Balder the Brave #2-4
Issue(s): Balder the Brave #2, Balder the Brave #3, Balder the Brave #4
Issue #1 of this issue, which takes place prior to Balder's appearance in the Thor issues where they travel to Hel, introduced the Sword of Frey, a powerful magical weapon that Karnilla ultimately decides to not give to Balder. It's something she regrets now that Balder is slow to return from Hel.
And more so since a group of frost giants, led by Utgard-Loki (no relation to actual Loki) attack her kingdom, turning her citizens to stone and capturing her and the sword.
Balder eventually returns to the Norn kingdom and finds the stone statues and Karnilla missing, and so he embarks on a quest to rescue Karnilla, taking with him his new follower Agnar. Much adventure along the way, with Agnar learning to trust Balder's bird friends over his own eyes...
...fights with shapeshifters...
...and additional intrigue and derring-do.
I'm not getting into all the details of the story, but it's a fun action fantasy tale, with whimsey and humor from Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema keeping up his nice Walt Simonson art impression.
One cool thing about the story is that even though the adversaries are giants, Utgard-Loki is a crafty and intelligent opponent. So it's fun seeing him match wits with Balder in addition to the giants' brawn.
The giants are ultimately shrunken, and with that we see the difference between Balder's mercy and Karnilla's desire for revenge for her humiliation at their hands.
Balder ultimately convinces Karnilla to abandon her vengeance, although his method of doing so shows a darker side of himself as well.
While Balder is rescuing Karnilla, Hogun of the Warriors Three arrives in the Norn kingdom and leaves a note saying that Balder has to return to Asgard and take the throne. Karnilla had already agreed to devote herself to trying to find a way to restore her people, and thanks to the growth of her character in this story, she doesn't hide the note from Balder when they arrive back in her kingdom. So despite the love that they both profess for each other, they are forced to separate. As Karnilla points out, though, it's really Thor's fault that they have to be separated. It's because Thor won't take his father's throne that Balder is forced to.
If i have a complaint at all about these issues it's that the powerful Norn Queen Karnilla is placed into a damsel in distress scenario, but this is a fairy tale story.
It shows how popular Thor was that it was possible to put out a Balder miniseries, but i'm glad that was the case and that there was room in the Marvel universe for stories like this alongside the Punisher and X-Men.
Quality Rating: A-
Chronological Placement Considerations: These issues take place "weeks" after issue #1, and with some overlap with Thor #364-366. Hogun appears here after that Thor arc. A minor note: later, the shrunken frost giants will be seen to be led by a giant called Grundroth, and while he doesn't explicitly appear in this story, the fact that he is among those that were shrunken means that he must have been here somewhere, and so i'm listing this as his sort-of first appearance.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Utgard-Loki appears again in Thor 381-382.
Posted by: Michael | November 3, 2013 4:50 PM
Thanks, Michael. I've added him as a Character Appearing.
Posted by: fnord12 | November 3, 2013 5:01 PM
Yeah only complaint I have is Karnilla being a bit damselly this time.
Posted by: David Banes | February 23, 2014 5:36 PM
Balder wasn't deceiving Karnilla when he told her that her servant sacrificed himself heroically. The scenes showing Rattusk dying are from Agnar's point of view as he attempts to recreate what happened to Balder. Notice how in these scenes Balder is acting rather un-Balder like - forcing Rattusk into his armor and driving him into the giants' lair at the point of a knife, etc. This is more how Agnar would act, thus this is how he imagines it (it also shows that for all of his travelling with Balder at this point, Agnar still doesn't know him too well). Only at the end of the story is the truth revealed when Balder says that Rattusk sacrificed himself, and as Skurge said: "Balder never lies." It's a clever bit of writing from Simonson.
Posted by: The White Pepper | March 10, 2014 7:55 PM
Ah, thank you, WP. I missed that.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 10, 2014 8:48 PM
It took me a few reads to get it.
Posted by: The White Pepper | March 10, 2014 8:52 PM
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