Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Beginning--And The End!

Well it took four issues to get to this point, but here's where things stand for the mighty Thor in October of 1974:

  • The Destroyer, the armored creation of Odin meant to be used against some as-yet unnamed future menace, is lying prone down at the waterfront after Thor and Hercules managed to rid it of the mortal spirit that had reanimated it and sent it into a rampage. The fact that it's been left totally unguarded, and that practically all one has to do to bring the Destroyer to life is to basically leave it somewhere for some mortal to trip over it, somehow seems perfectly acceptable to both Thor and Odin.
  • The mysterious Firelord, revealed to be the current herald of Galactus, has arrived on Earth seeking Thor--and man, this is one herald who does NOT like to be touched.
  • Thor and Hercules are present when Firelord summons his master with a signal sent into deep space, which reignites fears that Galactus is once again returning to Earth to consume it. Thanks to a reporter eavesdropping at the scene, the news becomes widespread, with everyone on Earth waiting for the arrival that will spell their doom.
  • Firelord is apparently one lousy herald, since the information he's delivered to Thor is parsed on a need-to-know basis. Consequently, when Galactus arrives days later, and everyone on the planet has crawled under their beds in terror, only then does Galactus reveal that he's only come to Earth to find Thor, not to attack. Firelord, wouldn't you know it, is nowhere to be found--but his expression of "Oh, did I neglect to mention that?" would probably speak volumes.
  • Galactus tells of an encounter with Ego, the Living Planet, whom Galactus believes has gone insane and now threatens the known universe. Thor and Hercules agree to accompany Galactus and combine forces against Ego--and, after weathering Ego's initial attack, manage to descend to Ego's surface.
  • Not unexpectedly, Ego responds by sending all manner of constructs and threats against Thor, Hercules, and Firelord, as they penetrate beneath to surface in an effort to locate Ego's mind. Finally, as Firelord and Hercules hold Ego's forces at bay, Thor hurls his enchanted hammer directly into the huge brain.
  • Meanwhile, Galactus' whereabouts are unknown--which might be a good thing, since if one knows where Galactus is, it's generally because he can be seen preparing to consume your world. Nevertheless, his being M.I.A. on this mission is conspicuous.
  • Odin, who has repeatedly proven not to be as all-wise as his rep would have us believe, has monitored these developments, if only to confirm that Thor knows what he's doing.

And so Part 5 of this story by Gerry Conway begins--but has the end already played out, with the destruction of Ego's mind? The issue's cover promises to deliver much more than we might expect, particularly when there is a great deal we must learn about Ego before discovering his fate.

Though the impact of Thor's hammer with Ego's mind had caused Ego to draw back within himself the constructs that were battling Firelord and Hercules, the overall effect has stunned one figure in particular--Thor, who now experiences a peculiar connection to Ego that overrides Thor's memories and instead allows him to experience the distant past through Ego's eyes, at a time when Ego was but a man among many. Yet "Egros," as he was once known, was also one of the chief scientists of Project Worldcore, a carefully conceived plan designed to save his planet's people from the imminent destruction of their star. And though it's Egros's words we hear and memories we experience, it's Thor whose form re-enacts the events of millennia ago.

(One can't help but note that "Project Worldcore" bears more than a passing resemblance to the High Evolutionary's base constructed on Wundagore Mountain (pictured to the right), one of many similarities that artist Rich Buckler's panels reflect in relation to the earlier work of Jack Kirby.)

It becomes very easy during these flashbacks--that is, memories--to become caught up in the meticulous calculations and planning that Chimu and Egros have placed their faith in to safeguard the future of their people... the same way, perhaps, that people tend to be riveted by dramatizations of the last night of the Titanic, hoping in some way that disaster will be averted. Yet even in 1974, there were no doubt a number of fictional accounts of a star going nova that made it clear that the planet(s) in its star system would not survive, so it doesn't seem likely that having your population burrow underground even to the depths of the planet's core would be successful. It also seems highly unlikely that the scientists for this project would leave no margin for error by planning their timetable down to the minute, leaving no room for the possibility that a stellar event of this magnitude would have factors in play that even the most careful preparations would fail to account for with 100% accuracy.

So there are two important factors already working against the success of Project Worldcore--or three, if you're also counting the arrogance of believing that nothing could possibly go wrong with the plan. Chimu, at least, appears to make room for the unforeseen and the unanticipated, though he could simply be caught up in the moment of the project at last reaching fruition; but Egros, should the unthinkable happen, would be obliged to accept responsibility for any mishap that would undo all of their careful work. Such is his confidence (conceit?) that the thought never occurs to him--and by the time it does, it's far too late for recriminations, especially since Project Worldcore doesn't appear to have a contingency plan of any sort in place.

The circumstances are tragic, to be sure--the transformation from Egros to Ego, even more so, since Egros/Ego blames himself for the death of his entire race. As for Thor, he's now released from sharing the nightmare, reaffirming his belief that it was Tana Nile's extraction of a portion of Ego's surface which unbalanced Ego to the point of being driven mad, no longer able to hold his guilt in check.

As for what Galactus has been doing with his time, it seems his preoccupation with and dependence on technology throughout his existence has yielded the perfect solution for keeping Ego in check.

We have to assume that Galactus has charted a course that will prevent something as large as a planetary body from colliding with other worlds or stars in its path. Either that, or he simply considers the problem of Ego solved to his satisfaction and no longer a cause for concern. (That is to say, his own.)

As for the Destroyer, rusting at the waterfront, Conway's story circles back to that loose end when Firelord petitions Galactus for his freedom--a request Galactus agrees to, providing Thor can find a suitable replacement for him. You'd think the solution that Thor arrives at would be one that would cause Odin to react with outrage; but since at the time the deployment of the Destroyer was still undetermined by the book's writers, perhaps Odin considered Thor's idea a handy way to keep the Destroyer from being used by others as a deadly weapon.

Of course, the populated worlds that the Destroyer finds for Galactus to consume will have their own definition of what constitutes a "deadly weapon"--though like Galactus and Ego, Odin seems to have adopted an out-of-sight, out-of-mind attitude where his fail-safe creation is concerned. As for Ego, unfortunately John Byrne would later dismantle Conway's interpretation of the Living Planet's origin, a version far less imaginative than Conway's and one that's easy to disregard.

Mighty Thor #228

Script: Gerry Conway
Pencils: Rich Buckler
Inks: Joe Sinnott
Letterer: John Costanza


Warren JB said...

A good look at a character I knew little about. More compelling and tragic than I thought - I would've assumed John Byrne's version.

Comicsfan said...

Yes, quite a bit more substance to Ego in Conway's version, Warren--which seems appropriate, considering we're talking about a sentient planet, after all.