Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Death Stalks The Gods of Asgard!

As much as the Asgardians thrive on battle, even they had to be a little war-weary following their deadly conflict with the forces of the serpent god of death, Seth--capped off by an equally fierce struggle with Surtur, the fire-demon. Both foes were vanquished--but the dual attacks had taken their toll. The forces of Asgard suffered heavy casualties; Odin, weakened by his ordeal, was in need of his "Odin-sleep," which would replenish his power but a slumber which was expected to last for years in his present condition; the God of Thunder, Thor, has been experiencing strange, inexplicable bouts of dizziness and weakness; while Asgard, in the process of being rebuilt, hopelessly drifts between dimensions due to the rainbow bridge having been destroyed.

Suffice to say that the Asgardians are ill-prepared to face a powerful new foe at their gates--none other than the living death that walks!

Sure, you may think Annihilus is outnumbered, and outpowered when facing the gods of Asgard--but this creature will conduct a wave of terror and death that even this realm's brave warriors will find both monstrous and unstoppable.

In his debut in the pages of the 1968 Fantastic Four annual, we saw how dangerous the character of Annihilus could be, as he incessantly went about ending the lives of anyone he deemed a threat to his existence--and how important he considered his possession of the cosmic control rod, a device of great power which also grants him immortality. Annihilus, in this story, has apparently been drifting dimensionally as well, within a cocoon that finds its way into the deep caverns of Asgard; and to presumably regain his strength following a nearly fatal clash with the FF, he begins to mercilessly slaughter the people of Asgard in order to feed off of their immortal energies.

Finally, it's Thor and his brother-in-arms, Balder, who discover the fiend's lair--and it's a horrific sight, indeed.

As if Annihilus wasn't dangerous enough, Asgard's shift to the Negative Zone has somehow rejuvenated the monster--and he begins in earnest his campaign to completely wipe these immortal beings out of existence, including their lord and king.

With Thor down, it remains for Balder to somehow persevere--but though courageous, Balder, as well as the other Asgardians who rise to the threat, will find themselves ill-equipped to deal with an alien of such power.

As Thor and Balder follow as best they can, we have to assume that Asgard's forces are still somewhat in disarray, with Annihilus making such quick strides through the city toward the palace and meeting seemingly little resistance, or at least any resistance capable of halting his advance--which is hard to believe, considering a single Asgardian's strength is enough to give challenge to Annihilus. It stands to reason, then, that a host of Asgardians can at the very least restrain him, if not pummel him into submission.

In these scenes, we're also introduced to Odin's elite personal guard, the Crimson Hawks--a long-overdue concept which deserves much more of a formidable presence than it receives here, given that this is supposedly the cream of Asgard's fighters charged with the safety of their liege. How strange, then, to see them distinguished with only the same armor, swords, and shields as everyone else carries, with no particular strategy in play except to pile on.

Annihilus' confrontation with Odin, then, seems imminent--and in his current state, the Lord of Asgard may fall with the rest of his countrymen. But with Asgard on the brink of defeat and its populace facing extinction, Thor once again joins the fray, and in the nick of time.

It's at this crucial time, however, when Thor's attention is divided by a sense of danger befalling someone he has a bond with on Earth--an important scene, since Thor is already in Odin's disfavor from being reluctant to return to Asgard and resume his duties in the realm. Unfortunately for Annihilus, Thor has no intention of abandoning Odin in his hour of need--and when the time comes, Odin will be able to say the same.

Odin's sentiments toward Annihilus are curious, given that this creature has mercilessly slaughtered many of Odin's subjects without a speck of remorse, and intended to continue that grisly task unabated. The wrath of Odin has descended on enemies who have done much less. Odin isn't some cosmic observer who abstains from dispensing harsh justice based on his high regard for life--he's the ruler of a race of warriors who don't hesitate to gut with a sword those who seek to kill them. "Death to the foes of Asgard!" aren't just words to Odin or any Asgardian--they're the creed by which they defend their land and people against any who come to do them harm, with Odin's sword prominently among his warriors. It makes no sense for Odin to recite a lengthy list of points that make clear how utterly irredeemable Annihilus is, only to cast him back into space with a virtual slap on the wrist.

With the danger passed (at least for the time being), Odin grants Thor his leave to return to Earth and render the assistance he must. In the meantime, once they've picked themselves up, the Crimson Hawks have likely been advised by the palace to book a few sessions in the Danger Room.


Colin Jones said...

I can hear Dracula saying "Hey, if anybody deserves the title "Living Death That Walks" then it's me !!" After all, Dracula is living yet dead and he walks...'nuff said. I googled "Odinsleep" to see if it really existed in Norse mythology. It didn't. Thought not. I couldn't really imagine the Norse Odin needing a nap every so often to replenish his powers... Marvel's Odin is a wimp :D

Comicsfan said...

I wouldn't suggest putting that to a test, Colin! ;)

Jonathan Sargeant said...

Yeah, Odinsleep is more of a narrative device to get a powerful character out of the picture.

It's damn hard to write a story when you have such a powerful character present. That character then becomes the obvious way to resolve the conflict every time, or you have to explain why they don't or can't. Hence: odinsleep!

NorRad said...

That reminds of the old Claremont X-Men stories of the eighties when we were constantly told how that Prof X is the most powerful telepath there is only to see CC come up with ways to block, circumvent, or neutralize Xavier's supposedly formidable powers. After all who needs a whole team of heroes if Prof X can just mind zap bad guys into submission? Since the names Of the books aren't The Mighty Odin or the Uncanny Xavier, Odie and Chuck have to be put out of commission so Thor and the X-Men can shine.

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