Friday, May 5, 2017

To Hela And Back!

With Cate Blanchett stirring up things in Thor: Ragnarok as Hela, Goddess of Death (and with her fanfare being provided by Led Zeppelin, no less), it seemed appropriate to take a closer look (but not TOO close) at this grim harbinger of the inescapable, as well as her fixation on the God of Thunder. The appearances of Hela go as far back as 1964--yet another creation of artist Jack Kirby that has stood the test of time, in this case over fifty years. Then again, half a century is the blink of an eye to the kind of entity we're talking about, isn't it?

As first presented, there doesn't seem much to fear about Hela beyond the obvious aspect of her being and purpose. She's ruthless, to be sure, but not entirely unscrupulous. When Thor meets her, she's bribed a storm giant with the promise of immortality if he delivers the goddess Sif to her; but when Thor offers to take her place, it's almost as if she's displaying a conscience.

You can't help but note that the qualities she admires in Thor that win his freedom--youth, bravery, nobility--are apparently attributes she feels that Sif doesn't possess. And maybe she doesn't yet, until writer Stan Lee gives her a refit in order for her to take Jane Foster's place in Thor's life.

But Sif isn't the only goddess who's recycled into a more visible role. With her actions here, Hela has taken baby steps at stepping outside of her assigned role in the pantheon of Asgardian gods, actually snatching one of the living before "her time," as she would put it--but soon enough, she begins doggedly pursuing Thor with the same intent, whether taking advantage of an opportunity that presents itself to her or by taking the initiative herself. You'd think that an agent of Death would have enough deaths to keep her busy indefinitely--but perhaps the very nature of death is that it can never be sated.

That said, if there was ever a person who has a habit of cheating death, it would be Thor, whose luck never seems to run out when it comes to Hela. But his luck did run out in a clash with the Wrecker, at a time when Thor had been deprived of his Asgardian power and fought a hopeless battle against a foe who had intercepted such power that was meant for Loki--and since the Wrecker is merciless, it seemed that Thor was on his way to meeting the Goddess of Death on her terms, after all.

Unfortunately, in her eagerness at being Johnny-on-the-spot when the time came for Thor to cross over, Hela has jumped the gun--because even though Thor lies at death's door, the dimmest possibility remains that he may have survived the Wrecker's assault. Though frankly, in the condition he finds himself in, no one would blame him if he gave in to despair and surrendered himself to Death's final touch--but we know that's just not how Thor rolls.

Hela would be blindsided by that darn "spark of life" contingency once again when Thor is believed killed by the Destroyer, and a mysterious being named Marnot intercedes for him with the death goddess.

At times, Hela could also be subtle in beckoning Thor to enter her embrace. When the lady Sif was injured by Loki on Earth and confined to a mortal hospital for care, her room received an unannounced visitor who was possibly looking to make it a 2-for-1 deal.

Then there was Hela's most blatant power play, circa 1971--using a portion of Odin's essence to bring death on a massive scale. Inevitably, the time came when she came into conflict with Thor over his father's fate, and apparently saw no reason to move on Thor then and there. And it would have been curtains for Thor, if Hela had vetted the loyalty of her servants more thoroughly.

Having failed with Odin, Hela then seeks to make another attempt on Thor's life as compensation, leading to a final confrontation between Odin and Hela--one that results in the death of Hela herself before things are finally settled between all of them, at least for the time being.

As Thor has made clear to Hela on several occasions, he's not averse to facing Hela on her home ground when necessary. One such instance was the result of Hela capturing several mortal souls, forcing Thor to mount an incursion into her realm with a host of Asgardian warriors. Eventually, it came down to a wrestling match (yes, a wrestling match) between Thor and Hela, winner take all--except when Hela is your opponent, her prize is your life. But with his clothing shielding him from Hela's fatal touch, Thor was soon on the verge of prevailing--yet Hela, backed against a wall, as it were, struck harshly, and the tables were turned.

And turned yet again, when Thor discovers a vulnerability in his opponent that allows him to decide the match in short order.

Unfortunately, not long afterward, Hela takes revenge by striking at Thor with a bolt from the blue that has a very specific purpose where Thor is concerned.

The progressive injuries that Thor suffers in subsequent battles force him to forge a special suit of armor that helps to protect his bones from impact from weapons and/or powerful foes.

Thor's long, ongoing conflict with Hela is finally put to rest in Thor's 382nd issue, in which he invades Hela's realm while within the indestructible form of the Destroyer, forcing her capitulation and seeing him returned to his normal body in what would be her most humiliating defeat, while extracting her promise never to traffic in schemes outside of her designated role as the Goddess of Death--effectively putting to rest Hela's ambitions and power plays.

It's been a long road for Thor, who's finally brought an end to the machinations of the Goddess of Death--which will certainly be helpful, since the Asgardians have enough to worry about with their preoccupation with Ragnarok and the probability of widespread death that event portends. And for Hela, that's a win-win. We've heard her admit that she can easily bide her time--all she's ever had to do is to bide it a little more.


Anonymous said...

Yes, Hela is destined, along with Loki, Surtur, and a lot of other nasty characters, to bring about the end of the Nine Worlds and the death of the gods. As an avatar of death, she can only be delayed.
A great post, and it really does justice to the character, which is a good thing, C.F., because you wouldn't want to get Hela annoyed with you!
Although I'm kind of indifferent about the two previous Thor movies, the trailer for the new one really put a hook in me. It might be partially due to the Immigrant Song playing in the background.
Once a Zep fan, always a Zep fan. I also noticed Kirby's wild head gear there, for a second. Kind of a frightening image.

M.P. (I come from the land of the ice and snow, otherwise known as South Dakota)

Comicsfan said...

M.P., the fact that Kirby's headgear for Hela makes an appearance in this film delights me to no end.