Issue(s): Thor #175, Thor #176, Thor #177
After a year of mostly cosmic stories and then several Earthbound stories featuring robots and super-villains, we now move on to a swords & sorcery style arc featuring Loki leading an army of monsters on an assault on Asgard during an Odinsleep.
Loki has been seen rallying a group of unnamed but mostly human looking allies in some recent previous issues, and i wonder who they were, because the army Loki leads is mostly composed of (awesome) giants, trolls, and dragons and the like.
Loki conquers Asgard, in part thanks to the fact that he's able to pull Odin's ring off his sleeping body, and apparently once you've got the ring, no one can attack you.
Even Thor submits to Loki.
Loki demands that Sif be his queen, but she refuses, so he makes her fight a female troll.
The troll actually makes me wonder what happened to Loki's vast army of monsters after he conquered the kingdom. Loki's minions in the castle are mostly humanoid-sized trolls. What do you do with a horde of giants and dragons after they've helped you conquer a kingdom? Loki is clearly interested in the spoils of rulership, not destruction of Asgard. How did he get rid of his army?
Anyway, to ensure that Odin doesn't wake up and spoil his fun, Loki has his minion Igron send Odin off to another dimension called the Sea of Eternal Night where he'll sleep for all eternity. Meanwhile, possibly sensing the absence of Odin, the fire-demon Surtur resurfaces.
This causes Loki to immediately flee to earth...
...which frees up Thor to lead the Asgardians against Surtur.
Meanwhile, Sif and Balder confront Igron...
...and force him to send Balder to the Sea of Eternal Night. Actually, Igron is more than happy to do so, since it means that Balder will quickly age and die.
But he manages to bring Odin back...
...and Odin restores Balder and then reseals Surtur in the bowels of the Earth.
Surtur's design is very simple, almost like a primitive depiction of a devil.
John Buscema has already introduced Mephisto at this point, but the story of Surtur's rampage and then placement in the center of the Earth by the All-Father Odin almost reads like a mythological battle between God and the Devil.
I love how every panel is just loaded with stuff. Even when Thor breaks open a mountain so the water behind it can pour onto Surtur, it can't just be water. There's got to be a giant monster-fish in it.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is this panel, where the background characters are literally scribbles.
That's the Warriors Three behind Thor there. It's unusual because there's no other panel like it in these issues; there's usually tons of detail.
During these encounters, the Warriors Three provide some comedy relief. At the beginning, they, along with Balder, are still at Karnilla's palace, where they've been since she rescued them from the Thermal Man back in Thor #170. And they are under the impression that they are prisoners, so they all show up in a huff demanding that they be released, and Karnilla's like, "OK.".
Later, Volstagg actually shows a little spirit and attacks one of Loki's minions.
But he soon reverts to his usual self.
This kicks off a mini-rebellion...
...but it is quickly ended, with Hogun subdued with a "vapor helmet".
During the battle with Surtur, the Warriors Three (well, sans Volstagg) decide they're going to take on Surtur directly, but Thor cuts them off by dropping a planetoid on Surtur's head. The Warriors tell Thor that this has made them mad.
It turns out that Surtur wasn't even hurt by the planetoid, and that convinces Hogun and Fandral that their planned attack was foolhardy.
I said it's a swords & sorcery plot, and you do see things like Thor riding a horse instead of flying around on his own power, but at the same time, the Asgardians use giant guns.
One of the most common topics in the lettercols at this time, aside from complaints that Thor was able to defeat Galactus in Thor #161, is the question of whether or not the Asgardians are really gods or are they really just aliens or extra-dimensional beings or whatnot. A letter in issue #175 makes a connection between the recently published book Chariot of the Gods, which made the case the case that all of the complex achievements of ancient cultures were thanks to alien visitors, and the Asgardians. The book has been criticized on the grounds that assuming non-white cultures could only have built pyramids or invented higher level mathematics with the help of aliens is inherently racist. But the basic idea was obviously similar to ideas that Jack Kirby had, so it's interesting to see the book cited in a letter to Thor.
A response to another letter:
Can we confess something to you? Personally, we feel that - about a year ago - we grossly over-used the character Galactus, so we've decided to hold off using him again until we find the right story - just the right situation - which will add something to the saga of Galactus besides just twenty pages of battle.
But back to this arc: a fun 60 pages of battle!
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Thor appears here after Avengers #82. Thor begins this story on Earth but is brought to Asgard by Sif.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Was the panel with the lack of detail inked by Colletta? He had a reputation for erasing details when he did the inking.
Posted by: Michael | February 5, 2013 11:28 PM
It is indeed inked by Colletta. It's from #177.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 6, 2013 9:32 AM
It's amazing how far the concept of THOR has shifted from its initial days of lame Don Blake and Jane Foster. We are now in full mode of what Kirby would do with the new gods. Thor's main supporting cast are other Asgardian gods. While Balder is an existing mythological figure, he does not have much in common except the name - and in many depictions actually the more heroic good guy than Thor (compare Lightray to Orion in New Gods). New characters like the Warriors Three and Karnilla likewise have become predominant.
I wonder how much Kiby's Inhumans series would have been similar had it actually been published.
Posted by: Chris | February 6, 2013 8:50 PM
The Thor film is interesting in that it's just the opposite - the Asgardian stuff is lame (poor design, poor casting [other than Thor and Loki], poor character design, poor writing, poor acting - really just poor execution in every respect) and incredibly tedious, but the Thor on Earth stuff, and the relationship with Jane Foster, are both dynamite. Of course they ditched the Donald Blake bit (other than a small nod to it) and made it strictly a fish out of water tale.
Posted by: Paul | February 8, 2013 9:03 AM
Speaking of the film, it also touches on the "are Asgardians Gods or are they just a super-advanced alien race" bit, tho it seems to end - inconclusively, imo. Nor is it quite answered in Avengers. They're just treated in the moment as the super-powerful, effectively extra-terrestrial beings they are. Altho I will say the film leans more towards their being super-advanced aliens by focusing much more on their technological prowess and their 'science'. One of the characters in Thor even mentions that sufficiently advanced aliens could plausibly have seemed like gods to primitive people on earth. So actually I guess the movies do side with a theory. But it's up in the air because - well what is a God, really? Ya know? They seem as good a bunch of candidates as anyone.
Posted by: Paul | February 8, 2013 9:08 AM
Paul, I completely agree with you. They fumbled the Asgardian stuff completely. There was no sensation that something grand and cosmic was going on. CGI by itself does not do it.
Posted by: Chris | February 8, 2013 8:48 PM
I sort of wonder how the heck Surtur gets around considering that he was previously sent to space, then comes back here, goes into the depths of the Earth...and then returns to space by the time of Simonseon. My guess: he just didn't want to get in the way of Marvel's cosmology of the "devil" and just thought launching a space invasion was way cooler than just being "another Earth threat".
Posted by: Ataru320 | December 22, 2014 4:49 PM
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