Wednesday, March 4, 2020

"Thunder In The Netherworld!"

Complying with his role in the prophesied Day Of Three Worlds, Thor, the God of Thunder, follows the whispering wind to fight on behalf of another: Hercules, of Olympus, who met Thor in battle and defeated him, only to then fall prey to a scheme launched by Pluto, Lord of the Netherworld, to have the son of Zeus replace him as ruler of that Stygian realm.

And now, the irony likely isn't lost on Thor that the call which he heeds has now cast him as the only one who will fight to save the very god who humbled him on the streets of New York--the only one who will come to Hercules' aid in his hour of need, when all others have abandoned him. And as Thor confronts Pluto, he learns of the dire fate that will befall himself should he lose this contest.

As for Pluto, he goes into this conflict knowing that the fall of Thor still guarantees his freedom, so his own outlook hasn't changed--assuming Thor is headed for inevitable defeat, as Pluto steadfastly believes. But while it's true that Thor faces impossible odds that would daunt any god in his place, he has vowed to prevail--and we're here to witness whatever fate awaits him, for better or worse!

Yet while Thor indeed goes on to face the hordes of Pluto, curiously enough Pluto himself--whose power could significantly tip the scale against Thor--doesn't enter the fray. We've already seen that Pluto's participation in the battle is something that Thor fully expects (I know I was expecting it)--but this story instead restricts Thor to battling against Pluto's armed warriors and monstrous servants, something full of visually exciting potential but not quite the main event it could have been. Admittedly, in a sixteen-page story--reduced to ten when all is said and done--there's not really room for Thor to meet both threats, without doing a disservice to the premise of the story; but if at the story's conclusion you feel that this struggle ended awfully quickly even when taking into account Thor's might, you're not alone.

However, Cerberus, the Netherworld's brutish gatekeeper, fully intends for Thor's fight to end even sooner.

Thor apparently had it right in saying (in so many words) that Cerberus was basically all talk. If we go by the vaunted description that writer Stan Lee provides for Cerberus--that his name is truly "spoken in whispers thruout [sic] the universe"*--then it's fair to assume that Cerberus is (er, was) Pluto's biggest gun, one that Thor has nevertheless made quick work of. We'd later see that the Sub-Mariner and the She-Hulk would fare just as well.

*A buildup which has applied to any number of dreaded foes that Lee has introduced. There's a post in there somewhere.

But, what of Hercules? We discover that Pluto is proceeding with his plans regarding the former Prince of Power, either in the belief that Thor's defeat is a foregone conclusion, or by deciding to hedge his bets in this conflict by going through with Hercules' "coronation" in the event that Thor's boasts prove accurate. But Hercules will discover in full measure today the valiant nature of the god who defies his captor.

Not exactly humility on Hercules' part, but a fitting prelude to the battle that Thor now girds himself for while, even now, sympathizing with the one he fights for (in a nice touch to the scene by Lee)--a scene that quickly gives way to unleashing artist Jack Kirby as he pits one god against an entire realm, even being confined to the space available.

Along the way, Thor would face other exotic weaponry in the form of a "turbulence trap," which uses artificial wind pressure to destroy its victim--a surprising use of technology by warriors who wield swords and spears, though the gods of Asgard at times have been known to unveil their own inventiveness.

Yet eventually this fight comes down to brute force and more conventional weaponry--and, needless to say, strength of numbers, in wave after wave of assaults that Thor hammers his way through. It's hard to see how third-raters like the Cobra ever gave this warrior-born so much trouble; what Pluto wouldn't give right now to have a cadre of super-villains among his troops, eh?

Determined to battle on, however, Thor receives a reprieve from an unexpected source--Pluto himself, who certainly shows a surprising amount of concern for the preservation of a realm that he expended no small amount of effort to abandon.

At this point one can only regard with confusion Pluto's threat to Hercules of unleashing his power if provoked, having kept it in check throughout this struggle where the stakes were so high for him. Though for what it's worth, his reticence would vanish in future encounters with the God of Thunder, and his newfound friend.

Mighty Thor #130

Script: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Vince Colletta
Letterer: Artie Simek


Big Murr said...

Just spitballing here, but the panel where Hercules gets a major zorch and the thunderous voice says the Prince of Power must rely on the charity of others gives me a thought. Maybe the same rule applied to Pluto? The principal figures in this particular contract both have to use proxies to settle the business?

Tiboldt said...

This was so gloriously Kirby - one big long fight against whatever weird concoctions he could fill the page with. I remember trying to make the 'tank' out of Lego despite the fact that it made absolutely no sense.

The choice for Cerberus threw me off when I found out that he was a character from the myths, but not a clown in purple armour with horns that fired destruction beams.

So, was it laziness that made the bad guy Pluto rather than Hades?

Comicsfan said...

Y'know, Murray, that's not a bad point--it's possible that Pluto's hands were tied as firmly as those of Hercules by the terms of that Olympian contract, and was obliged to let his legions battle in his stead. Perhaps at some point that was even disclosed in the issues leading up to this climax--anyone want to take a crack at confirming it? :)

Big Murr said...

Tiboldt: It may be a false memory, but I'm certain I read something once about Stan reckoning the proper mythology having "Hades" as both the boss and the name of the territory would confuse some readers. So he went with the Roman "Pluto". But, fair is fair in that he went with the Roman "Hercules" instead of "Herakles".

Rick said...

Reading the last panel, I can't help but see Pluto rolling his eyes, thinking "get a room, you two."

Anonymous said...

I have reprint of this in Marvel Spectacular (which in the early '70's reprinted classic Thor) and still, even now, it is so gosh-darn cool I dunno what to say.
In Pluto's domain Thor gets the opportunity to really cut loose and put some hurt down. Kirby didn't waste an occasion to show some major destruction.
One almost feels bad for Cerberus, because you know by arrogantly challenging a very pissed-off Thor he is cruising for a cosmic bruising.
Great review of a classic.
Who knew they had flame-throwers in Hades?


Comicsfan said...

Well, M.P., I suppose it's not so surprising--in Hades, assembling an arsenal of flame throwers was probably the first thing that came to mind! :D