Issue(s): Thor #184, Thor #185, Thor #186, Thor #187, Thor #188, Thor #189, Thor #190, Thor #191, Thor #192, Thor #193, Thor #194
Rather than attempt to document the twists and turns of each issue, i'm going to summarize the plot and then go back and highlight specific points of interest. I'm not really going to be doing the story justice but at the same time, despite the epic nature of the stories, the impact on the larger Marvel Universe is minimal and there's no reason for this to be the longest entry on my site.
In a nutshell: back in Thor #175-177, Loki had taken over Asgard and he sent a sleeping Odin to another dimension where he wouldn't wake up. We learn here that while Odin was in that dimension, Hela tried to claim him. She failed, but in the process she created an evil doppelganger of Odin called Infinity. Infinity is finally thwarted, in issue #188, with the Asgardians aided by Karnilla the Norn Queen and Loki. With Infinity beaten, Hela goes after Thor. Odin briefly halts all death to save his son, but is forced to relent thanks to the predictable consequences. However, Hela finally relents thanks to Sif's weepy love of Thor. While Odin was on Earth dealing with Hela, Loki steals his Odin Ring again, and he forces Odin back into an Odinsleep, puts on his weird round hat, and tries to marry Sif. Loki forces Thor to fight the cosmically powerful Durok the Demolisher, and Thor receives some help from the Silver Surfer (recruited by Balder, who has pledged his loyalty to Karnilla).
Loki had also attempted another takeover of Asgard with an army of giants and trolls during the Infinity part of the story, which is why i say if you go back to Thor #175 you find a lot of repetition. This time the story ends with the Odin Ring's power being more than Loki can bear, and he is forced to remove it and give up his power on the throne.
And so the Asgardians finally get a break, with Odin declaring time for a feast, but already looking darkly towards the next looming threat.
Ok, now on to scans, tidbits, and other points of interest.
The first glimpse of Infinity:
There are several issues devoted to the mystery of who Infinity really is, with people writing in suggesting it might be a relative of Eternity, which is interesting because a few decades later we will indeed meet such an entity, and as Michael notes in the comments, we'll learn that this one was tapping into the power of that one.
Odin pondering how many mini-series can be created with the word Infinity:
Odin getting snippy when Thor suggests that Infinity might be Galactus. The MCP lists this as an actual Galactus appearance, and i'm following suit. Note also that Odin says that Mangog can't possibly exist at this time.
Odin vs. Infinity:
The clearest picture of Infinity:
Hela's creepy lacky, the Silent One:
It's the Silent One that points Thor to Hela's involvement in the Infinity story. And he even restores Thor when Hela first drains the life from him. Beyond that we don't really learn anything about him.
Thor facing Infinity's Guardian:
These guys have a long drawn-out fight, where Infinity and Odin keep re-powering them. They are also continually impressed by each other. It's almost like the Guardian was meant to be a parallel for Thor the same way Infinity was for Odin, but i'm probably over-interpreting.
Thor fighting his buddies the Warriors Three, who are possessed by Infinity. Thor doesn't really deal with them; he just vortexes them back to Asgard where they cause a lot of trouble.
While Thor's hammer is delivering the Warriors, Thor turns back into Blake, which really shouldn't happen when he's not on Earth. Blake is also forced to hang around the spot where he threw the hammer, which also contradicts previous stories where Mjolnir always returns to Thor. There are some complaints about these things on the letters pages.
Thor finally defeats the Guardian by encasing him in a sphere that prevents Infinity from restoring him.
Loki's first attempt at reconquering Asgard during this arc. Note that the giants and such don't seem too suspicious of the guy that recently used them to conquer Asgard and then seemingly dumped them as soon as he was on the throne:
Some scientists observing Odin and Infinity's battle, and lampshade-hanging the problem of lightspeed.
Odin's Twilight sword, which is constantly on the verge of rattling out of its scabbard during these issues.
The Vizier even has a tool to measure how far out it is.
And later the Asgardians get a big vise to try and keep it in place, to no avail.
Balder and Karnilla:
Loki and Karnilla. On the cover of issue #188, it looks like they are fighting over Loki's helmet, but they are in fact channeling their powers through it:
Balder vs. Loki:
Everybody getting a little weepy when they learn that Hela is looking for Thor:
Hela in a mortal guise, seeking Thor, who is hiding on Earth as Donald Blake:
Hela claiming Thor:
Odin deciding that Thor won't die:
The instant effects of stopping death:
Odin restoring Hela:
Sif's tears saving the day:
Loki back in control (and his ruling hat):
Thor punished by Odin for speaking against Loki while Loki is wearing the Odin Ring:
Loki the tyrant:
Durok the Demolisher:
Thor making some room:
Issue #193, a double-sized 25 cent issue, is Gerry Conway's first on the series, and it's ironic that the first issue not by Stan Lee is the one to feature the Silver Surfer, since Stan was known to be very protective of that character.
The Silver Surfer:
The Surfer letting Thor tag out to go fight Loki while he takes care of the Demolisher:
The Demolisher breaking the Surfer's board:
The final battle between the Surfer and Durok:
More tyranny from Loki:
Sif's wedding dress:
Perhaps thanks to the efforts involved in producing the previous double-sized issue, #194 is padded with a reprint of Journey Into Mystery #114's Tales of Asgard about Iduna and the Golden Apples. But there's still enough time to end the Loki plot and get us ramped up for the next one.
Loki discarding the Odin Ring.
This arc's happy ending:
And that's where we'll pause before jumping into the next eleven issue arc. Again, these have great art by Buscema and lots of crazy godly battles, so if you don't mind the recycling plots and the way the story jumps from one impossible menace to the next, they can be a lot of fun.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Thanks to the continuing nature of these stories, all of the Thor issues from Thor #182-205 fit between Avengers #100-101. My solace is that most of the stories take place in Asgard where we can assume that time moves differently. Issue #187 has Richard Nixon mostly off panel, reacting to the current crisis; i track him as Secret Empire Agent Number One.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): showBalder, Durok the Demolisher, Fandral, Galactus, Heimdall, Hela, Hogun, Infinity, Karnilla, Loki, Odin, Secret Empire Agent Number One, Sif, Silent One, Silver Surfer, Thor, Vizier, Volstagg
Posted by: Michael | March 10, 2013 5:43 PM
Posted by: fnord12 | March 10, 2013 6:12 PM
The art in the "Next:A Time Of Evil" panel was used in a 1971 greeting card by Third Eye Enterprises and relettered to say "Happy Birthday to YOUUUUUUUU!!"
Posted by: Mark Drummond | March 16, 2013 4:41 PM
Stan had a high opinion of the Hela story here. He included it in The Super-Hero Women (that's right: he couldn't think of enough actual super-heroines to fill out the book, so he had to resort to a villainess). Also, the "So shall it be!" panel was used for one of those trippy black-light posters Marvel released in the early '70s.
Posted by: Andrew | January 11, 2015 6:44 AM
In trying to solve the eternal mystery of "Who Did What?" (Kirby versus Lee edition), this run of THOR is a good piece of evidence. It's all Lee (and Buscema) with no Kirby. And we get gorgeous art, we get epic dialogue and... we get very little in the way of original creation. The Guardian and Durok are pretty lame (and that's being generous). Everything else is a retread of Kirby concepts. I read these issues and I conclude that it was indeed Kirby who did the bulk of the creative heavy-lifting in the Lee-Kirby partnership.
Posted by: Zeilstern | January 18, 2015 8:12 AM
Even without Tom Palmer's inks John Buscema's art looks tremendous here. I find it interesting that he clearly draws the same kind of funny hats and bizarre kirby outfits, but they seem far less garish even though the colorists make those outfits just as multicolored. There is something about Kirby's art that rubs me the wrong way, while at the same time it is clear that he was the driving force behind coming up with new threats and villains all the time. Maybe it really was Colletta though because I enjoy Kirby much more on FF. And here Buscema didn't get Colletta inks and kt all looks glorious. Loki especially, but Odin too, and the vise is something I want to see in the next Thor movie. Oh how I hope for the Mangog in Ragnarok ☺
This storyline was a sign that comics inevitably would cycle through stories over and over. If it was usual at the time, this probably would be like number 1 to 11 and then next issue reboots with a new number 1.
Posted by: PeterA | July 28, 2015 2:52 PM
I agree largely with Zeilstern here, that this run provides strong evidence that writing and plotting skills which have been claimed by Stan Lee might well be better attributed to Kirby (and Ditko, and other early bullpen artists/ plotters). The character and continuity inconsistencies fnord12 mentions are huge, particularly the weepy Sif and the stereotypical feminization of characters overall.
Sif was an atypically strong and independent character from the Lee/Kirby mythos, and this Sif character here bears little resemblance to her. Big Barda in Kirby's DC Forever People series is much closer to the Kirby/Lee Sif than this character is.
Not to disparage Lee's considerable skills at writing dialog too much, but even the dialog here seems lackluster and lacks a lot of the grit of the earlier Lee & Kirby Thor stories. Partly this might be attributable to Lee's growing lack of interest in writing comic books, but maybe not entirely.
Posted by: James Holt | November 20, 2016 5:38 AM
What may not be the obvious Elephant in the room was Stan Lee was not only responsible for creative on far too many projects but also beared the cross of keeping Marvel bottom line in tact. At this point in the Marvel life-cycle a few bad months were nearly fatal financially and he scrambled on many occasion to avoid insolvency.
Posted by: Rocknrollguitarplayer | January 27, 2017 6:05 PM
The bit about the necessity of death was recycled from "The Man Who Captured Death!" in AMAZING ADULT FANTASY #9, which fnord covered in his review of ASTONISHING TALES #21-24 (or from that and other stories, as Lee may already have used the idea more than once).
The title in that final next issue blurb echoes that of THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END, a novel by William Morris.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | January 27, 2017 7:07 PM
Wikipedia tells me "The Well of the World's End" was earlier the title of one of the stories in Joseph Jacobs's collection ENGLISH FAIRY TALES.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | January 27, 2017 7:16 PM
Funny how one can get a very different interpretation of the "who did what" argument based on these issues. First, I want to say that the "who did what" argument is one that should be put to bed and is a great disservice to both Lee and Kirby. Having read "The Wonder Years" and many articles that are well researched and by authors who are not in the Kirby camp, it is obvious that the Lee-Kirby stories were a collaboration in every sense of the word. Yes, Kirby was clearly the idea and the concept man. And it is just as clear - as these issues clearly show - that Lee was the storyteller. As great as many of the Lee-Kirby stories are, the Infinity Saga reaches those same heights, in my opinion. It may be my favorite Thor adventure from the Silver age. As far as Lee-Kirby is concerned, Lee relied upon Kirby's richer imagination and ability to create new characters. Kirby relied upon Lee to turn those ideas into a well-paced story, and to apply characterization, sub-plot, drama and humor to the tales. We should embrace the partnership rather than try and tear it down into its individual parts.
Posted by: DonK | June 3, 2017 12:32 PM
I vaguely recall this was touched upon before, but can anyone remind me why a lot of the Marvel stories of this period were missing exclamation points, periods, and so forth? It's still slightly off-putting when you're trying to get into the story...
Was this storyarc collected in one of the Epic Collections? By golly, fnord's review has made me want to read it all in one sitting!
Posted by: Wis | January 13, 2018 3:51 AM
Not in epic, but there's one masterwork left on Amazon for the price of a paperback: https://www.amazon.com/Marvel-Masterworks-Mighty-Thor-10/dp/0785150463/
Posted by: Andrew | January 13, 2018 5:49 AM
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