Monday, September 11, 2017

This Fatal Fury!

It's been a demolishing few issues for Thor, the God of Thunder, who strives alone to overcome his despot half-brother, Loki, after he usurped the rule of Odin by taking possession of a single piece of jewelry--the Odin-Ring, which, by law, makes its wearer the lord of Asgard while also bestowing a portion of Odin's might. Forced to retire to his chamber and undergo the Odin-sleep, Odin is removed from the ensuing chaos for the duration, while Thor was compelled to deal with a deadly, destructive creation of Loki and his ally, Karnilla, the Queen of the Norns--Durok the Demolisher, whose mandate by Loki is to annihilate all mankind on the planet Earth and, in so doing, bring about the death of Thor, who would naturally act in their defense.

On Earth, Thor found Durok to be a formidable foe, whose strength exceeded his own and who could even resist the impact of his mystic hammer. But as Loki transported Durok to different locales as he continued to toy with Thor, he added to Thor's frustrations when he announced that he would wed Thor's beloved, the lady Sif, while Thor was left with no choice but to remain on Earth and continue to attempt to stop Durok's onslaught. Meanwhile, Thor's friend, Balder the Brave, prevented from helping Thor directly, entreated the Silver Surfer to battle Durok at Thor's side; but the Surfer went a step further and vowed to stop Durok, discharging Thor from his duty and leaving the Thunder God free to return to Asgard to battle Loki anew.

But Thor, battle-weary after fighting to reach his half-brother, was overwhelmed by the power of the ring and rendered helpless, as a trio of storm giants closed in to seal his fate--a death that seemed doubly certain to occur with Thor's contact with his hammer severed and his transformation to his mortal self, Donald Blake, imminent.*

*We'll have to cut new Thor scripter Gerry Conway some slack for the oversight that Thor has no such handicap while in Asgard; though it's also possible that artist John Buscema mistakenly drew the scene thus without any direction from Conway.

The odds surely seem to be against Thor escaping certain death, and even more against Blake should he appear in Thor's place. Has Loki won at last?

Not if Thor has anything to say about it, according to this issue's furious cover.

First, of course, is Thor's immediate problem: How to extricate himself from the dire situation he's found himself in? To add insult to injury, Loki isn't even sticking around to observe the death that he's pursued for so long, preferring instead to depart with his bride-to-be Sif in tow to spare her from watching Thor be slain before her eyes. This was well before the book introduced Loki's wife, Sigyn--and though Loki likely wouldn't validate his union with Sigyn by calling it a marriage, in retrospect you have to wonder how he gets away with something like this under Asgardian law. On the other hand, it's the god who wears the Odin-Ring who can make or unmake Asgardian law, so the point is probably moot.

As for Thor, it's ironic that the change to Blake that makes him the most vulnerable to his foes also provides the means by which his status changes from victim to victor.

Observing Thor's struggle with a mixture of interest and regret are the other Asgardians, for which his ordeal can't be easy to endure. Born and hardened warriors, they're torn between wanting to fight at his side and their duty to the ruler of the realm--so it's fair to wonder why they don't feel bound to take up arms against Thor. Peculiarly, Loki has failed to order them to do so on sight--perhaps concerned with overstepping himself, since there's a chance he could push them too far and have a rebellion on his hands. Instead, he's content with his contingents of trolls and giants he's brought into the city, something else that must gall Asgard's warriors.

But aside from Thor, whose continued skirmishes Loki remains unaware of, the God of Evil seems to be falling prey to a new threat to his well-being, even as Sif arrives for her impending nuptials.

There are also Thor's comrades-in-arms, the Warriors Three, who continue to work behind the scenes to thwart Loki's power play--and what they plan is perhaps the most dangerous course of action of all.

In the main hall, however, Loki remains oblivious to their efforts, as he turns his attention to a most unwelcome--and unexpected--wedding crasher.

As Thor battles on, there are two more individuals who monitor his efforts--Balder and Karnilla, the former having been manipulated into pledging his service to the Norn Queen, an enemy of Odin. And now, caught between a rock and a hard place, Balder must reconcile his love for Karnilla with the fact that he's betrayed his homeland, his former ruler, and those he once fought side by side with.

By now, Fandral, Hogun and Volstagg have reached Odin's chamber, where they dispatch his guards and cautiously make their way to his side. For none have ever dared to physically awaken Odin from his deep sleep--and even the bold Warriors Three, for whom daring is a way of life, hesitate to brave this particular challenge. It's their duty to the realm that makes them proceed; but even so, they nearly pay the price for their effrontery.

With Odin refusing to step in, it falls to Thor to carry the bulk of this fight to Loki--and having dealt with the last of Loki's guards, the God of Thunder closes in to hopefully finish this affair once and for all. But even reeling from the mysterious pain that assaults him, Loki still wears the powerful Odin-Ring--and combined with Thor's battle fatigue, it proves more than sufficient to bring Loki to the brink of victory.

But, poised to deliver the killing stroke, Loki again falls victim to the staggering pain that he's been experiencing. Only this time, it proves more than he can bear, and he realizes at last that he doesn't have to look far for the cause.

Yes, we can probably add some dialog for Odin here: "Where do you think you're slinking off to, Karnilla?"

It's a fine explanation for the "specifications" of the Odin-Ring, which, up until now, seemed incredibly vulnerable to theft or loss and its new owner's designs on either Asgard or enemies they might want to settle some scores with. As it is, its only real flaw is as a symbol of sovereignty for whoever slips it on--though that, too, will expire when its wearer succumbs to its, shall we say, side-effects. Either way, this four-part tale would seem to put to rest any further stories which would feature the Odin-Ring as a fast track to seizing power.

Of course, it's unwise to count Loki out, even with his tail tucked between his legs due to Odin's banishment of him--as the All-Father's vizier makes clear in an emergency summons.

If you're curious about this development, the PPC explores this multi-part saga elsewhere--a story that features the return of the monstrous Mangog, and (*gasp*) the death of Odin! Maybe the lord of Asgard should have just stayed in bed, eh?

Mighty Thor #194

Script: Gerry Conway
Pencils: John Buscema
Inks: Sal Buscema
Letterer: Artie Simek


B Smith said...

Forsooth, thy task of reviewing this story was a thankless one, yet thou hast accomplished what mere mortals could not - and with grace and aplomb.

Well done, good squire!

Comicsfan said...

Many thanks, B!

(rushes to look up "aplomb"...)