Issue(s): Thor #320, Thor #321, Thor #322
That said, there are signs of creative life in this story, which, after Doug Moench showing an apparent lack of interest in this title for the past few issues, is a nice change. This is definitely on the goofy side, but in a deliberate and fun way. It does get into a revelation about Odin that it feels a little late to be learning about, but it's wrapped up well enough.
The story begins with Donald Blake setting up the office for his new practice in Chicago. One thing that hasn't really been answered here is how he intends to manage his Thor life with his doctor life. Especially since he's an active member of the Avengers at this time, it seems unlikely for him to have the expectation that he can run a practice with regular hours. That was actually the point of his job at the free clinic prior to this (although that was quickly forgotten).
Anyway, prior to this, Donald Blake visited a Viking Exhibit at the museum, where there was a magic chalice.
So now, while he's having his office set up and interviewing for his nurse position, everyone starts turning into the menagerie depicted on the chalice.
There's Nurse Stevens as Fairgold the mermaid. Donald Blake's friend Shawna Lynde as Kyrie the bird woman, who retains her personality better than the others.
Thorne Kirby, a patient that wanted help for his lack of assertiveness gets changed into Grult the bull man.
And Borna and Slithgarn were movers setting up Blake's office.
The chalice was created by an Asgardian named Rimthursar, who intended to use the creatures against Odin. When they refused, he killed them and bound them to the chalice.
And now they've been released and have taken over mortal bodies.
...and the others getting out into the city and causing traffic problems and getting into fights. Thor's attempt to return the Menagerie to the chalice fails...
...so after some more hijinx...
...Thor decides to try to bring them to Asgard. That's an entirely sensible thing to do, but there's a rule that mortals are not permitted in Asgard. So Thor is forced to leave the Menagerie on the Rainbow Bridge with Heimdall while he seeks out Odin.
Odin is unavailable, however. We learn in this story that Odin had a girlfriend prior to Frigga, and he still has feelings for her. She's involved in a dispute with another faction in Asgard, and Odin is afraid to take sides because people will think he's biased.
However, he's still left Asgard to observe the conflict first-hand.
Thor assumes that Loki is behind the Menagerie, so he shows up to harass him. This is a similar situation to the one in Thor annual #9, and it would be cool to see a build-up to a story where Thor keeps blaming everything on Loki and eventually cracks because of it, but this seems like it was just a coincidence.
It's also worth noting that Loki is bound to Sigyn again. We just saw him on the loose and acting freely in issue #318. I guess the idea is after getting caught, he is now once again bound to her. It actually makes sense; Loki got into trouble after Odin granted his appeal to be put into exile instead of being bound to Sigyn and when that obviously turned out to be a bad idea, they are back to this. Sigyn says she's been bound to Loki for a "month" but that's surely by publication time.
Loki suggests asking the dwarves about the chalice, but when he arrives there he gets a complicated story about a gullible Freya and a shape-changing hawk.
The hawk was Rimthursar, who has now changed his name to Farbauti (because i want to keep track of all these names), and while the dwarves are explaining this to Thor, Farbauti is kidnapping the menagerie. Thor defeats Farbauti rather easily...
...but still doesn't know what to do about the Menagerie (change in hair color for Fairgold, there).
After they continue to get themselves in trouble on Earth, Thor decides he's going to have to break the law and bring them to Asgard. You'd think the circumstances would support that decision. It's Asgardian magic that turned these guys into what they are. And Heimdall seems to agree, because he doesn't fight Thor too hard about letting them in. Odin, on the other hand, has a characteristic freak out.
But he, too, relents when Thor offers to help with the conflict involving Jolena. There are conspirators on either side of the conflict that have secretly instigated the war. Odin knows this, but he can't tell Jolena about it because it will somehow be construed as faithlessness to Frigga.
I have a hard time with this. Odin has always ruled Asgard with an iron fist in the past; you'd think he'd neither be constrained by nor care about what others thought of his actions. And it seems that Odin's love with Jolena ended a while ago, and before he started dating Frigga. And without a doubt, compared to, say, Zeus, there's no disputing Odin's faithfulness to his wife. The idea that i'm even talking about Odin's love life as if he were a Congressman or something seems a little silly to me.
But Thor and the Menagerie help draw out the conspirators and stop them.
And when it's all over, Odin doesn't have a problem being seen with Jolena after all.
And then Odin transforms the Menagerie back to their human forms, wipes their memories, and sends them back to Earth.
Perhaps because he enjoys secretly remembering her as a mermaid, Blake hires Nurse Stevens and she'll remain a very minor supporting character in this series during Thor's Chicago period.
All and all, a decent if inconsequential three-parter. I said this story shows some signs of creativity compared to previous issues. And it does introduce a bunch of new characters and has some fun with them. And there's a an attempt at political intrigue with the Jolena plot. I'd say this still isn't great, but at least it doesn't feel like i'm reading fill-ins.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places this between Thor's appearances in Avengers #222-224. Next issue, Thor #323, was a fill-in taking place entirely in the past, and it's not included in my project.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showFreya, Heimdall, Jolena, Loki, Nurse Stevens, Odin, Shawna Lynde, Sigyn, Sleipnir, Thor, Vizier
Thorne Kirby=Jack Kirby and Frank Thorne?
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 2, 2013 4:04 PM
You know somehow I imagine Nurse Stevens having magic in her all along (or being some unknowing mermaid), considering how many forms she takes here and all subsequent issues. You'd think a mermaid with the ability to change her age, race and hair color could be expanded upon but...seeing Marvel's lack of interest in Linda (Parker) Brown, that's really shows how little they know how to deal with mermaids. (and yet they have Namor and who knows what beneath the sea already)
Posted by: Ataru320 | December 14, 2013 10:43 PM
Shouldn't Freya be listed as a character appearing? She appears only in flashback in issue 321 but that flashback takes place during or shortly before issue 320.
Posted by: Michael | July 22, 2014 10:20 PM
Farbauti is the name of Loki's real mother (in mythology, Laufey is his mother, Farbauti his father).
She's introduced in the out-of-continuity Loki series from 2004 and alluded to in Kieron Gillen's crap. I'm surprised they managed to last all the way until 2004 before introducing her.
(I was mostly just searching to see if she had actually appeared before, I was certain that Roy Thomas would've done it, but apparently not)
Posted by: AF | February 16, 2016 4:14 AM
Marvel's Freya situation is further complicated by the fact that the Enchantress (as well as her sister) also take some qualities of the mythical Freya. It seems the writers just can't settle on one Freya!
Posted by: Tuomas | February 16, 2016 6:28 AM
Jolena, I'm begging of you please don't take my man...
Posted by: Robert | February 6, 2017 9:53 AM
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