Thursday, July 30, 2020

War Between The Realms!

If you were Pluto, permanent custodian and virtual prisoner of the Grecian netherworld, it's not clear what inciting war between Olympus and Asgard would get you as far as freedom from your assigned station. We obviously know what it would get someone like Ares, the god of war, who's been known to stoke such fires in the past between those realms (while making sure Earth became collateral damage in the process)--so an alliance between Pluto and Ares seemed the likely next step for these two, in a scheme which appeared tailor-made to provoke conflict between two pantheons of gods which maintained no formal relations between each other and thus might be quick to jump to conclusions if provided evidence of an act of aggression.

For instance, say, the lord of Asgard, Odin, learning of Krista, an Asgardian girl kidnapped and held captive by both Pluto and the son of Zeus.

(With Ares making a convincing Hercules, if only in striking an arrogant pose.)

As for what Pluto gets from hatching such a scheme, it still remains to be seen. To continue connecting the dots, we know what Hercules gets (the real Hercules), when Thor learns of Krista's fate: a good trouncing by the god of thunder, after which Thor is convinced by Zeus that Hercules is innocent, and that it's Pluto who's deserving of his wrath.

You'd think Thor's first thought would be to get word to Odin that Hercules and Olympus are in the clear as far as any warmongering; instead, he and Hercules engage in a contest to determine who gets to face Pluto in battle, a course of action which Zeus feels obliged to step in and correct with a few words of what we mortals might call "common sense."

But neither Ares nor Pluto are content to watch their carefully laid plans wither on the vine--and both know that it would only take the death of Thor to trigger a war of the gods!

As Part Two of a three-part tale, this issue appears plotted to only bring us closer to the main event that takes place in Part Three--particularly if our two lead heroes are given a generous amount of page space to arm-wrestle at an Olympian pub (which to no one's surprise turns into a brawl) rather than immediately setting off to confront their foe.

Curiously enough, the same approach holds true for Ares, whom no one yet suspects is part of Pluto's plot. Well before his days as an Avenger (admittedly hard to believe, given this god's track record as their enemy), Ares still remains in Hercules' shadow, with his role being the Olympian counterpart to Loki in terms of subterfuge and being the instigator of behind-the-scenes plots designed to raise his profile. Aligning himself with Pluto is surely a risky undertaking which, if he fails, could irreparably damage his standing with Zeus; and since we, as readers, don't yet realize that Ares is in league with the lord of the netherworld, we're given a full two pages of rather sedate meandering (surfacing trolls notwithstanding) to mull over what part he's playing in this drama.

Ares seems not at all thrilled with his alliance with Pluto--or, more accurately, with how he's regarded by his ally. Is the prospect of war truly enough for Ares to brand himself a traitor in the service of Pluto? And what of Pluto himself? Now that Ares has played his part in the deception they carried out, does Pluto have further need for him--or has he become just a means to an end?

We'll know more when Ares arrives at the gates of hell--which is of course where Hercules and Thor are headed, though they also might like to take a moment's rest at a placid pond. Unfortunately, their path has drawn the attention of far more than a single troll messenger.

One thing that's perhaps become apparent in this transition story is that it's very easy on the eyes, with veteran Thor artist John Buscema giving us a look at the outlying lands of Olympus when the norm has often been to focus on the city proper, replete with its columns, temples and statues. With inker Joe Sinnott's typical polished touch, even such a place as Olympus has seldom looked more pristine or idyllic (if one avoids troll army patrols, that is). Even the pace of Thor and Hercules, who might otherwise be galloping to their destination, has been slowed to a walk which has them almost blending in with the scenery--a technique which Buscema, no stranger to storytelling, would indulge in even when this pair was found on the streets of New York. That said, it's fair to wonder if the momentum of this story, centering as it does on the danger of war between Olympus and Asgard, has been sapped by such detours as we're taking here in Part Two.

Yet while some of those scenes may have done little to move the story forward, others have more success in that regard while still keeping with the tone Buscema has set--such as when Thor and Hercules, in an effort to avoid staying in the dark as to the workings of Pluto's scheme, pay a visit to the humble hut of a seer, who provides important details about the not-so-revealing scene regarding Krista and her abductors.

But while Thor and Hercules now know of Ares' part in this plan, as well as being informed that he's become more powerful, even the thunder god is surprised at the extent of the strength which their foe now possesses when Ares confronts them at their destination.

*If Dorothy Zbornak were standing on the sidelines during this fight, she would no doubt have a few things to say to Ares about his use of the word "thrice."

With Ares dispatched, our pair head into the netherworld (or, as Conway prefers to call it, the "underworld"--maybe they'll be clashing with figures from organized crime?) to take on Pluto himself; yet aside from a handful of demons they tangle with, they don't encounter the mass of forces which Thor had to fight his way through in an earlier story. Instead, they discover that Pluto has fled to Earth, with Krista in tow--and so the climax to Part Three takes place in Manhattan, for no reason that I can think of. (Unless this time Pluto wants to avoid the damage to his kingdom that Thor inflicted previously.)

As for what Pluto hoped to gain from this plot of his, let's hear it from the ruler of the dark domain himself, for what it's worth:

"...war, between Asgard and Olympus... and when that war was done, and the gods of both lands had decimated each other, only Pluto would be fit to rule; only Pluto would have an army to command--and Pluto would triumph over them...!"

If you were hoping for a more refined response from Pluto that made more sense than mere raving--well, no one ever said that dark domain rulers had to have both oars in the water.


Sharper13x said...

Just wondering... Why “Pluto” instead of “Hades?” Why one Romanized god when the other Olympians are all Greek?
Did they ever offer an explanation?

Comicsfan said...

It's likely a question which was dealt with in the Thor letters pages, Sharper13x; unfortunately, my knowledge of early Thor comes from reprints, which didn't carry those pages, and I never forked over the change for a Thor omnibus. :) My guess is that it was a mixture of reasons, one of which might have been to distinguish Marvel's pantheon of Olympians from their DC counterparts. Also, Stan Lee might have simply felt more comfortable writing the character of Pluto while reserving the term "Hades" for dramatic stories where that domain was featured. In addition, it was perhaps felt that "Hercules" was more of a draw to readers than his Grecian name of "Heracles"--ditto (in reverse) for the Grecian "Zeus" vs. the Roman "Jupiter," and so on.

Big Murr said...

In Greek mythology, Hades is the name for the Zeus and Posiedon's brother as well as the realm of the dead. "The House of Hades". But, in popular usage, "Hades" is generally the place, not the boss man.

I hazard Stan just decided to try and sidestep the confusion by using the name of Mickey Mouse's lovable dog.

Anonymous said...

I suspect Stan thought "Pluto" had more of a ring to it than "Hades"! I think it does too.
Y'know, Stan was all about marketing.