Monday, April 6, 2020

God vs. Titan!

When last we left the mighty (and unfortunately insane) Thor, he had finally been subdued after having undertaken a violent and seemingly inexplicable rampage through the stars--all part of the 1993-94 "Blood and Thunder" crossover event that would end up involving Warlock, the Infinity Watch, the Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange, and Thanos of Titan. (To say nothing of the Super Skrull, Ares, Pluto, and Beta Ray Bill--as well as crossing paths with another crossover event, The Infinity Crusade.) By the time of his capture, Thor has managed to acquire for himself from Drax the Destroyer the "power" Infinity Gem, which, added to his own considerable might, makes the Thunder God one of the most extreme threats ever to face the universe should he ever break free of the containment field which Thanos had managed to encase him in.

What has only recently come to light is that Thor's rage doesn't stem from the Asgardian "warrior madness" which he'd experienced in the past, but is instead rooted in the instances when his father Odin has in one way or another manipulated his spirit, whether it was by forcing him to coexist with a mortal form or by use of disciplinary measures, all of which have led to an imbalance in his soul. A further complication of this saga is that the Lady Sif, who remains unaware of this, continues to believe that Thor once again suffers from warrior madness, and has attempted to keep that news from Odin for fear that Thor will be exiled from Asgard. But her house of cards in that respect begins to crumble with the recent arrival of Thanos and his party on the rainbow bridge, as they seek an audience with Odin in the hope that he can cure his son.

Though Thanos has all but ensured that their reception will be anything but a cordial one.

In the resulting battle, despite the considerable powers of the Surfer and the Watch, the Asgardian forces threaten to overwhelm their foes--until one enters the fray and breathes new life into the chances of those the gods of Asgard struggle against.

Writer Jim Starlin has apparently misremembered the number of zealots that Warlock and Thanos attempted to deal with in his and Len Wein's 1975 Warlock story that Editor Craig Anderson makes note of--though it's no wonder, since Wein's figure was originally 2500 but adjusted in the following issue by Marv Wolfman (that story's scripter) to be twenty-five thousand. Suffice to say that in the "middle ground" of 10,000 which Starlin settles on, Warlock, Thanos and Gamora still faced a daunting wave of religious fanatics which they were forced to ultimately retreat from.  (Dude, I'd have retreated from the original twenty-five hundred.  Probably on sight.)

As far as this battle is concerned, however, we don't know how many warriors comprise the Asgardian offensive--but with the powers of Drax, the Surfer, Thanos, and Warlock able to score impressive strikes in the Asgardians' ranks from a distance, there appear to be no thoughts of retreat among those in either camp. And with the tide threatening to turn, Asgard's ruler resolves that his own involvement is warranted.

It makes perfect, and strategic, sense for Thanos to want the Surfer with him when dealing with Odin, since the Surfer's mobility, speed, and power make him a force and distraction that Odin cannot afford to ignore in tandem with that of Thanos. Granted, Odin doesn't appear to be overly concerned about this confrontation--but as we'll see, the Surfer presents enough of a threat to him* that it forces his immediate removal.

*Like Zeus in his own battle with mortals, however, he'd likely never admit to it.

With the Surfer now among the fallen, this contest is now purely a matter of Thanos vs. Odin--and if that seems to some of you that it would be unequivocally no contest in Odin's favor, I sympathize, as I was once firmly in your camp. In particular, there was an instance in Avengers Annual #7 where Thor and Thanos had their first (if brief) one-on-one confrontation, with Thanos appearing to have the upper hand--and in that issue's PPC review, I wrote: "Another use of imagery in Thanos' favor--because the notion that Thor would have any difficulty grappling with Thanos is simply ludicrous. You know that. I know that. Everybody knows that. It's ludicrous enough not to have to discuss the reasons why it's ludicrous." After all, it was 1977, when Thanos was still relying on technology to achieve his ends (in this case constructing a synthetic gem to commit stellar genocide by destroying the stars one by one); before that, in 1974, he sought to gain godhood via the Cosmic Cube. Yet travel forward to this story in 1994, and we find him going toe to toe with the Odin-power without benefit of weaponry, dusting himself off after each attack and apparently none the worse for wear. Why would such a being need to spend time and effort cobbling together or otherwise seeking out weapons of mass destruction, if he can wield the might needed to battle Odin?

While none of us were paying attention, Thanos gradually acquired power beyond reckoning--an opponent that even the gods can only battle to a draw. Though if you think that Odin has reached the point of conceding that assertion, well...

Perhaps the most intriguing part of this fight can be found in Starlin's dialog between the two combatants, which has Thanos placing the nature of Odin's power in blunt perspective that brings it in line with similar abilities displayed by the likes of Thanos, the Celestials, Galactus, the Beyonder, and others who take their power for granted but don't put on airs as Odin does (though one could argue the point in regard to Galactus). Not surprisingly, Odin isn't having it, as intent as he is on humbling an opponent who has so brazenly challenged him and had the effrontery to mock his status; but perhaps Thanos' stinging words have served to bring Odin into the '90s, so to speak, by grudgingly opening his eyes to the fact that divine origins don't necessarily guarantee victory, or even regard. That assertion made, we probably shouldn't expect Odin to shirk his opinions of his overwhelming might anytime soon (as we'll see evidence of in a moment).

As for the here and now, however, as far as Odin is concerned, Thanos will have to prove his claims--and he very nearly does.

Finally, with no end to the battle in sight, Sif chooses this moment to intervene and confesses to her part in this drama. But it turns out that only the mortals on the scene can educate Odin on the true cause of Thor's madness.

Yet in spite of Odin's claim that only someone as "all-powerful" as himself can help his son, he is not successful here--and it will take a different approach on his part to reach into his son's mind and pull him back to sanity, something we would see in the Mighty Thor book when "Blood and Thunder" concludes.


Before giving you a look at artist Angel Medina's two-page symbolic opener to this issue, a word about the issue's cover, which at first glance likely wouldn't strike you as unusual in any way:

Yet a more tactile examination would reveal that this cover is die cut, with the image of Thor embossed and actually appearing in Medina's interior two-page spread rather than on the cover itself. To complete the effect, the cover is cut out around that image, so that when you open the issue it becomes apparent that you've actually been peeking through the cover without realizing it at first.

Unfortunately, as a result, Medina's two-page art is left marred with a literal hole, which of course is the size of a kneeling Thor:

Hopefully Thor himself wasn't made aware of any of this, considering his sanity is in tatters as it is.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the continued posts. They are a welcome distraction from the covid craziness.

Comicsfan said...

You're most welcome, Anon. It's a welcome distraction to write them! :)

Big Murr said...

Odin is possibly the most misused and abused character in Marvel. From the peak of power when Odin and his evil doppelganger Infinity literally shook the universe, to the humiliating low when a motley band of aliens landed their flying saucer on Bifrost and hauled Odin, and all of Asgard, away in chains to the slave market.

Asgard in general often suffers this. Sometimes they fight with myth-level magic and weaponry. Then they'll appear to be no more a threat than any bunch of people waving swords and maces.

Thanos, of course, is the "mary sue" of Marvel. It is a rare story indeed where anyone defeats him. Thanos may only "defeat himself".

Tiboldt said...

Does the chained-up Thor look like someone has cut off his hands to you? Those 'cuffs' seem to end early.

Comicsfan said...

Murray, your mention of Infinity raises all sorts of interesting thoughts vis-à-vis Thanos. For instance, the fact that Infinity and Odin were once acting in accordance with Thanos's own mad wishes at one time--snuffing out entire blotches of the universe, and thus bringing Death (in this case, Hela) a bounty that must have had her doing cartwheels. It also occurs to me that had it been Odin/Infinity that had taken on Thanos, this "battle" would have been over in an instant.

Tiboldt, I'm no expert on manacles, much less the heavy-duty kind used in Asgard, but they look appropriately sized to me. (Thor certainly appears to think so, if his grim expression is any indication!)

Anonymous said...

Like my fellow frantic readers here I enjoyed this post. I hadn't seen this before, and I thought the showdown between Thanos and Odin was pretty wild! Personally I think Odin would win every time, Silver Surfer or no, although as shown here, not necessarily easily.
The way I figure it is, Odin can draw from an immense pool of cosmic power, which he inherited from the primal beings who were his forebears, including his brothers. This power is not only inhabiting the person of Odin himself, but is the essence of the pocket universe he commands, Asgard itself. Essentially Odin and Asgard are different aspects of the same thing, as was the case with Buri or Bor. if Odin were to die this power and connection would pass to Thor, I assume. Like Odin he would become Asgard Incarnate.
Thanos has done just about as much as any being could to achieve unbelievable levels of personal power, (enough to take on the Surfer even) maybe through mysticism, training or bionics as Starlin said, but without a cosmic cube or the infinity gems his resources are far more limited.
And I don't think the Surfer is any threat to Odin, who's held his own against Galactus.
Whew! How's that for geek philosophy! Sometimes I even amaze myself.


Comicsfan said...

A nice assessment, M.P. In the Stan Lee days of writing Thor, other characters such as Loki would make mention of having "the power of Asgard," which would seem to bear out much of what you're saying. (Sort of makes you wonder how things would have turned out if these two had battled on Titan instead of Asgard, eh?)