enraged that they lose all common sense - exactly what happens to Thor here.

Comicsfan said...

I don't know, Colin--given how often the condition you describe seems to apply to the American political arena, I have to believe that a battle-hardened Asgardian would be significantly more resistant! ;)

Anonymous said...

After Sif was abducted, Balder was probably thinking, "Boy, I sure am lucky that 'Him" likes girls. This could have been very embarrassing for me."
Him/Adam Warlock's powers were all over the place. By the time Thanos killed him, he seemed to just have levitation, space-warping, and super-strength powers, besides what powers the soul-gem gave him. Then again, he was also seen teleporting objects, talking in outer space and de-evolving beast-men. But maybe a de-powered Him/Warlock was easier to write about than a cosmic-powered character who could just wipe the floor with everybody, especially during his "Jesus Christ Superstar" days on Counter-Earth.

Anonymous said...

This story was my introduction to Marvel. It was the first story featured in Marvel's 1970 UK Annual. I didn't understand a word of it but then I was only six at the time. Unfortunately the story in the annual ended abruptly with Him absconding with Sif and Thor swearing vengeance. It's only taken me 46 years to find out what happened next. Thanks Comicsfan.


Comicsfan said...

That's a fair point about handling Warlock while he was on Counter-Earth, M.P. I think that the Man-Beast might have found Him to be more of a challenge than he did Warlock, who seemed somewhat limited in the use of his powers at the time.

Gaz, I'm glad we could help! I think Lee and Kirby's story stood the test of time, don't you?

Anonymous said...

Boy am I glad He got that makeover later.

Better eyeliner and Fabio hair than being ‘Malibu Beach Ken’.

Comicsfan said...

If Him had been familiar with the Barbie line, Anon, he might have agreed with you!